Clothing: Second-hand online: a trend towards over-consumption

Clothing: Second-hand online: a trend towards over-consumption

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According to researchers, second-hand clothing sites lead consumers to buy more, accentuating overconsumption.

“Second-hand sites lead to a bulimia of purchase”, criticizes Dominique Roux, researcher at the University of Reims.


Buying and selling second-hand clothes online is popular with French people who want to save money by protecting the environment, but researchers warn: this solution encourages overconsumption. For the 19 million French users claimed by Vinted, reselling on this Lithuanian platform the clothes they no longer want aims above all to save money, especially in a context of loss of purchasing power.

But the opportunity to give “a second life” to his clothes, touted by the company, is also echoed by consumers. According to a study by the Kantar Institute, 46% of people who bought second-hand clothes in 2020 also did so “for ecological reasons, to limit waste”.

In fact, the fashion industry is the second largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the world, ahead of maritime and air transport. The globalization of the industry, which produces in Asia before distributing the goods throughout the world, explains this strong impact. Added to this is a high consumption of water and chemical inputs and low recycling of discarded products. Le Bon coin, Videdressing, Vinted, Vestiaire collective… there are dozens of platforms for reselling clothes online, but Vinted alone captured 70% of purchases in 2020, according to Kantar.

“Bulimia of purchase”

“The second-hand sites push to a bulimia of purchase. For the same price as a new item of clothing, you can buy three or four of them”, criticizes Dominique Roux, researcher at the University of Reims, specializing in alternative modes of consumption. In 2019, fashion buyers who consumed second-hand in addition to new tended to buy more than those who exclusively bought new, Kantar points out, with seven more acts of purchase per year on average.

“If the second-hand purchase replaces a new purchase, we gain (the environmental impact) of the first life of the garment”, explains Maud Herbert, co-founder of the Tex & Care chair at IAE Lille. However, this model is not ecologically viable, because for the researcher, “it is an alternative form of overconsumption”.

An observation shared by Hélène Janicaud, director of the fashion department of the Kantar institute. She compares the behavior of some buyers, who buy second-hand to “have a lot of items at a lower price”, to the “mechanism of compulsive buying that we see in new”. A behavior particularly visible among 25-34 year olds.

“Commit” to the occasion

However, on its website or its Instagram account, Vinted praises the merits of sobriety by encouraging its members “to separate (their) desires from (their) needs”, or by encouraging them to buy clothes “(that we) wish to wear at least 20 times”. A message in contradiction with the operation detailed by Élodie Juge. “The decreasing sores are not on Vinted, they are even quickly made invisible by the platform”, she believes. Indeed, the seller rating system gives more visibility to the best rated profiles and to be well rated… you have to be active on the platform.

Asked by AFP, Vinted explains in an email that the rating system “helps create a climate of trust between members”. The platform thus claims to “facilitate the experience” of users, which “helps them to commit (…) to the second-hand market”, rather than that of new, recalling its commitment to make “second hand the first choice”. Vinted claims to want to encourage “the extension of the duration of use” of clothing.


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