;
COVID-19 SERVICE: We are heightening our efforts to assist the UK retail & leisure industry through this challenging period. Explore this service now… COVID-19 SERVICE

Second-Hand, First Choice: The Psychology of Recommerce

 

5 Minute Read

 

 

This report is a must read for businesses, it includes consumer and industry insights, plus actionable strategies to navigate the evolving landscape of recommerce.

 

Click here to explore working with Retail Economics for publishing world class thought leadership research like this.

 

Contents:

  • Foreword

  • Introduction

  • Methodology

  • Section one: Recommerce Revolution: Used Market Landscape & Dynamic

  • Section two: Consumer Drivers and Characteristics: The Five Motivational Pillars of Recommerce

  • Section three: Megatrends Reshaping the Recommerce Industry

  • Conclusion

  • About Retail Economics and MPB

 

Psychology of recommerce

Introduction

The 'Recommerce Revolution' is not merely a trend; it's a transformative force that will fundamentally reshape the retail and consumer landscape moving forward. This evolution is not merely a passive shift; it's a dynamic force, reshaping the way society thinks about retail, sustainability, and consumer behaviour. At its core, recommerce champions a circular economy where product lifecycles are extended, waste is reduced, and sustainability values are elevated to centre stage.

 

Recommerce (short for reverse commerce) refers to the buying and selling of previously owned items, which can include a wide range of products such as clothing, electronics, furniture, and more. Today, the recommerce market (excluding automotive) is already worth £165 billion on a global scale and is forecast to grow almost 80% by 2028 across the US, UK, France, and Germany, representing a five-year compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 12.1%. The UK recommerce market is worth approximately £6.5 billion today and is forecast to nearly double in size over the next five years, reaching £12.4 billion in 2028.

 

Historically, the sector was confined to garage and car boot sales, charity shops, second-hand markets, and the like. With the advent of the internet, online classified and generalist platforms exploded onto the market (e.g., Craigslist and eBay). Today, we are traversing through a third wave of activity characterised by an increasing number of specialist marketplaces like musicMagpie, MPB, and Watchfinder.

 

Unlike the 1990s, powerful market drivers are now coalescing, propelling the industry to new heights. Drivers such as sustainability, the economy, societal and retail trends are accelerating market movements, backed by advances in technology that are supercharging critical infrastructure. Sustainability concerns and the rising cost-of-living are fierce motivational factors currently reshaping consumer behaviour for both buyers and sellers within the recommerce market.

 

This report delves into the key themes concerning recommerce, unearthing vital industry and consumer insights that businesses can implement in their strategies as recommerce continues to evolve. There are three parts: Section 1 looks at the general market landscape; section 2 explains consumer motivational drivers and characteristics, and section 3 delves into five key megatrends shaping the future of the market.

 

 

 

Section one: Recommerce Revolution:
Used Market Landscape & Dynamics

The recommerce market is undergoing a profound transformation and will remain a focal area of retail for the foreseeable future. It is primarily driven by sustainability concerns and the rising cost-of-living—two powerful factors. The barriers to entry for buying and selling pre-owned goods have significantly decreased, with digital playing a key role in simplifying processes, helping to democratise recommerce.

This burgeoning ecosystem is not only altering consumer behaviour but rewriting the rules of engagement for traditional retailers. It's an area garnering considerable attention, with exploding demand giving rise to a plethora of general and specialised platforms. This section explores the market's characteristics, size, and the remarkable growth potential.

 

Recommerce: The £165 Billion Industry

Today, the recommerce market (excluding automotive) stands as a colossal £165-billion-plus global industry. In the US alone, sales of used goods are valued at almost £52 billion, making it the largest recommerce market worldwide. For comparison, the largest European markets combined account for over £17 billion, with the UK leading the way at £6.5 billion, followed by France at £5.4 billion and Germany at £5.2 billion. Cumulatively, these four recommerce markets surpass the entire retail market of Austria, which is the 10th largest European market in total retail sales.

The UK's recommerce market is expected to reach £12.4 billion by 2028, nearly doubling in size relative to today and significantly outpacing the growth of the traditional retail market.

