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Secondhand Gifts: Hot This Holiday and Here to Stay


As the year comes to close, the gifting season is anything but over. Although brand new goods are still the go-to for most people, an interesting phenomenon seems to be catching on. Giving secondhand gifts is more popular now than ever before. In fact, according to one industry report, secondhand purchases in the US will total over $160 billion for 2021 alone. Moreover, the report predicts this figure will more than double by 2030,

Modern technology and the eCommerce mindset have made it easier to buy and sell used items online. And forward thinking businesspeople are definitely taking notice. In this article we take a closer look at the rise of this new trend, the factors driving it and what it could mean for established retailers and their lightly used items, opened returns, scratch-and-dent wares and other unsold merchandise.

Trends Driving Secondhand Gifts

At first thought, price might seem like the primary motivator for this new way of gifting. There are, however, several different reasons consumers pick this method of shopping and giving, each just as valid as the others. Often, it’s a combination. Let’s take a look at a few of the reasons secondhand gifting is here to stay

Seeking Sustainability

Some may elect to give a secondhand gift for the sustainability of it. These shoppers figure that one less item bought brand new is one less item in circulation—and hopefully, one less unsold item thrown into a landfill. Extending the life of the everyday items we make, especially those containing non-sustainable materials, is critical if we hope to reduce waste.

As B-Stock COO Marcus Shen told PYMNTS in a recent interview, younger generations especially have become “far more socially conscious about goods and merchandise that they’re buying and consuming, and they certainly have increased demand for socially responsible companies.” This trend is a large part of why business is booming lately for secondhand sellers.

Cut Costs, Keep Quality

Other people may use this method as a way to save money. Not everyone’s budget allows for the latest electronics and trending high-end fashion. But regardless of finances, people everywhere remain determined to give thoughtful and functional gifts.

For some, secondhand stores bring to mind cheap, shabby, and less desirable goods donated to help those in need. For others, hunting yesteryear’s outdated relics provides some frivolous and ironic fun. In actuality, however, these perceptions are what’s outdated.

A good many secondhand stores, both internet-based and brick-and-mortar, have upped their game. Now, these businesses can offer interfaces and experiences as smooth as those of the best retailers. Payment options are modernized and customer services well integrated. Savvy entrepreneurs curate desirable stock and are enthusiastic about the items they sell. In fact, shoppers can often find items that still fill retailers’ shelves on the secondary market for cheaper. All of these reasons weaken the stigma against buying used; in fact, it’s cool to buy used!

Beating the Backups

This season, supply chain delays stemming from the pandemic have left shelves empty and popular sites plastered over with “out of stock” warnings. High-demand items are not pouring out of overseas factories at the same rate they once were. What does leave the factories waits to be processed through packed ports. It can then wait even longer before being trucked across the country by too few drivers.

A lightly used gift, on the other hand, carries the same sentiment as a brand new one. The biggest difference is that the used gift is already in the country and ready to ship, ensuring reasonable delivery times.

A Taste for the Time-Tested

Some people out there genuinely prefer the classics. We get used to the way things look and feel and work, and updates don’t always feel right or necessary. It’s for these folks that secondhand and unsold goods have real appeal.

When a person drops and breaks their beloved iPhone 8, they won’t likely be able to pick one up at the carrier store. Or perhaps they’re not loving the cost-cutting build quality of a new appliance. In either of these cases, they—or a gifter that knows them well—might seek out an older model to replace a discontinued favorite.

Searching for Something Different

We’ll put one more group as a catch all for the rest. There are many collectibles, antiques, and other lovably odd gifts to be enjoyed, but you may not find them at your usual shopping destinations.

These may have gone out of production, fallen out of favor, belonged to a defunct company, or simply been of a limited run. Still, they offer a unique charm. The secondary market is the ideal place to look for such things.

Do Holiday Shoppers Want Pre-owned Goods?

There is unquestionably demand for all manner of non-new wares—the secondhand, the opened and returned, and the scratch-and-dent too.

If you want proof, a quick web search will reveal scores of online apparel marketplaces that have gained acclaim selling less-than-new items. While you might think these stores cater to fashion enthusiasts, that’s not the case—this trend holds true around the world for cars, electronics, furniture and more. But will most people really be open to used gifts?

Sentiments Around Used Gifts Are Shifting

According to a recent study by ThredUp, 62% of people acknowledge secondhand giving is more acceptable than it was 5 years ago. Similarly, 60% of respondents say they’re open to receiving such a gift. Ask the Gen Z crowd and you’ll find this figure rises to 72%. The so-called Zoomers have demonstrated not just a tolerance for pre-loved items, but an appetite for it.

The report corroborated the factors discussed above. Respondents say that reasons for their positive feelings towards preowned gifts include:

  • Affordability over brand new items (56%)
  • Environmental concerns (54%)
  • Unique gifts that aren’t available in mainstream stores (34%)

Wishful Thinking or the Way of the Future?

Overall, there’s good evidence that the stigma around giving such merchandise is lifting. But will the average shopper put their money where their mouth is? Experts think so.

A large reselling marketplace published a study in late 2021 projecting that by end of year, spending on pre-owned items will have grown 12.6% over 2020. This means a total of $300.8 billion in 2021 alone.

An impressive 77% of all adults said they were likely to buy one or more secondhand gifts this year. Ask only 25-44 year olds—the highest spending cohort—and this figure jumps to more than 86%.

What exactly does all of this mean for manufacturers and retailers?

Preowned: A Trend Retailers Should Welcome

The implications of secondhand are huge for traditional stores. Too many retailers offload millions in unsold, opened, or returned inventory without a thought towards its value. A small handful of liquidators will talk a business down to rock-bottom prices only to resell the goods at a profit.

Some businesses that deem these liquidator relationships inefficient or too aggravating to manage, will trash or burn their stock. In fact, they may do so simply to keep their merchandise prestigious and preserve their brand reputation.

The fact that countless liquidation firms remain profitable today is evidence there’s massive and constant demand for retailer’s excess inventory.

Fortunately, there is a way to skip these tired practices altogether and access the secondary market. The answer lies in competitive B2B auctions via private online marketplaces.

B-Stock: How Secondhand Gifts Reenter the Market

Only the B-Stock platform, gives your enterprise or retail-based SMB a fully customizable private marketplace and direct access to over 500,000 eager buyers who depend on your merchandise—no matter the category—to run their own resale businesses.

The auction format naturally creates a sense of urgency and competition among bidders. This means that you’ll be able to consistently clear out your used, returned, and otherwise unsold inventory at the best price the market can supply. Our partners commonly recover 30% or more over their traditional closeout methods.

And don’t fret for your brand reputation. B-Stock allows you to carefully vet your buyers and handpick who you want reselling your goods. If you need further assurance for your image and sales channels, you can enforce a seller agreement. This contract dictates exactly how and where they can sell your goods. Chances are a traditional liquidator won’t offer such guarantees.

If you want to ride the wave of secondhand shopping and gifting this season to recover cash and control, contact B-Stock today to learn what we can do for you.



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