Traditional retail has struggled throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, with brick-and-mortar stores staying closed for months while some companies, including J. Crew, Neiman Marcus, and JCPenney, filed for bankruptcy. Though retail sales dropped during the spring and have only recently started to pick back up, there was one area of online shopping that not only managed to avoid the COVID-19 slump, but thrived. ThredUP's 2020 resale report, which was released on Tuesday, found that more people were shopping for resale items, with online secondhand growing 27% in 2020.
"We have seen a bit of a COVID bump. Folks are sheltering in place so any purchases that would have happened offline are happening online," ThredUP President Anthony Marino tells NYLON. "The second thing, and probably the biggest thing, is when budgets get tight, consumers get very focused on making sure they're getting value for money."
Marino notes that a similar trend happened during the 2009 financial crisis, with people shifting from traditional stores to off-price department stores like T.J.Maxx. Online secondhand continued to grow during the early peak of the COVID-19 pandemic on both the buying and selling sides, as people had no choice but to stay at home for extended periods of time.
"When budgets get tight you start to look for smart alternatives to shop. I think in the same way that consumers then found some of the off-price retailers, during this COVID period a lot of consumers found ThredUP and found resale, both on the buying side, as well as the selling side," adds Marino. "When you're staying at home and looking at your closet full of things you don't wear, you start to think 'I want to give this to a better place.' And you're not about to jump in the car to drive it anywhere to drop it off."
Online resale has already seen plenty of growth over the last few years, as more shoppers value budget and sustainability. According to ThredUP, 70% of women in 2020 said that they are open to shopping secondhand, as compared to just 45% back in 2016. Plus, despite the economic turmoil caused by the pandemic, many new shoppers turned to sites like ThredUP for the first time.
"I do believe there are a set of shoppers that we've had in these months, March, April, May, June, who are a set of shoppers who might not have considered us before because they could have gone somewhere else. But those options weren't there, so they were introduced to the idea of resale," says Marino.
Now as lockdowns lift and retailers begin to open their doors for the public again, will resale continue to rise among the shopping set? Marino think so. "Events like this can have very positive compounding effects for resale, so I think it will end up being a long-term bump," he says. "It's hard to predict the future right now on consumer spending, but I think we'll continue to see that people in time, when their budgets are tight, will look for other options and there's a whole cohort of new shoppers that ThredUP had in this period that will keep coming back."
To read the full 2020 resale report, head over to ThredUP.