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Thrifted gifts from secondhand resellers like The RealReal and ThredUp are on the rise this year as consumers navigate a uniquely challenging holiday shopping season

Bethany Biron/

  • Secondhand shopping is on the rise this holiday season as more Americans turn to retailers like The RealReal and ThredUp. 
  • Recent surveys indicates consumers are increasingly interested in sustainable purchases and cost effectiveness. 
  • Thrifted gifts have also become more popular as secondhand shopping becomes destigmatized.   

Between the supply chain crisis and the surge of the Omicron coronavirus strain, its been a uniquely challenging year for holiday gift shopping.

Despite the barriers, an increasing number of Americans are turning to resale and thrift options like The RealReal and ThredUp to purchase gifts for loved ones as they seek more cost effective and environmentally friendly options. According to research from the online marketplace Mercari, an estimated 77% of Americans indicted they are likely to buy at least one secondhand item this holiday season, with a primary motivation being to save money. 

“With inflation on the rise, COVID raging across the country once again, and a higher awareness for sustainability, consumers are taking the thrift store treasure hunt online, especially for nostalgic items that can bring much needed comfort and joy to them and their loved ones this holiday season,” Greg Castronuovo, chief operating officer at marketing services network Two Nil Holdings told Insider. 

The RealReal, which specializes in luxury and high-end resale consignment, likewise found that shoppers are growing more cost-conscious and interested in eco-friendly options. In data shared with Insider, The RealReal found that 43% of recent survey respondents said sustainability was a driving reason for buying from the company and 29% reported they made their first pre-owned luxury purchase in 2021. 

The company has also seen a rise in searches for gift boxes year-over-year, with strong demand for investment items like handbags and jewelry, as well as items from top brands like Hermès, Louis Vuitton, and Chanel. 

“Shoppers are realizing that they can find rare and unique items that they can no longer find on the primary market which makes the perfect, standout holiday gift for that special someone,” Samantha McCandless, The RealReal’s senior vice president of merchandising, told Insider. “When you couple that with the current supply strains on the primary market, gifting secondhand has not only become accepted, but is almost preferred.”

ThredUpA woman packs boxes at a ThredUp facility.

AP Photo/Matt York

McCandless said the rise in thrifting for gifts around the holidays can also be attributed to reduced stigmatization of buying secondhand clothing and accessories. In recent years, “shopping and wearing resale has become a badge of honor,” she said. 

“More than ten years ago, the sustainability aspect of resale didn’t resonate with consumers, but now it’s a key motivator,” McCandless told Insider. 

Meanwhile, a survey conducted by ThredUp found that 52% of respondents were concerned about the cost of gifts this year due to the impact of the supply chain crisis on inflation, while about a third expressed concern about inventory shortages. 

The survey found that both gift givers and receivers are more open to secondhand gift than they were five years ago, and this sentiment is even higher among Gen Z shoppers. ThredUp’s most popular thrifted items for holiday gifts this year include Converse sneakers, Lululemon track jackets, Torrid jeans, Ugg boots, and Reformation dresses, according to the report. 

Jonathan Treiber, co-founder and CEO of promotions marketing platform RevTrax, echoed McCandless and said an increase in thrifted holiday gifts reflects the larger popularity of secondhand shopping as a whole as it becomes a commonplace form of shopping. 

“These types of gifts signal a level of thoughtfulness, value consciousness, and concern for sustainability which is becoming more and more popular and desirable among all consumers,” Treiber wrote in an email to Insider. “A secondhand luxury has become almost trendy in today’s consumer market, there is less of a stigma associated with it and therefore more acceptable to gift secondhand luxury items to other people.”


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