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Demographic differences in pre-loved purchases


Second-hand brand strategies 


Vinted’s brand strategy 


DEPOP’s brand strategy 


Search performance








Over the last few years, the boom in online second-hand retailers has made it much easier to purchase high-quality used goods. And the ongoing brand marketing from leading marketplaces such as Vinted and Depop means that this trend is only going to get bigger and bigger.

According to Trustpilot1, sales of second-hand goods, including clothing, increased by 15% in 2022 which equates to a whopping £21 billion, as the cost-of-living crisis influenced personal and household economies.  

Taking a closer look at the surge of second-hand retailers, we study how consumer behaviour has changed since the pandemic and amid rising inflation. Are more people buying pre-loved fashion than before? 

In addition to this, we explore the retail landscape of second-hand marketplaces. What strategies are brands using to promote their offerings, and what can we learn from them? 


The shift in second-hand consumer behaviour

There has been a considerable shift in second-hand purchases, with more people looking to second-hand shops and online marketplaces for goods. A study from GWI in 20222 revealed that 24% of Brits are selling things they own to cut back on spending, while one in seven (13%) are likely to buy second-hand clothing.   

With awareness increasing around the ethical and sustainable risks of fashion, which according to the UN3 produces 10% of global emissions, people are turning towards greener options and pre-loved fashion to minimise their carbon footprint. But how exactly has consumer behaviour changed concerning second-hand shopping? 

Are people buying more pre-loved fashion than before? 

To understand if people are buying more second-hand clothing and other retail items, we can begin by looking at revenue from one of the largest second-hand retailers in the UK: Vinted.  

According to Statista.com4, in 2018, Vinted had a revenue of 30 million Euros. In 2022, that number stood at 371.4 million, roughly an 1137% increase in just four years. Within that time, we saw the COVID-19 pandemic hit countries worldwide, and the UK experienced the emerging cost-of-living crisis.  

Vinted’s huge increase in revenue shows people are choosing to buy and sell more second-hand items than ever before. According to another study by, looking at countries purchasing second-hand, 61%5 of Brits have bought second-hand in the past year, compared to 49% in 2019.  

Visibility boom

We can also look at the online visibility of online second-hand shops. Between December 2019, right before the COVID-19 pandemic hit to May 2023, when the cost of living still affected Brits and the UK bordered on a recession, there was a 2,837.7% increase in searches for ‘Vinted’The keyword ‘pre-loved clothes’ also experienced a 1,124% increase, from 510 to 6,343 searches.  

Most common pre-loved purchases

A recent study by Statista.com6* revealed the most common second-hand purchases in the UK. Leading up to September 2023, the most common second-hand purchases were clothing (30%), while the second-most purchased items were books, movies, music & games (21%), followed by bags and accessories (17%) and shoes (16%).   

In 2020, sustainable and online thrift shop, ThreadUp7, released a report saying that in the US, the second-hand market is expected to double by 2027. That means the industry will be worth over $350 billion (£276 billion*) in four years. The report also stated that the global second-hand retail market is expected to grow three times faster on average than the regular retail market worldwide.



Using the leading consumer insight tool GWI, we can take a look at the demographical differences in the UK when it comes to second-hand purchases. There are some interesting contrasts. 

Women are more focused on sustainable fashion than men, according to the GWI report. 68% of the voters interested in sustainable fashion were women, while only 32% of men could say the same. 

The emotions behind the pre-loved love affair 

Looking at how buying pre-loved makes people feel, Oxfam.org8 revealed that almost half (46%) get a thrill out of getting clothes for cheaper when buying second-hand items. The same research also revealed that over half (57%) feel better when they buy a discounted piece of second-hand item.   

Gen-Z and second-hand retail 

When it comes to demographic splits, Gen-Z and Gen-A were the most interested in sustainable fashion, despite (or perhaps because of) growing up in the era of low-cost fast fashion. After this, the most interested are 25-34-year-olds, followed by 35–44-year-olds.  

