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Second-hand fashion | The perverse effects of resale platforms



Vinted, ThredUp, Poshmark, Bon Magasinage: second-hand clothing resale platforms are on the rise. They resonate with the thrifty and ecological fiber of consumers, but do they really offer the most eco-responsible way to shop?

Upon its arrival in Canada in June 2021, the European platform Vinted recalled its mission to “make second-hand fashion the first choice in the world”, while putting forward the reduction of the mode allowed by its model.

A survey conducted by SOM and published by Protect yourself in a recent dossier on the second-hand economy shows that 46% of Quebecers participate in it for ecological reasons.


However, these platforms are criticized for the perverse effects they generate: compulsive purchases, overconsumption and carbon emissions linked to the transport of products. The Zero Waste France organization which, as part of its Nothing New Challenge, had included Vinted in its alternatives to buying new clothes, has since removed it.


Screenshot from Vinted website

“Through its interface, Vinted pushes users to buy compulsively and this is eminently contradictory with the ecological issue, which requires above all to ask the question: “Do we really need it? ” “, said the director of Zero Waste France, Flore Berlingen, in an article published in 2020 by Reporterre.

Of course, there’s the price of the clothes, which is necessarily lower than that of new products, but also the low shipping costs, the notifications of price drops and the offers that sellers can send to users who have added their articles in their favourites. Did you leave an item hanging in your basket? The application also notifies you.

Dominique Roux, professor of marketing and researcher at the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne, also points to “the professionalization of the consumer who learns to sell as much as he has learned to buy”. And to keep their platform alive, these companies rely heavily on these fashionistas who wear their clothes only a few times before reselling them. A dynamic that can stimulate the new home market.

“If I buy a coat and I know that I can put it back on sale on a second-hand platform a year later, I will not hesitate to buy one every year”, illustrates the one who studies the modes of spare consumption.

“You have to ask yourself: people who buy from Zara at the base, do they buy more than they bought before? “, continues Red. A question that is difficult to answer since no solid study has been conducted on the subject.

A survey conducted in the United States and cited in the 2022 annual report of the American resale site ThredUp nevertheless shows that 46% of members of Generations Z and Y consider the resale value of an item of clothing before making the purchase.

“It’s very likely that there are a lot, in this 46%, of people who buy to resell afterwards”, remarks Marcelo Vinhal Nepomuceno, professor of marketing at HEC Montréal and holder of the Canada Research Chair on the taking consumer decision. “It can motivate impulsive consumption. It’s as if, by solving one problem, we generate another one. But if we don’t do second-hand, these clothes will be thrown away. »

“Circularity can prevent a new item from being produced or an item from being discarded, helping to combat some of the negative impacts of the fashion industry by keeping items in circulation for two , three times or even longer”, argues Natacha Blanchard, director of consumer public relations at Vinted, in a written statement sent to The Press.

Long distances

The impact of transport also plays an important role in the environmental footprint of this model. Thus, a pair of pants bought from a saleswoman in Vancouver can travel more than 4,500 kilometers to reach the closet of a buyer in Montreal.

One way to reduce the impact, but it is commercially complicated, would be to limit the distances of the offers that are offered to someone who is looking for something. But when you do that, you’re narrowing the supply by definition. You will kill your model.

Dominique Roux, professor of marketing and researcher at the University of Reims Champagne-Ardenne

This is what the Montreal platform Upcycli does, to a certain extent, by limiting itself to Quebec territory. “We haven’t started our expansion into the other Canadian provinces because we don’t yet have the necessary keys to have the best platform that would allow us to avoid promoting the fact that buying an item that comes from Vancouver , it’s great,” says Christopher Montoya, president and co-founder of Upcycli.

Having recently defined themselves as impact entrepreneurs, the founders of Upcycli have started thinking about ways to minimize the perverse effects that their model can have.

This reflection will lead to the addition, in 2023, of new functionalities. Already, Upcycli has implemented a geolocation function to promote local purchases and hand-delivery.

Bon Magasinage, another resale platform established in Montreal, also promotes geolocation. Just like Facebook Marketplace. But this is not the case with Vinted, which nevertheless allows hand-delivery when the option has been activated by the seller. In the statement it sent to us, the company says instead that it wants to bet on a sufficiently large supply of second-hand items to reduce the likelihood that consumers will turn to the new market, which has a considerably greater environmental impact. big.

“The best way to reduce your environmental impact is not to buy,” reminds Marcelo Vinhal Nepomuceno, of HEC Montréal.

Learn more

  • 96 billion US
    Assessment of the second-hand fashion market in the world in 2021

    Source: Statista, May 2022

  • fast-fashion
    “A second-hand platform is a great novelty, it has to continue. But we must not bring back the failings of the consumption of fast fashion on these platforms. »

    Christopher montoya, president and co-founder of Upcycli

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