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44% of consumers want government to push sustainable fashion, survey says


ThredUp is an online consignment and thrift store. It has struck partnerships with retailers, including Walmart.


Secondhand apparel has gained popularity among shoppers and now, some want the government to give it a boost.

Nearly half of consumers — 44% — think the government should promote a more sustainable approach to fashion, such as offering tax breaks to brands or shoppers who buy secondhand clothing, according to a new survey of 3,500 adults by consulting firm GlobalData in a report commissioned by online resale site ThredUp.

The report’s findings reflect shoppers’ engagement with social issues, from racial equity to climate change, and desire to see politicians and corporations get engaged, too. It may also indicate that more people have grown used to public policy as a tool that nudges consumers toward eco-friendly habits.

ThredUp President Anthony Marino said initiatives like plastic bag fees and tax credits for electric vehicles have paved the way for the apparel industry to become the next frontier. And, he said, the pandemic has raised consumers’ awareness about their own environmental impact and desire to reduce waste.

“When a virus that comes from a city in a part of the world that you’ve never heard of before rocks your life, you start to see things are pretty tightly connected,” he said.

Over the past year, he said people have been stuck at home and noticed the huge amount of clothes, shoes and other items piling up or getting squeezed into drawers. That has inspired some to start selling gently used items or to become more intentional about what they buy, he said.

“Our closet isn’t too far away, so it’s been all too obvious the excess of stuff around us,” he said. Plus, he said, people watched the budget during the recession and found they could stretch dollars or make extra income with resale.

Resale has become a growing part of retail as younger consumers look for brand-name, yet wallet-friendly options and companies like ThredUp and Poshmark put an e-commerce spin on sifting through racks at a garage sale or thrift shop. The resale market is expected to more than double over the next five years from a $36 billion industry in 2021 to a $77 billion industry in 2025, according to GlobalData research. That’s a growth rate that is 11 times faster than the broader retail clothing sector, it found.

ThredUp went public in March and has struck deals with more than a dozen retailers, including Walmart, that have added resale items to company websites or become places where customers can drop off clothes to sell. On Tuesday, its shares closed at $25.88, about 85% above its $14 a share price on the day of its initial public offering, giving it a market value of $2.35 billion. Its competitor, Poshmark, also went public earlier this year. Poshmark shares closed at $45.88, which gives it a market cap of $3.47 billion.

According to GlobalData and ThredUp’s survey, 33 million consumers bought secondhand apparel for the first time last year, and 76% of those first-time buyers plan to increase their spending on secondhand over the next five years.

That could potentially get a lift if the government weighs in with regulations or incentives, according to the survey. Fifty-eight percent of retail executives say they would be more likely to test resale if it came with financial incentives and 47% of consumers said they would be more likely to purchase secondhand clothes if they could skip sales tax or receive a tax credit.


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