A Unidays survey from 27 million students who are members, revealed that 75% of Gen Zs shop second-hand and 37% are regularly resell their clothes.9 According to research from eBay’s Recommerce Report, younger consumers are the main emerging force in their second-hand marketplace with 80% of Gen Z buying second-hand goods.10 

When looking at why younger generations are turning to pre-loved purchasing, sustainability is likely to be a major factor. Gen-Z and Gen-Alpha are the first generations who have grown up with climate change being a real fact, rather than a hypothesis. They have felt the changes of climate change and inflation in a very real way, and their generation’s increased time spent online means they’re more aware of the impact.   

Making money with second-hand retail 

eBay’s research states that 20% of survey respondents were buying pre-owned specifically to help keep garments out of landfill for longer. But it can’t be ignored that for many, selling second-hand is a relatively easy method to gain a secondary source of income.  

With the UK in a confirmed recession, and with inflation spiralling drastically since the pandemic, tapping into second-hand markets makes a lot of sense for brands and customers alike.  

As per Unidays’ brand survey, while 72% of students said they sell their clothes to make their fashion choices more sustainable, 91% said they do to make money, and 52% of women polled in eBay’s research said that making extra cash is their main focus when they’re selling second-hand.  



Shoppers are more interested in sustainable and pre-loved fashion than ever, and a continued boom in the second-hand market seems likely. But how have second-hand retailers created strong brands that people choose over standard retailers?  

While retailers like Zara and H&M have invested in sustainability initiatives in an attempt to market their clothing as more eco-friendly, pre-loved brands have taken a different route in marketing themselves. How have these brands positioned themselves at the forefront of the sustainable shift, and helped customers to find new methods of second-hand shopping?  



Looking at second-hand retailers, we turn to the most popular second-hand online retailer in the world, Vinted. With major competitors such as eBay and Depop, and a market of fast-fashion brands to compete against, what are brands like Vinted doing to increase conversions?  

Appealing to the sellers  

Vinted created a new, free way for people to sell clothes and items they no longer use. Because they don’t put any fees on sellers, only on buyers, they appeal to people by making it easy, affordable and giving a genuine chance of making a profit.  

Remoulding second-hand perception  

According to Ad Intel, in 2022 Vinted spent an incredible £37 million on advertising.11 Pushing videos and ads on different channels such as Instagram and TV through a variety of marketing services, e.g., influencer marketing, paid media and more traditional routes like television and in-print articles. 

A big budget is needed to change the public’s perception of second-hand clothing and remove some of the old stigma that’s attached to pre-loved retail. They’ve also utilised the principle of sustainable fashion to market their service and appeal to both consumers and the sellers

Using social media to influence users, we’ve seen that people aren’t afraid anymore to publicly announce they’ve ‘thrifted’ an item and got it for cheaper. This, again, helps remove the stigma of second-hand clothing by people publicly speaking up about deals they’re making and being budget savvy.  

Vinted’s tone of voice  

Tone of voice refers to the way a brand uses language to create a unique and distinct brand tone that is easily recognised by new and old customers.    

Looking at Vinted’s tone of voice, we can see a few unique distinctions that would appeal to potential customers and sellers.  

  • They use relatively easy and straightforward language  
  • Their phrases are concise and the language uncomplicated  
  • They’re not pushy, with gently encouraging CTAs instead of hard sells.   



One of Vinted’s larger rivals, the social e-commerce company, Depop, has accumulated a massive presence on social media and in the advertisement space. Similar to Vinted, Depop allows people to sell their pre-loved fashion, but it’s also a place for business sellers.  

What are business sellers? They’re anything from indie shop owners wanting to sell online, to larger independent online retail sellers who’ve created a business out of selling clothes online.  

Agile and trend-led social strategy  

Depop’s youth and trend-oriented positioning has led them to a slightly unusual social strategy, one that’s a lot more reactive than some others in the same space. Yoann Pavy, ex-head of Digital Marketing at Depop, has said that “if any decision has to pass by more than three people, then there are too many people involved in social marketing.” 12

This focus on spontaneity, while also building around the brand’s key content pillars, gives Depop’s social media marketing a fluid feel. Their marketing is genuinely free to post in line with the trends that their audience are already seeing – or, indeed, creating. “We just repost cool shit from our community. That’s the core of our whole strategy,” Pavy said in 2019, and indeed, forming a community has been a core part of Depop’s strategy.  

