Have Jordans Destigmatized Second-Hand Shopping?
By Morgan Kahn ’24 Co Managing Director
Secondhand shopping was once seen as a necessity only for those who couldn’t afford to buy directly from retailers. However, in today’s market, the mindset around recommerce has drastically changed. Recommerce “reverse commerce” or “repeat commerce” is the practice of buying and selling used or secondhand goods. In 2021 recommerce grew nearly 15%, twice as fast as the wider retail market. This is the highest rate of growth in the history of the industry and forecasters expect the global second-hand apparel market to grow by 127% by 2026, more than three times faster than the global apparel market overall.
The primary driver of this cultural shift are Gen Z consumers. These younger consumers are turning to second-hand options not only for the discounted price tag but also for a more sustainable shopping alternative and access to hard-to-find items. Gen Z consumers place a higher value on sustainability compared to previous generations and are choosing to spend their money on things that align with their ethics. According to Nielson, 75% of Millennials are eco-conscious to the point of changing their buying habits to favor environmentally-friendly products. This new mindset has continued to be adopted by younger generations such as Gen Z and appears to be a growing trend among younger consumers.
Limited edition items have helped revolutionize second-hand shopping. Recently, limited edition drops have gained momentum and altered traditional production cycles. “Drops” are special-release products that are either scarce in quantity (due to intentionally limited production) or scarce in availability (due to a limited-time purchase window). Nike has been known for limited edition Jordan drops and consumers are desperate to get their hands on a pair in any way possible. As a result, the online resale of new and used shoes has boomed. The resale market for limited-edition shoes is a key pillar of the sneaker industry, representing around $6 billion globally. Consumers who want to buy exclusive shoes like limited-edition Jordans who aren’t able to get them during the initial drop go to resellers and are willing to pay thousands of dollars in the second-hand market. This new product release structure has encouraged high-end clientele to rely on the second-hand market. Thus, indirectly helping remove the stigma around second-hand items as all ranges of demographics are relying on it to source unique products. Today all ranges of buyers participate in recommerce, helping shift the mindset of second-hand shopping away from only frugal consumers.
Companies such as ThredUp, an online consignment and thrift store where you can buy and sell high-quality secondhand clothes, are capitalizing on the growing recommerce market. Additionally, traditional retailers such as Patagonia, Lulemon, and Ikea are starting their own buyback and resale programs in order to enter the space. The future for recommerce is unknown but growing support from consumers highlights an opening for innovation for everyone. Enormous opportunities exist for retailers and new startups to capitalize on this accelerating market. I for one am excited to see what is to come of the recommerce market and its influence on the aging commerce market and will think twice about the impact Jordans have had on this market space.
Morgan is a junior from Lee, NH who is pursuing a major in Business Administration. She is an active member of UNH’s professional business fraternity, Alpha Kappa Psi. Presently, she works at the InterOperability Lab (IOL) at UNH as a test technician for NVMe SSDs. There she has been able to expand her knowledge of different forms of technology and network with companies worldwide. At the IOL, Morgan leads the weekly testing, communicates with vendors about status updates, coordinates reservations, and executes device bug fixes. Morgan is excited to further her understanding of successful startups and promote the entrepreneurial spirit by working alongside other talented individuals.