Gen Z Is Driving Growth in New Shopping Formats—But are Retailers Paying Attention?

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Many Gen Zers don’t want to buy new clothes or accessories. They feel that clothing is somewhat like puppies—why buy a puppy from a breeder when there are so many rescued dogs that need homes. Rescuing fashion from future landfills is high on this generation’s list of priorities.

If you have a daughter between 14 and 25 years old, you know that they like to buy clothes from sites like Depop, Poshmark, ThredUp and the RealReal. They also shop thrift stores and hold clothing swaps among themselves in an effort to be more sustainable. But did you realize that these young people are influencing both their Gen X parents and their Boomer grandparents to also shop in the secondary market? Our recent research with the Baker Retailing Center at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania indicates that shopping for apparel in the secondary market has surged by at least 30% and by as much as 55% by generation since 2019. While only 52% of Baby Boomers had participated in recommerce in 2019, today that number has jumped to an eye-opening 81%.

Professor Thomas Robertson, Academic Director of Wharton’s Baker Retailing Center, told me “we see a rise in preference for the resale/recommerce market across all generations. More than 50% shop resale formats for a variety of sustainability reasons such as concern for the planet and preference for circular shopping.

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