Gen Z is all about secondhand gifting

How can consumers secondhand shop for the holidays?

Jon pulido shopping collage

Consumers increasingly view secondhand gifting as a fun, cheaper and more meaningful way of giving.

Image: Jon Pulido

Click banner image for more Shopping Week coverage

Tracy DiNunzio started Tradesy over 10 years ago, a time when she says people were, for the most part, "ick about pre-owned."

Today, shopping secondhand is not only no longer "ick": It's increasingly how the cool kids shop as Gen Z's priorities shift from fast fashion toward sustainability. The Kleiner Perkins-backed luxury resale startup just raised another $67 million in series D funding and, according to DiNunzio, is the biggest private company in the category.

Customers have fully embraced buying used for themselves, but what about gifting used? According to executives, shoppers and influencers in the space who spoke to Protocol, consumers increasingly view secondhand gifting as a fun, cheaper and more meaningful way of giving, as well as a more convenient one in the age of the supply-chain crisis.

'I'm proud to say I'm lowering my carbon footprint'

Tijana Lazic is a full-time Poshmark "power seller" and stay-at-home mom based in Los Angeles. Her closet is 95% secondhand, and she gifts secondhand not just for the holidays, but all the time. Her last new purchase? A pair of Zara boots, four years ago.

For Lazic, the primary lure of buying and gifting secondhand is the environmental impact of the fast-fashion industry. "I'm proud to say I'm lowering my carbon footprint," by not "participating in the ritual of wearing once and tossing it."

DiNunzio first started noticing the shifting perceptions of secondhand gifting among holiday shoppers in 2019. While Q4 is typically the busiest time of year for traditional retailers, that's historically not been the case for the resale market. But that year, Tradesy started seeing significantly more activity on the platform during the holiday season: Gift categories like wallet sales were up 25% compared to other quarters that year, for example.

Even the company's data-science algorithms that help predict sales in 2019, which were "extremely accurate" in the first three quarters of the year, failed to predict the Q4 jump in items that are often gifted: small leather goods, bags and certain types of shoes like slippers and loafers. Tradesy also saw a jump in male visitors to the site, 26% in Q4 compared to 16% previously, another sign pointing to an increase in holiday gift-buying.

Since then, the trend has continued to hold. It held in 2020, and this year, Tradesy and others like Poshmark and Depop have increased marketing that's targeted at the gift-giving season. Platforms are starting to promote gift guides in email campaigns that once used to only feature dresses to wear to holiday events. According to customer research conducted by Tradesy's head of product, nine out of 10 women who shop pre-owned would also gift pre-owned.

"There is no difference in how we approach the gifting season than how any other fashion brand approaches it," said Justine Porterie, Depop's global head of sustainability.

Supply chain woes, Gen Z are driving hand-me-down gifts

Sustainability isn't the only thing driving consumers' heightened interest in secondhand gifting. Sam Blumenthal, the director of consumer communications at thredUP, said supply-chain issues are also prompting younger generations to purchase used. According to a recent report by thredUP, half of consumers are looking into alternative gift options like thrifted items because of the supply crunch, and a good majority of Gen Z is open to receiving a hand-me-down gift for the holidays.

According to DiNunzio, consumer worries about supply chain delays are driving them to start their holiday shopping even earlier. Tradesy's October sales were ahead of its projections, with overall sales up more than 50% year over year. Customers are "scared by supply chain issues, and they're scared by the postal services issues," she said.

Nearly every Big Tech company, from Amazon to Apple, is feeling supply-chain pressure, even though they're making major pushes to get people's holiday presents in on time. Supply-chain issues impact the resale market less because everything on platforms like Tradesy and Poshmark is already produced and available. It makes the case for the circular economy that much easier to make, DiNunzio said.

Blumenthal said if someone is just getting into a secondhand platform like thredUP, they should ensure they use filters to boil down exactly what they want, and get a gift card if they're unsure exactly what to give. "The best way to cut waste is to go for a gift card so the recipient can pick out exactly what they want!" she told Protocol in an email.

