Gen Z's Passion for Sustainability Boosts Resale Market, First Insight's New Report Finds

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Report Published with the Wharton Baker Retailing Center Reveals Boomers' Recommerce Adoption Increases 56 Percent

Pittsburgh, PA— December 9, 2021 —Purchasing or renting previously-owned apparel, shoes and accessories continues to grow in popularity as Gen Z’s influence over older generations on sustainability increases. The preference for shopping secondary markets has surged across all generations in a matter of two years with Baby Boomers increasing their utilization by 56 percent, Generation X increasing by 35 percent, Millennials increasing by 33 percent and Gen Z increasing 44 percent. Secondary markets include resale sites such as ThredUp, The RealReal, and Poshmark; peer-to-peer marketplaces such as Depop and Storr; and rental platforms such as Rent the Runway.

Gen Z, the demographic cohort born after 1997, has historically been the most vocal about the health of the planet. The report found that Gen Z leads the way in sustainability and has outsize impact on older generations, especially their Generation X parents. Gen Z’s influence extends to shopping behaviors, with sustainable-first purchase decisions more prevalent among all generations.

The data found that the most popular sustainable retail models are third-party and brand-operated resale and recommerce, with 65 percent of total respondents preferring these options over rentals, subscription boxes, peer-to-peer marketplaces, and clothing swaps.

First Insight partnered on this report with the Baker Retailing Center at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania as part of the company’s ongoing commitment to providing actionable consumer insights to the retail industry. Since 2007, First Insight has been helping retailers and brands to operate more sustainably and make better decisions by using digital product testing and predictive analytics to refine buys and eliminate poor performing products before costly development and inventory investments are made.

“Recommerce is a channel that all retailers and brands should support,” said Greg Petro, CEO of First Insight. “Resale and recommerce continue to gain importance with consumers. When we fielded our first sustainability report in 2019, resale and recommerce were used by more than half of our respondents regardless of generation. Today, just two years later, as the trend of sustainability continues to gain traction, we’ve seen an enormous increase in the adoption of resale across all generations—even Boomers. While only 39 percent of Baby Boomers participated in resale in 2019, today that number has more than doubled, with 81 percent participating in some form of recommerce. First Insight provides the deepest understanding of customer experience and expectations around product, brand and price, enabling retailers and brands to reduce waste and improve sales and performance through better decisions.”

Recommerce is on the rise within the sustainability retail market. “At least 50 percent of all respondents across generations prefer the resale/recommerce market for a combination of reasons indicating a concern for the planet and a preference for sustainability and circular shopping. Yet affordability is still very important to Gen Z, with nearly 30 percent preferring to shop recommerce based on price. Regardless of their reasons to shop recommerce, 83 percent of all respondents across all generations said that they will continue to purchase secondhand products,” says Professor Thomas Robertson, Academic Director of Wharton’s Baker Retailing Center.

Generation X and Millennials have the highest number of respondents who confirmed that they sell items to secondhand markets such as ThredUp and Poshmark, with 47 percent of Generation X and 52 percent of Millennials participating as sellers. Moreover, more than half of all respondents (55 percent) that sell items through recommerce channels prefer compensation in the form of cash as opposed to rewards, loyalty points, or discounts on future purchases.  

“It is clear that both the retail landscape and the consumer are becoming more complicated than ever before, and the need to continue to understand their constantly evolving demands is critically important to a consumer brand’s success,” said Greg Petro.

Download the report to see all the key findings here.

About First Insight, Inc.
First Insight, the world leader in Next-Gen Experience Management (XM) is transforming how companies make better decisions leading to a sustainable future. Customers include some of the world’s leading vertically integrated brands, sporting goods companies, department stores, consumer products companies, mass merchant retailers and wholesalers. For further information, please visit

About Baker Retailing Center at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania
The Jay H. Baker Retailing Center is an industry research center at the Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. The Center develops insights, through programs and resources, with our faculty, students, and industry leaders that influences industry research and encourages discussion on trending retail topics. Our faculty are world-renowned researchers, and our board members are globally recognized omnichannel and direct to consumer brands and retailers. The center was established in 2002 through a generous gift from Jay and Patty Baker. Jay Baker, former President and Director of the Kohl’s Corporation, is a 1956 graduate of the Wharton School. Learn more about the Wharton/Baker Retailing Center.

First Insight's findings are based on the results of a U.S. consumer study of more than 1,000 respondents conducted in partnership with the Baker Retailing Center at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania. The analysis was completed through proprietary sample sources among panels who participated online. Further details on the findings are available upon request.

Media Contact:
Berns Communications Group
Michael McMullan

First Insight Contact:
Gretchen Jezerc
SVP of Marketing

Baker Retailing Center Contact:
Mina Fader
Managing Director

trends  Buying Habits  baby boomers  millennials  consumer preferences  consumer preference  consumer study  consumer behavior  retail trends  Consumer Data  Generation Z  sustainability  resale  CONSUMER REPORT  recommerce  Generation X  sustainable