 

Fig 1: Recommerce market size by country

Psychology of Recommerce

Source: MPB, Retail Economics

 

These weighty numbers not only highlight the substantial financial opportunities within recommerce but also underscore the explosive demand for buying and selling used goods.

 

Fashion leads the way

Fashion currently reigns supreme in the realm of used goods. Across the four countries included in our research, approximately £4 in every £10 spent on used goods is allocated to apparel (Fig. 2). The extensive array of recommerce platforms and resale players in the fashion sector provides consumers with extensive choices and accessibility. Furthermore, the rapid turnover of stock, driven by fast fashion and shorter ownership periods, is perpetuated by flash trends within the fashion industry.

 

Homewares and Furniture claim a substantial share of the recommerce market, particularly in Europe. The UK leads in this category, holding a 30% share of total recommerce spend, amounting to nearly £2 billion annually in these categories.

 

The Tech sector, encompassing items such as laptops, phones, and cameras, maintains a robust presence across countries, capturing around one-fifth of the market share. This reflects a strong demand for used tech equipment.

 

Leisure is the smallest sector, incorporating items such as toys, games, music, and sporting equipment.

 

Fig 2: Fashion dominates recommerce categories

Psychology of recommerce

Source: MPB, Retail Economics

 

 

 

Consumer Engagement in Recommerce

Almost three in four (71%) consumers either bought or sold used goods in the past year. Among these, over half (57%) identified as 'buyers,' while one in three (32%) took on the role of 'sellers.' Overall, approximately one in five (17%) engaged in both buying and selling second-hand items on a regular basis, earning the title of 'used enthusiasts.'

The research brings to light regional disparities. The US and UK boast the highest penetration rates for buying used goods over the past year, with three in five shoppers participating (Fig. 3). In contrast, France emerges as the leader in active selling, with an impressive 39% of consumers recently engaging in selling used items. This equates to around 20.5 million sellers each year in France.

 

Fig 3: US and UK have the highest rates for purchasing used products

Psychology of Recommerce

Source: MPB, Retail Economics

 

Regarding consumer spending per capita, this also varies significantly. Here, the US leads with per capita spending of £196 (Fig. 4). The UK has the highest per capita spend in Europe at £122, while France and Germany follow at £103 and £75, respectively. Disparities reflect different levels of market maturity, cultural attitudes towards second-hand, and prevailing economic conditions.

 

To access more data from section one, download the full report at the top of this page

 

 

 

Section two: Consumer drivers and
characteristics: The five motivational pillars of recommerce

 

The recommerce market is experiencing a significant evolution and is poised to increase its prominence within the retail landscape. As this ecosystem expands, it’s critical for retail brands to deeply understand the motivating factors driving consumer behaviour, not only to shape marketing strategies, but to capitalise on consumers selling second-hand too.

 

Value the primary motivation

Our research shows that deriving better value and cost savings is the primary motivating factor for consumers buying used. Over half of shoppers (52%) stated ‘financial reasons’ to validate this.

The value for money afforded by used goods is an attractive proposition for all households, irrespective of income, particularly given persistent cost of living concerns and elevated interest rates across Europe and North America. Against this backdrop, the recommerce market stands out as a budget-friendly alternative to buying new.

 

When it comes to selling, earning income is the main driver, with over a third (34%) of shoppers opting to sell second-hand products to prop up finances.

Beyond financial motivations, environmental concerns are the next biggest motivating factor for buying used. Here, recommerce offers consumers a viable solution to live more sustainably, reducing environmental impact and waste.

 

Fig 12: Selling motivations more varied than buying

Psychology of recommerce

Source: MPB, Retail Economics

 

Material motivations can also play a key role. These encompass practical reasons such as demand for unique or vintage items. It can also empower buyers to pursue personal interests or specific lifestyles. From a seller’s perspective, the motivation often lies in decluttering living spaces.

Buying and selling used can also deliver social and emotional benefits, from connecting people and building like-minded communities, to creating a feel-good factor and gaining satisfaction from buying/selling used (or supporting others who perhaps cannot afford to buy brand new)

 

 

Motivations by age

Younger Generations (Gen Z and Millennials): Embracing Environmental and Social Factors

Gen Z and Millennials exhibit a more varied mix of motivations when it comes to buying and selling used items. They still give priority to financial benefits but also demonstrate strong environmental and social concerns. They express a desire to engage with communities, support causes, and make a broader social and environmental impact through their participation in recommerce activities.

