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40% of Gen Z turn to resale to find the styles they’re looking for

80s-style photo of a woman holding red heels behind grey wall
Death to Stick / Ivan Resnik
Mar 23, 2024 By WGSN Insider

The global secondhand apparel market is set to grow three times faster* than the global apparel market, with Gen Z leading adoption. Coupled with the cost-of-living crisis, Gen Z will continue to power the thrift movement in search of more affordable alternatives in the year ahead. 

In this blog, we explore the drivers behind Gen Z’s resale purchase habits and where the next big secondhand opportunity lies for 2024. So what’s driving Gen Z’s love for resale?


Gen Z is driven by a feeling of nostalgia. It’s not about age, but mindset. Young consumers are nostalgic for a time they haven’t lived through, as a means to escape today’s harsh realities.

Death to Stock / Ivan Resnik

This generation is looking for clothes they can’t find in current collections: WGSN Barometer data* reveals that 40% of Gen Z buy pre-loved clothes because they can’t find the style anymore across traditional retailers.

Searching for fun

Consumers have been hit with record-high anxiety levels: a WGSN survey (accessible to clients here) found anxiety was the highest reported consumer emotion in 2023, experienced by over 70% of respondents. Gen Z and young Millennials are impacted the most, as they mature in an era of fragmentation, volatility and uncertainty. / Cottonbro Studios

Anxious about a multitude of factors, from economic instability to environmental distress, young consumers are re-evaluating their priorities and looking for products and experiences that comfort them, bringing moments of happiness into their lives. Therefore resale, due to its fun and authentic nature, has become one of Gen Z's preferred consumption habits.

Cost-of-living crisis

While shopping for preloved items is a rewarding experience, Gen Z is also facing financial hurdles due to the cost-of-living crisis. With 28% of US Gen Z aged 18 to 25 unable to save money and 32% spending 50% of their monthly income on rent, recommerce is emerging as a more affordable option for this cohort and is also more sustainable, aligning with the group’s core values.

Death to Stock / Debora Stanhol

Gen Z consumers are accelerating the growth of resale platforms such as Depop, Vinted, GOAT and Grailed, which allow them to access unique fashion options but can also provide them with an alternative income stream.

Many Gen Z have adopted a “shop to sell” mindset, having grown up on some of these platforms, exchanging goods and earning an income. According to WGSN Barometer data, Gen Z are selling their own pre-loved clothes to declutter (50%), for sustainability (33%) and to get extra money (56%).

What’s next in the secondhand market?

Believe it or not - thrifted office looks are predicted to be among the next big fashion trends this year. Gen Z’s new office look, dubbed ‘Thrift-dult’ by WGSN, is rejecting traditional work fashion personas. This trend combines personal style and professional identity for a fresh, playful spin on nine-to-five dressing. The key to this look is mixing thrifted and new items via eclectic DIY styling and craft-led customisation, so the purchase can take them from client meetings to midweek drinks.

Thrifted office wear is all about nonconformity and inclusivity, with gender-inclusivity at its core. Blazers, pinstripes, ties and ‘80s shoulder pads form the basis of thrift finds, while reworked and twisted tailoring offers a high-fashion take on city dressing for a new generation.

Thought starters

Businesses should ask themselves - are they creating the right styles? Where can they inject fun? Are they addressing consumers’ financial concerns? Brands could also look to incorporate resale formats into their business models, exploring strategic partnerships with native secondhand marketplaces, small businesses and creators within the resale space. / Godisable Jacob

Our analysis suggests that the resale trend will have long-lasting impacts, reaching beyond the fashion industry and affecting multiple other industries. To learn more about recommerce, request a WGSN demo through this link and become a member to get access to a wealth of case studies and action points.

Get ahead of the curve and discover the top trends that will shape product and service development for 2024 and beyond. Download The Top Trends for 2024 & Beyond report at no cost here.


**WGSN Barometer survey: data used in this blog was collected from female respondents aged 16–74 from the UK and the US from January to December 2023 and 2022 across five main resale retailers.

About WGSN Barometer
WGSN Barometer enables brands to easily identify and respond to changes in consumer sentiment and behaviour through the most comprehensive view of brand performance and competitor activity across the fashion industry. 

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