It wasn’t long ago that the concept of gifting pre-owned or secondhand goods would horrify the average consumer, carrying connotations of uncleanliness and thoughtlessness.

However, with the current rise against overconsumption and ‘deinfluencing’, consumers are now open to buying secondhand goods for holiday gifting. Not only is it a more sustainable and financially savvy way for many consumers to shop, buying pre-owned items can also allow people to secure popular items that may be sold out on primary shelves.

This trend can be a win-win for proactive retailers who can please their more shrewd customers while also shifting backed-up inventory. Retail Insight Network asks Marcus Shen, ecommerce returns expert and CEO of B-Stock Solutions, for his thoughts on navigating pre-owned shopping in the holiday season.

How are retailers maximising overstock and customer returns to get in on the trend of pre-owned gifting?

The shopping season is exacerbated by the limited availability of popular gifts on primary shelves and prices that reflect economic inflation. Because of this, shopping secondhand and buying from discount resellers allows consumers to not only save money, but discover products that are unique or no longer available to buy new. 

This trend is especially notable for the tech industry. The technical features of mobile phones and techy gadgets used to be leaps in improvement from one model to the next, but advancements are now more subtle and nuanced. Because of this, shopping for trade-in or older models is a good way for consumers to get most of the same features, for less. And as the holidays roll around, most manufacturers have already released their latest models, meaning shoppers can find an abundance of deals in this category by going the pre-owned route.

How are buyers accessing the growing sector of gently used, returned, and overstock goods?

With easier access to inventory than ever before, resellers can purchase pallets or truckloads of customer returns and overstock goods from popular retailers and manufacturers at a fraction of the retail price. Business buyers can stock up on the inventory they want – like apparel, cosmetics, and electronics – and introduce goods into the secondary market. Many of these buyers go on to sell gently used, returned, and overstock goods at flea markets, bin stores, and e-commerce sites like Poshmark and eBay.

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By GlobalData

The appetite for discounted items and deals is only growing. In fact, 48% of winter holiday shoppers are open to shopping for gifts from discount stores. Even more impressive, 68% of Gen Z shoppers are game for seeking out and scooping up discounted items for their holiday gift lists.

How does marketing influence the perception of secondhand gifting during the holiday season?

It seems more and more retailers want a piece of the resale pie. Apparel brands are investing in their own resale programs for several reasons. Sustainability, for one, but also because of the increased brand loyalty and revenue. The luxury secondhand market in particular is growing four times faster than primary luxury markets, at 12% per year versus 3%. This opens the door for shoppers who want the exclusivity of luxury while looking for affordability. This sense of scarcity positions luxury products as a secure, longer-term investment for secondhand shoppers.

Each year, we see Black Friday deals followed by the call to shop small. The majority of the resellers of the secondary market who stock their shelves with retail and manufacturer overstock and returned fall into this SMB category. Last year, the success of Small Business Saturday drove close to $18 billion in spending. It’s worth considering the ‘shop small’ trend may transcend past the holidays. Consumers who choose to allocate a portion of their spending to independent businesses, or skip big box retailers and mass-produced goods altogether, help keep their communities strong.

What can retailers do to support the secondary market as an alternative for shoppers?

The secondary market is an alternative for holiday shoppers wanting to combat mass consumption and overproduction. And for the sustainability-focused consumer, pre-owned would be a more eco-friendly approach to the holiday season. There is a growing number of environmentally conscious consumers among millennials and Gen Zers who see their dollars directly linked to their carbon footprints and climate change. This shift in mindset is seeing some real results. In 2022, the global apparel resale market size was $182.4 billion.

When it comes to the post-holiday buying surge, retailers who are finding themselves stuck with an influx of overstock, damaged, or returned inventory should know that there are easy, time-saving liquidation options within the secondary market. Not only could retailers get more recovery on their excess b-stock inventory by selling to the growing demand of resellers, they can become more sustainably-focused and environmentally conscious which appeals to their consumers.