Both Zara and Shein are launching themselves into second-hand sales. The two biggest fast-fashion players are thus responding to the demand for a more sustainable fashion sector, but are also picking up on a market that may become bigger than their own industry.
Zara is launching a ‘pre-owned’ service, starting in the UK. It allows customers to offer garments from the brand for sale online. Sellers take their own photos and upload them to Zara’s own resale platform. Once someone buys the items, the buyer’s details are passed on and it is up to the seller to send the clothes themselves.
The service will not be profitable initially, expects head of sustainability Paula Ampuero. “At this stage, the platform is exclusively conceived as a tool to help customers extend the life of their clothes and take a more circular approach,” she told The Guardian.
Furthermore, from 3 November, consumers can also have clothes collected from their homes for donation – thanks to a partnership with the British Red Cross – and book an appointment online or through a shop to have damaged garments repaired. The UK has been chosen as a test market, but if successful, the service is likely to be expanded to other markets.
Shein shows ‘sustainable’ commitment
Shein is also launching second-hand. The Chinese producer of ultra-fast fashion at rock-bottom prices is launching a resale service in the US. Under the name Shein Exchange, Americans can buy and sell worn or unwanted products from the brand in the webshop’s app, South China Morning Post reports. The retailer itself takes a 5% commission on each sale.
In its own words, the Chinese clothing giant – even bigger than H&M and Zara in the US since 2021 – wants to keep clothes in circulation for as long as possible with the initiative by making second-hand buying as easy and convenient as buying something new. Shein also says the move is part of a wider commitment to tackle the problem of textile waste in the fashion sector.
The news is notable because Shein is just now known for its particularly cheap ‘disposable clothing’. Moreover, British TV channel Channel 4 aired a controversial report on Monday that took aim at working conditions in the factories. There is talk of exploitation and underpayment. Meanwhile, the company, which appointed a global sustainability officer late last year, responded that it is extremely concerned about the TV channel’s allegations and will terminate partnerships that do not meet its own standards.
But perhaps more is at play than the conscience of the fashion giants. European e-commerce federation CBCommerce predicts that by 2025 second-hand sales will be as much as 1.5 times that of fast-fashion and ‘pre-loved’ items will make up 13% of the average wardrobe. By 2020, the European second-hand market already doubled from 3 million to 6 billion euros. Meanwhile, 41% of the largest online marketplaces already sell second-hand goods.