Sourcing secondhand gifts requires more work

Jon Pulido is a top seller on Depop and collects potential gifts year-round for his friends and family. "Throw them in the back of your closet," he recommended. "By Christmas, I have bundles of things for everybody."

For Pulido, buying and gifting secondhand started out as a financial choice and became a lifestyle. Before he became a top seller on Depop, making enough to support himself solely on the platform, he worked a minimum-wage retail job. "I could spend $50 on a button-up shirt, or I can go to a thrift store and buy four button-ups, shoes, etc., for the same amount of money," he said.

Lazic cautioned that shopping for gifts secondhand requires more time and energy than purchasing a new item online or in a store. To make the process easier, she recommended that people go in with a general idea of a thing they want to give rather than being hyper-focused on finding something very specific. "Start with an idea, and allow yourself to discover something," she said.

How to gift tactfully?

Know your audience, recommended Pulido. If you know someone isn't comfortable with secondhand, don't get them a secondhand gift. But something that people forget is that even new items exist on secondhand marketplaces. Pulido's brother is one person in his life who has never gotten on the secondhand bandwagon. But last Christmas, Pulido found a pair of Active Ride Shop khakis — brand new, in his brother's size — at the local thrift store. "I was pushing my limits, but he was OK with that."

What makes a secondhand gift special is how personalized it can be, he said. In high school, one of his friends at the time was very into amusement parks. At Goodwill one day, Pulido discovered a sweater with the Universal Studios logo stitched on the breast and back. He bought it for $4, and his friend said it was "the best thing he's ever received."

Lazic agreed that part of the beauty of gifting pre-owned is the personal aspect to it. "You found something in a sea of items that this person would really enjoy," she said.

"The fact that they're secondhand is almost secondary. You're talking about great pieces that have a great story that's an additional value add," Porterie said. When her best friend got married last year, she bought her a white silk Adidas jacket, a collaboration the brand did with Pharrell Williams a few years ago. When the bride's feet couldn't stand high heels any longer, she put on a pair of secondhand white Air Jordans, also courtesy of Porterie.

Pulido recommended putting thought not only into the gift but how you present it. He likes to find little baskets to throw everything into that allow him to display the gifts nicely.

Even the most hardcore secondhand gifters agree there are some things that you should never gift secondhand. Top on that list: socks and underwear. "Everything else is pretty game," Pulido said, even shoes. Just make sure they're in decent condition.

"You do not have any obligation to disclose whether [a gift] is pre-owned or not," DiNunzio said, although it might be a good idea to do so to educate recipients about the political act of buying used.

Online secondhand shopping can work if it's intentional

People who promote sustainable living on social media platforms like Instagram said shopping for gifts secondhand can be beneficial, as long as it's done right.

Dani Alvarado, a sustainability blogger, doesn't necessarily consider herself an "influencer." She doesn't use her platform to promote products and instead focuses on asking her followers questions about sustainability while they look at brands and consider a purchase. "We still have our followers ask questions: Can I make this myself? Do I really need this?" she told Protocol.

Screenshot of Image: Sustainablykindliving.com Dani Alvarado asks her followers questions about sustainability.Image: Sustainablykindliving.com

Alvarado said if someone is going to shop for gifts on secondhand websites, they should create a list going into it and understand what triggers impulse purchasing for them. "Sometimes we'll go to an online store and without thinking about what a person wants, we'll just start looking at the discount section, which can get a little dangerous," she said. By heading to the website prepared, she said the gifts can be more intentional because it forces people to plan ahead.

Taylor Brightt, who talks about sustainable living on TikTok and Instagram, told Protocol that rather than shopping on any secondhand platform, she encourages her followers to think about who they're supporting by making a purchase and to think about the intention of the gift. "Everything needs to be purchased with intention over appeal," she said.

Brightt said she prefers to use Poshmark or Etsy while shopping online because it allows her to connect with different sellers or small businesses. She added that Poshmark helps out sellers by providing them with shipping labels each time they make a sale.

The two companies take a different percentage of sales from sellers; Etsy takes 5% (plus listing and commission fees), while Poshmark takes 20% for all sales above $15, according to their respective websites.

