Gen Z shoppers driving demand for sustainable retail

February 28, 2020

The resale market is booming, with its growth arguably attributed to Gen Z. This generation is, according to a new report by online thrift store thredUP, adopting second-hand twice as much as all other age groups. The second-hand market has grown 21 times faster than the retail apparel market over the past three years, and is predicted to reach $51 billion in five years. thredUP’s research looked into the demands of these age groups, to see how they are driving this growth. According to the study, 74% of 18- to 29-year-olds prefer to buy from sustainably conscious brands. On top of this, a recent report by analytics platform First Insight, found that Gen Z are also the age group most willing to pay more for sustainable products, at 73%. That is even more than Millennials, widely cited for their eco-consciousness. It also found that 54% of Gen Z are willing to spend 10% or more on sustainable products.

The findings by thredUP may indicate that the traditional linear business model of make, use, dispose is out of style for younger generations when looking at the fashion sector. The success of resale app Depop provides tangible evidence of these preferences translating into purchasing decisions. In total, 90% of Depop’s active users are aged under 26 and one third of British 16- to 24-year-olds are registered. Both thredUP and Depop function, at least partially, as “circular” businesses in which products at the end of their life are brought back into the system. Buying second-hand through apps such as Depop not only makes buying clothes more affordable, it also reduces waste and reduces emissions by removing the production process. The growth of these types of company underlines the ethical demands of Gen Z and how they are using their purchasing power. Businesses in other industries should consider how they can change their business models to be more circular, and hence attractive to these conscious consumers.