Cost-of-living crisis driving a second-hand shopping boom

19 December 2022 2 min. read

Awareness of the impacts of mass consumption on the planet, combined with the need to downsize expenditure in the cost of living crisis mean more shoppers are turning to second-hand goods this Christmas. A new survey finds that pre-loved items are becoming more popular across multiple sectors.

The Christmas trading period is often a key component to retailers’ financial year. Traditionally, consumers are willing to spend more than they do for the rest of the year, purchasing presents, food, decorations and trees throughout the festive season. But many retailers will enjoy slim pickings in 2022. Studies suggest as many as two-thirds of British adults will cut down on Christmas spending this year, amid the deepening cost of living crisis.

That does not mean lean times for all traders, however. A new report from OC&C Strategy Consultants suggests that as shoppers look for cheaper and more sustainable ways to gift this Christmas, there has been a huge boom in second-hand selling and buying across the global economy.

Cost-of-living crisis driving a second-hand shopping boom

Mostyn Goodwin, Partner, OC&C, commented, “For a long-time the words ‘second-hand’ elicited thoughts of car boot sales or hand-me-down clothes, but in reality second hand is now a thriving market, fuelled by online marketplaces, which is significantly contributing to the UK economy. Consumers are increasingly realising their old goods that were gathering dust in the cupboard can be sold and reused, and are buying and selling everything from phones, clothes, furniture and jewellery.”

According to OC&C, second-hand goods now represent a £150 billion global market – rising to £1.95 trillion ($2.4 trillion) if including automotive products. The focus on second-hand buying is occurring across multiple sectors, with significant contributions from clothing purchases worth £66 billion, and consumer electronics worth £39 billion leading the trend. This presents key challenges to many major retailers, as they do not typically trade in second-hand goods, while specialist traders online such as ebay, or physically like CEX, are thriving.

Goodwin added, “This entrepreneurial spirit from UK shoppers is not only saving them money, but also contributing to cutting down on environmental impact and fuelling growth in internet giants like ebay and gumtree, along with creating a new breed of circular-economy internet start-ups designed to help consumers buy, recycle and re-use their goods."