 

Fig 13: Used motivations by age

Psychology of recommerce

Source: MPB, Retail Economics

 

Older Generations (Gen X & Boomers): Focus on Financial Prudence & Decluttering

Conversely, Gen X and Boomers share simpler motivations, focusing on financial gains and the practical aspects of finding unique items or decluttering as they look to downsize or clear out years of accumulated possessions.

 

To access more data from section two, download the full report at the top of this page

Download: Second-Hand, First Choice: The Psychology of Recommerce report

*All fields required

Don’t worry, your phone number and personal data are kept confidential. We never sell, rent or pass on your details to a third party.

NOTE: We will never sell, rent or pass on your details to a third party.

Find out more about our complete end-to-end thought leadership service

Discover our proven five step process & avoid the complex multi party approach

  • Say something new & insightful
  • Use our extensive experience to inject real industry value
  • Get maximum engagement from our media networks
  • Develop an authoritative voice within UK retail
  • Be seen as an industry leader!

DISCOVER NOW

 

Section three: Megatrends reshaping the recommerce industry

 

Our research identifies four megatrends influencing the recommerce market. It looks at: (1) the influence of digital; (2) attitudes towards sustainability; (3) barriers within the market for buying and selling, and (4) importance of technology in securing trust.

 

Megatrend 1: The rise of digital powering a thriving resale ecosystem

Digital has elevated recommerce to new heights – and continues to do so. To understand this transformation, we can look at the three distinct waves of recommerce (Fig. 16). The evolution began in the 1990s when traditional offline channels started giving way to online platforms. This shift empowered buyers and sellers to trade used products in a more structured manner, reaching wider audiences across more categories.

Classified sites like Craigslist and Gumtree provided an innovative peer-to-peer system for transactions. However, they struggled to address critical issues such as secure transactions, trust-building and verification, leaving users with unresolved issues.

 

Fig 16: Evolution of recommerce market

Psychology of recommerce

Source: MPB, Retail Economics

 

Fast forward to today, and many of these early online stumbling blocks have been overcome through digital advancements. We are now witnessing the third wave of recommerce, which is gaining momentum. This wave has been fuelled by the rapid rise of online platforms, accelerated by the pandemic, alongside heightened economic pressures on household finances in recent years. Consumers are increasingly seeking value in their purchases, spurring the growth of specialist platforms or ‘hypervertical online’ marketplaces with deep category expertise (e.g. Depop, MPB). These platforms are at the forefront of the recommerce revolution, backed by several key factors.

 

Online: the go-to channel for recommerce

Our research underscores the undeniable preference for digital when it comes to both buying and selling used items. Nine in ten (90%) respondents typically use online channels when purchasing used goods, while just over half (51%) indicated the same for bricks-and-mortar. This digital dominance is even starker in the selling domain, with 93% of respondents turning to online channels, compared to just 32% for offline (e.g. garage/car boot sales).

 

Fig 18: Online channels the preference for buying and selling used

Psychology of recommerce

Source: MPB, Retail Economics

 

Within online, marketplaces take centre stage evidenced by 78% of respondents choosing online marketplaces as their go-to platform for buying used items. This includes either generic marketplaces such as eBay (60%), or specialist platforms (39%) like Vinterior. Sellers, too, exhibit a preference for digital marketplaces, with 74% utilising them. This finding underscores the pivotal role played by digital marketplaces in advancing the recommerce ecosystem and the benefits it offers for both buyers and sellers.

 

To access more data from section three, download the full report at the top of this page

 

 

About this report

This "Second-Hand, First Choice: The Psychology of Recommerce" is published by Retail Economics and MPB. This report delves into the key themes concerning recommerce, unearthing vital industry and consumer insights that businesses can implement in their strategies as recommerce continues to evolve.

View All THOUGHT LEADERSHIP REPORTS

Other popular thought leadership reports

Children spending habits retail economics hyperjar

Report

Tomorrow's Consumers: Where and how do children spend their pocket money?

