Rebekah Davis

(Rock Hill, S.C.) — In the last three years, the resale market for clothing has grown at 21 times the pace of the mainstream apparel market, according to research collected by the online thrift store thredUP.

This growing market is predicted to reach $51 billion by 2023, in part because of millennials and Generation Z, who have really turned thrifting, which has been around for a long time, into a fashion trend.

According to Dr. Jane Thomas, a professor of marketing at Winthrop University, thrifting has become much more socially acceptable than it was 30 years ago.

“Today it’s something people, a consumer, would brag about and say ‘I got this at a thrift store and let me tell you about the great bargain I got,’” said Thomas, who was a guest on the Palmetto Report to discuss the trend.

The three main drivers of the resale market, she said, include (1) affordability, (2) concerns many young people have for the environment and (3) a desire to be an individual in one’s style, which has developed in part, because of social media.

“If you’re on Instagram at a party this weekend and you have on an outfit and you look all cute, next weekend when you are at another party you want a different outfit but you can’t afford it, so thrifting provides you the opportunity to always look new and fresh and Instagram ready,” said Thomas.

The internet has also played a role in growing the thrifting trend, because it makes it much easier to search for a specific item, size or brand that a person wants, instead of having to search through a crowded, and often unorganized, thrift store.

Sites like thredUP and Poshmark have become increasingly popular over the past few years, because they offer the affordability of thrifting with the ease of online shopping, which many consumers now gravitate towards.

As a result, some mainstream retailers have expressed an interest in joining the resale market and a few have already done so.

“We are already seeing retailers experiment with that; JCPenney is one,” said Thomas. “It provides them a way to still stay in the retail game, just to do it in a different way. They can also use their excess inventory, things that they don’t sell in their store and online and put it up there (online) at a deeply discounted price.”

Thrifting has always been a way people could buy clothes and other items at a more affordable price, Thomas said, but now it has become a major trend that satisfies other consumer wants, such as helping the environment and moving away from conformity.