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Does Shopping Secondhand Actually Reduce Overall Clothing Consumption?

According to a new study from Farfetch, the answer is yes more than half the time for American and UK shoppers.
resale displacing new purchases farfetch report

Secondhand shopping has long been a go-to option for the environmentally conscious. The logic behind this is just plain common sense: buying pre-owned clothing keeps goods in use and therefore out of landfills longer. In theory, it can also reduce demand for brand-new things and thus prevent the extraction of raw materials to make them.

That second point is only true, though, if making a secondhand purchase means you made one less purchase of something new. Whether or not that's what happens for the average resale shopper is hard to prove. But a recent study commissioned by luxury retailer Farfetch in partnership with QSA, ICARO and the London Waste and Recycling Board suggests there's some merit to that assumption.

According to the report, 65% of secondhand clothing purchases in the U.S. and UK did in fact prevent the purchase of something new. In China, the number was slightly lower, at 41%. This lends at least some credence to the idea that secondhand can reduce overall consumption of new goods — as well as suggesting that there's room for more growth in that approach to purchasing.

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The study also unearthed some other interesting data: it suggested that secondhand shoppers in China are more motivated by the rarity of the items in question, while secondhand shoppers in the US and UK are mostly looking for a good bargain. It's perhaps unsurprising, based on that finding, that Chinese resale shoppers also spend more on average than their US and UK counterparts do on each secondhand purchase.

While research put forward by companies, rather than independent academics or other institutions that may have less of a vested interest in the results coming out a specific way, is always worth taking with a grain of salt, it's also worth paying attention to the ideas surfaced by studies like this one. And since Farfetch is making their data and methodologies available to others, it shouldn't too hard for interested parties to try and replicate their findings to see if they hold water.

Read the full report from Farfetch here.

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