Second-hand stores are going mainstream

May 30, 2018

Whether they are interested in “shabby chic” or  designer hand-me-downs, a discerning coterie of women always has patronized thrift shops and second-hand stores.

But today, interest in “slightly” or “lightly” used clothing has expanded to a more diverse crowd—including men, middle-income earners, and Generation X, based on findings of a poll released on May 29 by Civic Science.

With the rise of online sites, such as ThredUP and PoshMark— which allow users to sell their gently used clothing in exchange for cash-—business is booming. So, who is buying clothes second-hand, and why?

As it turns out, Civic Science reports, thrift shopping has caught the attention of the majority of U.S. adults whom the researchers polled.

Although only 9% say they shop for clothing at thrift stores very frequently; 27% say they do so somewhat frequently; and 16% say they are interested in doing so in the future. That adds up to 52% of respondents with some degree of enthusiasm for the thrift shopping experience.

And, while women very clearly outweigh men in the ‘very frequently’ category, the percentages of men and women are almost equal in the ‘interested’ category, which comprises 48% men and 52% women.

While second-hand stores are known for offering a deal–fully 36% of respondents say they shop second-hand for that reason–the income breakdown may be a little different from what you would think.

It’s not necessarily surprising that those who make less than $50,000 a year report shopping at thrift shops very frequently. If budget is a top priority, then this makes sense.

However, among those who are now saying they are interested are shoppers who earn $50K a year (37%), as well as those who bring home between $50K and $100K a year (34%). In fact, even those who make more than $100K say they take a look at the second-hand racks, in case there is something that appeals to them.

That said, there are still plenty of divides along generational lines. Generation X has pulled slightly ahead of Millennials in terms of getting into the thrift store scene.

So what does all of this mean for the future of thrifting and second-hand shopping sprees? While current avid thrifters are largely female, under $50k per year income earners and Millennials, it’s unlikely that it will stay this way for very long. Although thrift shopping may have started out appealing to a very specific demographic, rising interest from men, mid-range income earners and Gen Xers indicates that the future of thrift shopping may become more mainstream.

Research contact: laurnie@civicscience.com

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