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."

Climate

The West’s drought could bring about a data center reckoning

When it comes to water use, data centers are the tech industry’s secret water hogs — and they could soon come under increased scrutiny.

Lake Mead, North America's largest artificial reservoir, has dropped to about 1,052 feet above sea level, the lowest it's been since being filled in 1937.

Photo: Mario Tama/Getty Images

The West is parched, and getting more so by the day. Lake Mead — the country’s largest reservoir — is nearing “dead pool” levels, meaning it may soon be too low to flow downstream. The entirety of the Four Corners plus California is mired in megadrought.

Amid this desiccation, hundreds of the country’s data centers use vast amounts of water to hum along. Dozens cluster around major metro centers, including those with mandatory or voluntary water restrictions in place to curtail residential and agricultural use.

Keep Reading Show less
Lisa Martine Jenkins

Lisa Martine Jenkins is a senior reporter at Protocol covering climate. Lisa previously wrote for Morning Consult, Chemical Watch and the Associated Press. Lisa is currently based in Brooklyn, and is originally from the Bay Area. Find her on Twitter ( @l_m_j_) or reach out via email (ljenkins@protocol.com).

Every day, millions of us press the “order” button on our favorite coffee store's mobile application: Our chosen brew will be on the counter when we arrive. It’s a personalized, seamless experience that we have all come to expect. What we don’t know is what’s happening behind the scenes. The mobile application is sourcing data from a database that stores information about each customer and what their favorite coffee drinks are. It is also leveraging event-streaming data in real time to ensure the ingredients for your personal coffee are in supply at your local store.

Applications like this power our daily lives, and if they can’t access massive amounts of data stored in a database as well as stream data “in motion” instantaneously, you — and millions of customers — won’t have these in-the-moment experiences.

Keep Reading Show less
Jennifer Goforth Gregory
Jennifer Goforth Gregory has worked in the B2B technology industry for over 20 years. As a freelance writer she writes for top technology brands, including IBM, HPE, Adobe, AT&T, Verizon, Epson, Oracle, Intel and Square. She specializes in a wide range of technology, such as AI, IoT, cloud, cybersecurity, and CX. Jennifer also wrote a bestselling book The Freelance Content Marketing Writer to help other writers launch a high earning freelance business.
Workplace

Indeed is hiring 4,000 workers despite industry layoffs

Indeed’s new CPO, Priscilla Koranteng, spoke to Protocol about her first 100 days in the role and the changing nature of HR.

"[Y]ou are serving the people. And everything that's happening around us in the world is … impacting their professional lives."

Image: Protocol

Priscilla Koranteng's plans are ambitious. Koranteng, who was appointed chief people officer of Indeed in June, has already enhanced the company’s abortion travel policies and reinforced its goal to hire 4,000 people in 2022.

She’s joined the HR tech company in a time when many other tech companies are enacting layoffs and cutbacks, but said she sees this precarious time as an opportunity for growth companies to really get ahead. Koranteng, who comes from an HR and diversity VP role at Kellogg, is working on embedding her hybrid set of expertise in her new role at Indeed.

Keep Reading Show less
Amber Burton

Amber Burton (@amberbburton) is a reporter at Protocol. Previously, she covered personal finance and diversity in business at The Wall Street Journal. She earned an M.S. in Strategic Communications from Columbia University and B.A. in English and Journalism from Wake Forest University. She lives in North Carolina.

Climate

New Jersey could become an ocean energy hub

A first-in-the-nation bill would support wave and tidal energy as a way to meet the Garden State's climate goals.

Technological challenges mean wave and tidal power remain generally more expensive than their other renewable counterparts. But government support could help spur more innovation that brings down cost.

Photo: Jeremy Bishop via Unsplash

Move over, solar and wind. There’s a new kid on the renewable energy block: waves and tides.

Harnessing the ocean’s power is still in its early stages, but the industry is poised for a big legislative boost, with the potential for real investment down the line.

Keep Reading Show less
Lisa Martine Jenkins

Lisa Martine Jenkins is a senior reporter at Protocol covering climate. Lisa previously wrote for Morning Consult, Chemical Watch and the Associated Press. Lisa is currently based in Brooklyn, and is originally from the Bay Area. Find her on Twitter ( @l_m_j_) or reach out via email (ljenkins@protocol.com).

Entertainment

Watch 'Stranger Things,' play Neon White and more weekend recs

Don’t know what to do this weekend? We’ve got you covered.

Here are our picks for your long weekend.

Image: Annapurna Interactive; Wizard of the Coast; Netflix

Kick off your long weekend with an extra-long two-part “Stranger Things” finale; a deep dive into the deckbuilding games like Magic: The Gathering; and Neon White, which mashes up several genres, including a dating sim.

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