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Millionaires Shop Secondhand, Too

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For clothes, anyway.

Lumley stands on the deck of a yacht with her arms spread wide.
Absolutely Fabulous actress Joanna Lumley on a yacht.
Photo: Carl Court

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In just the time that Justin Bieber has been on this earth, the experience of buying and selling used clothing has changed quite a lot, moving from thrift shops and consignment stores to eBay to a bevy of e-comm startups offering convenience, community, and brand authentication. Turns out the cushy state of secondhand shopping speaks to a seemingly unlikely demographic: the very wealthy.

When the clothing resale site ThredUp broke down its most active shopper base by income bracket, it found that the largest chunk (36 percent) makes $250,000 to $1 million a year. Another 21 percent makes between $100,000 and $250,000 annually, and 10 percent are millionaires. That’s a full 67 percent of ThredUp’s power shoppers making north of $100,000 a year. (The US median income was $56,516 in 2015, CNN reported in September.)

For the most part, these shoppers live in cities (73 percent), are working professionals (77 percent), and own a home (71 percent). They’re busy and, one would assume, more interested in shopping from their couch than making trips into the increasingly dire brick-and-mortar wilds. When so many resale sites are merchandised to look exactly like full-priced retailers, why not enjoy the hunt?

Age also plays into who’s most likely to shop secondhand, and this is going to be vindicating for every smug young person who’s exclaimed “I’m such a grandma!” when discussing baking or staying in on a Saturday night: Millennials and anyone born before 1946 are the two demographics most likely to shop secondhand, according to ThredUp, which indeed classifies the latter group as “grandmas.”

The site found that 32 percent of those so-called grandmas and 30 percent of millennials shop secondhand, compared to 25 and 26 percent of Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers, respectively. Their motivations appear to be slightly different — millennials are noticeably driven by the inherent environmentalism of buying used clothing, while women over 65 do it for the savings — but they’re both underpinned by the fact that these shoppers grew up during recessions.