Utilising influencers  

Taking advantage of the power of authentic content, Depop uses influencers as a middleman between consumers and itself. With social media playing a big part in second-hand retailers’ marketing models, brands can use platforms such as TikTok to build trust and bonds with consumers.  

Depop’s Director of Brand Marketing, Steve Dool, has commented on the brand’s use of influencer marketing being key: “From a brand perspective, it’s a strong starting point for us in terms of consistency, but also in terms of differentiation.”13

Depop’s influencer marketing doesn’t just encompass fashionistas or micro-influencers – major stars have used Depop as a form of marketing, with Olivia Rodrigo’s ‘Sour Shop’ selling clothing from her music videos, with proceeds going to charity. With a significant overlap between Rodrigo’s young fanbase and Depop’s customer profile, this is a move that’s beneficial to both parties, boosting both brands.   

From phone screen to big screen 

Depop’s ‘I got it on Depop’ campaign combined their established strategy of using influencers with a bigger out-of-home brand activation. Depop’s brand strategy positions them as a destination for inspiration, not just for shopping.  

This move towards being a hub for trends and trendsetters gives their platform a longer half-life and more of a chance to capture customers, especially Gen-Z shoppers who are already more accustomed to buying pre-loved.  

Positioning themselves as both a place you can discover (or rediscover) trends and also buy into those trends, while shopping ethically, gave Depop a strong initial boost.   



However, despite having a stronger sense of community and social presence (703k Instagram followers to Vinted’s 518k), Depop has suffered with the rise of Vinted from a search perspective.  

Searches for ‘depop’ were well above those for ‘vinted’ up to and throughout 2019 and 2020, but by early 2021, the terms had flipped in terms of search volume. (Data source: Ahrefs search volume)  

Looking at share of organic search is a little different. To get an idea, we can look at position history, where Vinted has historically dominated, only recently being challenged in a major way by Depop in the UK. Depop has largely been app-based for most of its lifetime, with less of a focus on organic search performance, but within 2023-4, Depop has seriously begun to challenge Vinted’s hold on these positions in a key SERP for both players.   



Pre-loved purchasing is almost certainly a trend that’s here to stay. According to research from GlobalData, the second-hand clothing resale market in the UK grew by 149% between 2016 and 2022, and it was further forecast to grow by 67.5% from 2022 to 2026.13

But what can brands learn from some of the major players in the space? The two brands share a similar ethos – appreciating fashion, helping customers to make some extra cash, and shop sustainably. But the ways in which they’ve focused their efforts have been different.  

While Depop’s original appeal to Gen-Z shoppers largely came from their agile and trend-led social strategy, from a search point of view, Vinted has held stronger positions on key SERPs for longer. This may have helped increase their brand awareness amongst more casual second-hand sellers, rather than largely targeting a highly-engaged but more niche audience like Depop.  

However, Depop’s recent SEO improvements seem to have paid off, increasing their discoverability – and with a stronger brand presence, they’re not to be discounted just yet.  

The key learning for any brand looking to play in the second-hand or preloved space? Don’t focus on a single niche at the risk of your overall brand awareness – but don’t completely abandon that core audience, either.  

Making sure that you have a varied audience across different demographics and behaviours will set your brand up for long-term success, but appealing to your core will help you to build a community that stays loyal and becomes brand ambassadors.  

If you’re looking for a partner who can deliver growth and take your brand from a challenger to a market leader, then get in touch. connective3’s brand strategies combine the best specialists from multiple disciplines for best-in-class performance and unrivalled growth.



  1. Trustpilot study 2023: Link
  2. GWI study Frugal Living: Link
  3. UN: Retail carbon emissions: Link
  4. Statista: Vinted Revenue: Link
  5. Statista: Buying second-hand: Link
  6. most popular second-hand item: Link
  7. ThreadsUp: Report: Link
  8. Link
  9. Unidays: Link
  10. eBay Recommerce Report
  11. The Drum Article: Link
  12. Yoann Pavy Depop interview
  13. The Drum Article: Link
  14. GlobalData research

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