"Think of the seller and how they are treated and how you can support small businesses online," Brightt said. "Anywhere I can support small businesses — I just feel better. I just know they're getting excited about my order."

Workplace

How 'Dan from HR' became TikTok’s favorite career coach

You can get a lot of advice about corporate America on TikTok. ‘Dan from HR’ wants to make sure you’re getting the right instruction.

'Dan from HR' has posted hundreds of videos on his TikTok account about everything from cover letters to compensation.

Image: Dan Space

Daniel Space downloaded TikTok for the same reason most of us did. He was bored.

At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, Space wanted to connect with his younger cousin, who uses TikTok, so he thought he’d get on the platform and try it out (although he refused to do any of the dances). Eventually, the algorithm figured out that Space is a longtime HR professional and fed him a post with resume tips — the only issue was that the advice was “really horrible,” he said.

Keep Reading Show less
Sarah Roach

Sarah Roach is a reporter and producer at Protocol (@sarahroach_) where she contributes to Source Code, Protocol's daily newsletter. She is a recent graduate of George Washington University, where she studied journalism and mass communication and criminal justice. She previously worked for two years as editor in chief of her school's independent newspaper, The GW Hatchet.

Sponsored Content

A CCO’s viewpoint on top enterprise priorities in 2022

The 2022 non-predictions guide to what your enterprise is working on starting this week

As Honeywell’s global chief commercial officer, I am privileged to have the vantage point of seeing the demands, challenges and dynamics that customers across the many sectors we cater to are experiencing and sharing.

This past year has brought upon all businesses and enterprises an unparalleled change and challenge. This was the case at Honeywell, for example, a company with a legacy in innovation and technology for over a century. When I joined the company just months before the pandemic hit we were already in the midst of an intense transformation under the leadership of CEO Darius Adamczyk. This transformation spanned our portfolio and business units. We were already actively working on products and solutions in advanced phases of rollouts that the world has shown a need and demand for pre-pandemic. Those included solutions in edge intelligence, remote operations, quantum computing, warehouse automation, building technologies, safety and health monitoring and of course ESG and climate tech which was based on our exceptional success over the previous decade.

Keep Reading Show less
Jeff Kimbell
Jeff Kimbell is Senior Vice President and Chief Commercial Officer at Honeywell. In this role, he has broad responsibilities to drive organic growth by enhancing global sales and marketing capabilities. Jeff has nearly three decades of leadership experience. Prior to joining Honeywell in 2019, Jeff served as a Partner in the Transformation Practice at McKinsey & Company, where he worked with companies facing operational and financial challenges and undergoing “good to great” transformations. Before that, he was an Operating Partner at Silver Lake Partners, a global leader in technology and held a similar position at Cerberus Capital LP. Jeff started his career as a Manufacturing Team Manager and Engineering Project Manager at Procter & Gamble before becoming a strategy consultant at Bain & Company and holding executive roles at Dell EMC and Transamerica Corporation. Jeff earned a B.S. in electrical engineering at Kansas State University and an M.B.A. at Dartmouth College.
Podcasts

1Password's CEO is ready for a password-free future

Fresh off a $620 million raise, 1Password CEO Jeff Shiner talks about the future of passwords.

1Password is a password manager, but it has plans to be even more.

Business is booming for 1Password. The company just announced it has raised $620 million, at a valuation of $6.8 billion, from a roster of A-list celebrities and well-known venture capitalists.

But what does a password manager need with $620 million? Jeff Shiner, 1Password’s CEO, has some plans. He’s building the team fast — 1Password has tripled in size in the last two years, up to 500 employees, and plans to double again this year — while also expanding the vision of what a password manager can do. 1Password has long been a consumer-first product, but the biggest opportunity lies in bringing the company’s knowhow, its user experience, and its security chops into the business world. 1Password already has more than 100,000 business customers, and it plans to expand fast.

Keep Reading Show less
David Pierce

David Pierce ( @pierce) is Protocol's editorial director. Prior to joining Protocol, he was a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, a senior writer with Wired, and deputy editor at The Verge. He owns all the phones.

Boost 2

Can Matt Mullenweg save the internet?