Find out how & where children in the UK spend their pocket money, having analysed 8 million card transactions of 6-17yrs
Social media commerce economics tiktok

Report

The Power of Social Commerce: Building brands in the TikTok era

See how brands are leveraging social media & TikTok to enhance brand awareness & sales with entertainment and stories
Brexit to Breakthrough

Report

From Brexit to Breakthrough: UK Brands Embrace Marketplaces for Global Success

Explore how UK retailers adapt to Brexit by leveraging digital marketplaces for international growth and resilience
Basket Abandonment 2

Report

Battling Basket Abandonment Report: No Margin for Error in Zero Tolerance Era

Explore key strategies to combat the £34.4B impact of UK basket abandonment in 2024
Communication & Solving Consumer Pain

Report

Omnichannel Communication & Solving Consumer Pain Across The Customer Journey

Unlock 2024 UK retail insights: consumer trends, pain points, and strategic retail solutions in our detailed report
Impact of delivery lockers on UK retail

Report

Delivery Lockers: Unlocking the Final Mile

Explore the impact of delivery lockers on UK retail, consumer preferences, and sustainable urban logistics
Consumer and Retail Trends in 2024

Report

Taking Stock 2024 - UK Retail & Consumer Trends

Learn what 2024 holds in store for UK retail and consumers & discover key trends to look out for in 2024 and beyond.
Customer Affluence and the Wealth Effect - Retail Economics, beBettor

Report

Customer Affluence and the Wealth Effect: Strategies for Retail Growth

Find out how customer affluence insights can improve retail marketing strategy
Net Zero commitments of brands and retailers

Report

The Path to Net Zero - The future of the retail industry

This report evaluates net zero efforts of the top 200 retailers/brands with DTC operations in global markets.
Outlook for the UK Retail & Consumer Industry 2024 - Retail Economics

Report

Retail and Leisure Outlook Report 2024

Learn about the Outlook for UK Retail & Leisure in 2024: With insights to help businesses thrive in a complex landscape
Report about new customer journeys, the importance of omnichannel & the role of delivery/logistics - Retail Economics

Report

Ecommerce Delivery Benchmark Report 2024

Explore the intricacies of new customer journeys, the importance of omnichannel & the role of delivery/logistics.
The Cost of Retail Theft

Report

The Cost of Retail Crime: Financial Impacts & Mitigation Strategies

Discover the motivations behind employee retail theft and strategies to minimise theft within the workplace
Digital Wallets in Retail

Report

From Plastic to Pixels: Navigating Shifts in Consumer Payment Preferences

A look into the trajectory for digital wallets across UK retail, leisure & hospitality + strategic considerations
Peak Trading Season Report

Report

Peak Season Report 2023: Building a risk-resistant ecommerce strategy

Discover what Christmas 2023 has in store for retail and how consumer behaviours will affect it + strategies for success
New Age of Digital Transformation

Report

Retail at Inflection Point: A New age of Digital Transformation

Discover the impact of digital sophistication on financial indicators inc. sales growth, profitability & valuation
The cut back economy a widening crisis within the retail industry

Report

The Cut Back Economy 2023: A Widening Crisis

Part 2 of our Cut Back Economy series, this report identifies opportunities & risks to navigate the cut back economy
Consumer and Retail Trends in 2023

Report

Taking Stock - UK Retail & Consumer Trends

Learn what 2023 holds in store for UK retail and consumers & discover key trends to look out for in 2023 and beyond.
Top 10 European Retail Markets

Report

Top 10 European Retail Markets: In-store & Online Spending Data (2013-2022)

Data and Insights on the Top 10 European Retail Markets consolidated into one report
Personalisation Pays Reshaping Retail

Report

Personalisation Pays: How Data-Driven Strategies are Reshaping Retail

Discover how data-driven strategies are changing retail as we know it and how personalisation can help businesses thrive
The Bottled Water Industry

Report

An Economic and Environmental Case for Acting Against Bottled Water Packaging, Labelling and Marketing in the UK

Discover the economic and environmental case against bottled water packaging in the UK. Take a stand for a sustainable future.
Battling Basket Abandonment - GFS & Retail Economics

Report

Battling Basket Abandonment: Mastering Delivery Choice & Convenience

Discover more information about why consumers abandon their online shopping baskets and how to reduce these abandonments
Outlook for the UK Retail & Consumer Industry 2023 - Retail Economics

