The power of secondhand: how resale slows consumption

By Depop
23 Nov 2022

Depop, the community-powered marketplace app to buy and sell unique fashion, has conducted research to understand Depop's users’ behaviours when it comes to buying and disposing of fashion items. 

This research has enabled Depop to calculate our displacement rate - i.e  the extent to which purchasing a secondhand item on Depop prevents the purchase of a brand new one elsewhere. This is a key data point that helps us understand whether the resale model slows the demand for new fashion. 

The planet is in a climate emergency, and the production of clothing is a major contributor to the overall environmental impact of a garment. So a straightforward way to reduce the impact of fashion is to reuse what already exists, by replacing brand new purchases by second hand ones.

If on average a garment was worn twice as much, then lifecycle GHG emissions of the garment could be 44% lower [Ellen MacArthur Foundation - New Textiles Economy (2017)], and resale gives clothes a chance to be worn more times across a garment’s lifecycle. 

The research reveals that:

  • 9 in 10 purchases made on Depop prevent the purchase of a brand-new item elsewhere. This rate of displacement is consistent across all three countries surveyed, from 88% in the US, 90% in the UK, to 93% in Australia.

  • On average, Depop users estimate that they wear an item a total of 46 times before it is discarded. This is highest in the UK, and lowest in Australia (UK - 49; US - 45; Australia - 44). This compares to non-Depop users, where other studies estimate that some garments are discarded after just 7 to 10 wears [Ellen MacArthur Foundation - New Textiles Economy (2017)].

  • When clearing out wardrobes, our community had a clear preference for extending the life of a garment - through resale, charity shops and passing items to friends and family. 

    • 58% donate to a charity or thrift shop 

    • 53% sell on 

    • 41% pass to friends or family

As circularity gains momentum in the nascent resale industry, it is crucial to verify whether circular business models are truly slowing the need for new fashion or are unintentionally fuelling more consumption. By estimating Depop’s own displacement rate, we can better understand the environmental impact of purchasing secondhand fashion on Depop compared to brand new items elsewhere. 


The sample

The results of this research is based on a sample of 5,531 Depop users across three markets (UK, USA, Australia), conducted in March 2022. The survey was open to users who had made a purchase of clothing on Depop (including shoes and accessories) between December 2021 and February 2022 (i.e. a 3 month period). 

NOTE: Data points referencing “Depop users” are based on responses from the surveyed user sample (unless otherwise stated). Where findings have been combined across markets, a straight average has been taken and no weighting has been applied to the results to account for the size of the markets. Results given at a total level should therefore be used only to give direction. Depop can provide country specific data upon request.

Full details of the methodology, including the displacement rate calculation, can be found in the report.