He's turning Automattic into a different kind of tech giant. But can he take on the trillion-dollar walled gardens and give the internet back to the people?

Matt Mullenweg, CEO of Automattic and founder of WordPress, poses for Protocol at his home in Houston, Texas.
Photo: Arturo Olmos for Protocol

In the early days of the pandemic, Matt Mullenweg didn't move to a compound in Hawaii, bug out to a bunker in New Zealand or head to Miami and start shilling for crypto. No, in the early days of the pandemic, Mullenweg bought an RV. He drove it all over the country, bouncing between Houston and San Francisco and Jackson Hole with plenty of stops in national parks. In between, he started doing some tinkering.

The tinkering is a part-time gig: Most of Mullenweg’s time is spent as CEO of Automattic, one of the web’s largest platforms. It’s best known as the company that runs WordPress.com, the hosted version of the blogging platform that powers about 43% of the websites on the internet. Since WordPress is open-source software, no company technically owns it, but Automattic provides tools and services and oversees most of the WordPress-powered internet. It’s also the owner of the booming ecommerce platform WooCommerce, Day One, the analytics tool Parse.ly and the podcast app Pocket Casts. Oh, and Tumblr. And Simplenote. And many others. That makes Mullenweg one of the most powerful CEOs in tech, and one of the most important voices in the debate over the future of the internet.

Keep Reading Show less
David Pierce

David Pierce ( @pierce) is Protocol's editorial director. Prior to joining Protocol, he was a columnist at The Wall Street Journal, a senior writer with Wired, and deputy editor at The Verge. He owns all the phones.

Policy

Biden wants to digitize the government. Can these techies deliver?

A December executive order requires federal agencies to overhaul clunky systems. Meet the team trying to make that happen.

The dramatic uptick in people relying on government services, combined with the move to remote work, rendered inconvenient government processes downright painful.

Photo: Joe Daniel Price/Getty Images

Early last year, top White House officials embarked on a fact-finding mission with technical leaders inside government agencies. They wanted to know the answer to a specific question: If there was anything federal agencies could do to improve the average American’s experience interacting with the government, what would it be?

The list, of course, was a long one.

Keep Reading Show less
Issie Lapowsky

Issie Lapowsky ( @issielapowsky) is Protocol's chief correspondent, covering the intersection of technology, politics, and national affairs. She also oversees Protocol's fellowship program. Previously, she was a senior writer at Wired, where she covered the 2016 election and the Facebook beat in its aftermath. Prior to that, Issie worked as a staff writer for Inc. magazine, writing about small business and entrepreneurship. She has also worked as an on-air contributor for CBS News and taught a graduate-level course at New York University's Center for Publishing on how tech giants have affected publishing.

Entertainment

5 takeaways from Microsoft's Activision Blizzard acquisition

Microsoft just bought one of the world’s largest third-party game publishers. What now?

The nearly $70 billion acquisition gives Microsoft access to some of the most valuable brands in gaming.

Image: Microsoft Gaming

Just one week after Take-Two took the crown for biggest-ever industry acquisition, Microsoft strolled in Tuesday morning and dropped arguably the most monumental gaming news bombshell in years with its purchase of Activision Blizzard. The deal, at nearly $70 billion in all cash, dwarfs Take-Two’s purchase of Zynga, and it stands to reshape gaming as we know it.

The deal raises a number of pressing questions about the future of Activision Blizzard’s workplace culture issues, exclusivity in the game industry and whether such massive consolidation may trigger a regulatory response. None of these may be easily answered anytime soon, as the deal could take up to 18 months to close. But the question marks hanging over Activision Blizzard will loom large in the industry for the foreseeable future as Microsoft navigates its new role as one of the three largest game makers on the planet.

Keep Reading Show less
Nick Statt
Nick Statt is Protocol's video game reporter. Prior to joining Protocol, he was news editor at The Verge covering the gaming industry, mobile apps and antitrust out of San Francisco, in addition to managing coverage of Silicon Valley tech giants and startups. He now resides in Rochester, New York, home of the garbage plate and, completely coincidentally, the World Video Game Hall of Fame. He can be reached at nstatt@protocol.com.
Latest Stories
Bulletins