Report

Outlook for UK Retail & Consumer 2023

Learn about the Outlook for UK Retail & Consumer in 2023: Cost of living impact on consumer behaviour & retail brands.
The Future of Retail Property Preview Report - Retail Economics

Report

The Future of Retail Property

Check out the Future of Retail Property preview report. Full access available to Retail Property Members only.
40 future retail trends to 2030 - Retail Economics

Report

40 Future Retail Trends to 2030

Discover the top 40 retail trends shaping the future towards 2030: a great resource to help future-proof your business
Retail insight report on consumer shopping behaviour online vs. in-store

Report

UK Omnichannel Retail 2023: Understanding Consumer Segmentation for In-store & Online Markets

Find out where shoppers are spending: online vs. in-store for key retail categories + impact of age, income & workplace.
Report about the impact of inflation & changing consumer behaviour on the retail sector - Retail Economics

Report

Ecommerce Delivery Benchmark Report 2023: Impact of inflation & consumer behaviour on online retail

Learn about the impact of inflation & changing consumer behaviour on the retail sector: spot opportunities & challenges.
The Future of the EU Apparel Industry Business Models  Profitability Retail Economics

Report

The Future of the European Apparel Industry: Business Models & the Profitability Paradox

This report looks at the future of the apparel industry & how business models are adapting to profitability concerns.
Christmas 2022 Retail Sales: Holiday Shopping Trends Report - Retail Economics

Report

Christmas 2022 Retail Prospects: Holiday Shopping Trends Report

Christmas 2022 retail sales prospects? This report assesses performances across peak trading in ‘cost of living’ crisis.
uk pensions report - retail economics

Report

Understanding Pensions in an Era of Disruption

Discover how much savings & income you need for retirement & the shortfall between current pension pot values & income.
Changing consumer and shopper values in retail

Report

Changing Consumer Values & Behaviour: Building a Competitive Proposition in Retail

Consumer behaviour across Europe is changing in response to industry disruption & the cost of living crisis - see how.
The cut back economy cost of living crisis retail economics

Report

The Cut Back Economy & Cost of Living Crisis

Explore the key drivers & impacts of the cost of living crisis on UK retail & what brands can do to mitigate its effects
The apparel market Five key trends to 2025

Report

The Apparel Market: Five Key Trends to 2025

Learn about the five key industry trends that will shape the apparel sector towards 2025 (clothing & footwear).
The Retail Experience Economy 2.0 report - How Consumers value experiences in times of crisis - Retail Economics

Report

The Retail Experience Economy 2.0

Find out how the experience economy is being impacted by the cost of living crisis & many other factors.
Top five strategies for retailers and brands to combat rising inflation and operating costs - Retail Economics report

Report

Top 5 strategies for retailers & brands to combat rising inflation & operating costs

Discover our top 5 strategies for retailers & brands to help combat rising inflation & operating costs.
The Big Squeeze Report pressure on consumer finances and rising inflation - Retail Economics

Report

The Big Squeeze: Pressure on consumer finances, rising inflation & money management

Discover the 4 financial personas of consumer spending & how rising inflation & household bills are impacting behaviour
Impact of the metaverse on the retail industry sector - Retail Economics

Report

Impact of the metaverse on the retail industry

Is the metaverse going to be the next big thing? Download our report to find out what retailers should be thinking about & how customer journeys could change.
Ecommerce Delivery Benchmark Report 2022 - Retail Economics - Metapack

Report

The Future of Online Delivery for the Retail Industry

Discover the impact of the ongoing shift to online retail within key European markets & how it's affecting consumer behaviour & retailer's operations.
Future of European Apparel Industry - Evolution of Stores - Retail Economics

Report

Future of European Apparel Industry: Evolution of Stores

See where the future of the European apparel industry is heading & how physical stores & their purpose is fast evolving.
Outlook for UK Retail & Consumer Industry 2022 - Retail Economics

Report

Outlook for the UK Retail & Consumer Industry 2022

Get your free Outlook for UK Retail 2022 report: economic outlook, forecasts, Covid-19 impacts, online, supply chains...
Covid-19 and the Future of UK takeaway industry - Retail Economics

Report

Covid-19 and the Future of Takeaway

This report looks into the valuable economic, social and cultural contribution made by the UK takeaway sector in 2020.
UK Food and Grocery Market Retail Trends to 2025 - Retail Economics

Report

The UK Grocery Market: Five Key Trends to 2025

This report explores five emerging retail trends in the Food & Grocery sector towards 2025 (consumer behaviour, online).
The True Cost of Online Retail - Retail Economics

Report

The True Cost of Online Retail

This research looks at the online retail channel & investigates the real operating costs & profit margins for retailers.
Outlook for UK Retail 2021 - Ten retail trends - Retail Economics

Report

Outlook for UK Retail and Leisure 2021

This report looks at challenges facing UK retail in 2021 in context of Covid-19 & other key structural changes unfolding.
Covid-19 and the Future of Retail Supply Chains - Retail Economics

Report

Covid-19 and the Future of Retail Supply Chains

This report explores retail supply chain networks & key disruptive factors: Covid-19, security, labour, technology, ESG etc.
Connected digital retail customer journey - Retail Economics

Report

The Connected Retail Customer Journey and Digitalisation

Explore the connected retail customer journey & the importance of digital as online engagement soars in this current era.
Retail Customer Journey Fashion Apparel Industry - Retail Economics

Report

Understanding the retail customer journey for the fashion industry

Discover insight into the retail fashion customer journey (stage 1) - consumers first interact with retailers & brands.
Brexit disruption Food & Grocery - Retail Economics

Report

Structural Changes for UK Food & Grocery Sector

In a pre-Covid era, this research report looks at consumer behaviour & the impact of Brexit on how consumers shop for Food.
Economic Outlook for UK Retail and Impact of Covid-19 - Retail Economics

Report

Economic Outlook for the UK Retail Industry and the Impact of Covid-19

Explore the outlook for the UK retail sector & 5 underlying trends that will reshape the industry from Covid-19 impacts.
Consumers and the New Normal - Exploring Covid-19 impact on EU retail

Report

Consumers and the New Normal: Exploring the impact of the coronavirus on European retail

What is the 'new normal' going to look like for retail in the EU? This report examines this in detail & offers insight.
Contribution of the UK takeaway market to the economy - Retail Economics

Report

The Contribution of the Takeaway Market to the UK Economy

How does the UK takeaway industry impact the UK economy? This report looks at the valuable economic & social contribution.
Retail Cash Crunch Impact of Covid-19 - Retail Economics

Report

The Retail Cash Crunch: The Impact of COVID-19 on Major Non-Food UK Retailers

How long can UK retailers' cash reserves last? This report looks at Covid-19 impacts, consumer behaviour & profit margins.
Whats happening to retail property?

Report

What's happening to Retail Property?

Exploring the contributing factors of how physical retail property is changing: rise of online, shopper behaviour & more.
Impact of Artificial Intelligence (AI) on the UK retail industry - Retail Economics

Report

The impact of AI on the UK retail industry

A look into how artificial intelligence (AI) is impacting the UK retail industry, at all stages of the customer journey.
Future of online retail in the UK  - Retail Economics

Report

The Digital Tipping Point: 2019 Retail Report

Unearths insights into causative forces driving digital customer journeys & reveals differences across consumer segments.
Impact of Covid-19 on UK retail industry - Retail Economics

Report

Impact of the Coronavirus on Retailers

This report explores the impact of the initial stages of Covid-19 on the UK retail & leisure industry back in March 2020.
Outlook for UK Retail 2020 - Retail Economics

Report

2020 UK Retail and Leisure Outlook

The outlook for the UK retail industry 2020 from a pre-Covid-19 perspective. Research, commentary & analysis of factors.
Outlook for UK retail 2019 - Retail Economics

Report

Retail Economics/RBS Outlook for UK Retail 2019

Find out what's in store for UK retail in 2019 & beyond. Discover current factors affecting retailer and consumer alike.
The Retail Experience Economy - The Behavioural Revolution - Retail Economics

Report

The Retail Experience Economy: The Behavioural Revolution

This work explores four realms of retail experiences that have been quantified & discusses their impact shopper behaviour.