Why everyone in retail is talking about recommerce

The damage to the environment from mass consumerism and the volume of waste that is overwhelming our seas has become headline news in recent times.


This has placed increasing pressure on businesses to re-evaluate the way in which they operate, making their products and operations kinder on the environment. Consumers have also started to change their buying habits too, preferring to shop with brands who place an emphasis on sustainability.

This is why trends such as recommerce are showing rapid growth and becoming the next best thing in the world of retail.

Recommerce is a term used to describe the sale of previously owned items to extend its shelf life. It is something that applies to all kinds of products from fashion through to electricals and there are many reasons why it’s a buzz word in the retail sector.


The Growth of the Second Hand Market

The rise in recommerce has been driven by brands committing more and more to building sustainable businesses – those that are kind to the environment and far away from the throwaway culture. There was once a time where you would buy clothes, hang them in the wardrobe, wear them a couple of times and then either throw them in the bin or donate to charity. Recommerce or the circular economy is changing all of this. Terms such as reselling, thrifting or renting are becoming more prominent in the retail sector.

Furthermore, overall sales increase when brands use resale options in their stores. They also encourage consumers to spend more and visit more often. This is because the turnover of stock in the second hand market happens much more often, rather than just a few times a year when retailers add new stock. As new brands, in particular, recognise this trend, they are building a significant proportion of their product offering around the growing second hand market – and it’s proving to be both popular and profitable. Products that were once out of reach for the average consumer are now much more affordable if they are sold ‘as new’ but second-hand.

Industries such as fast fashion offer convenience for consumers but they generate huge amounts of waste. Retailers are looking for new ways to reduce waste and focus on an approach that is kinder to the environment by maximising the lifespan of single garments.

The circular economy in particular places greater emphasis on recycling, reuse or ‘buyback’ initiatives. Buyback is a strategy where retailers collect returned items and repair, resell or recycle them into new products. Some retailers will have partnerships with recommerce platforms to facilitate this process.

Changing Perceptions

The initial and ongoing success of the retail market has started to change perceptions of second hand clothing and items. No longer are they seen as undesirable items, they are perceived as valuable by consumers who are more eco-conscious. In addition, even luxury brands are coming on board with the concept, building relationships with the second hand market, allowing high end products to be made accessible to a much wider audience.

The expansion of the resale market has also fuelled demand, driving up the price of such items making them more profitable for businesses. Trainers or Sneakers are just one example.

Consumers Looking for Value

As consumer expectations continue to increase, businesses must create innovative ways to offer products at a lower cost. The second hand market is one of the best ways that this can happen, selling otherwise surplus or unwanted stock and turning a profit for businesses. Consumers are driven in two ways when it comes to second hand items. Firstly, there’s the ethical implications of doing so, it’s kinder on the environment and it promotes sustainability. Secondly, there is the financial implication of doing so. Refurbished products for example sell much more cheaply than a comparable model that is ‘new’. Consumers in increasing numbers are making a move to more affordable brands rather just seeking out new items. This coupled with greater environmental awareness is why an initiative such as recommerce proves so popular.

circuRetailers Exploring Retail

In order for recommerce to be successful, it must be profitable and if it is to be profitable it has to prove popular with customers. Retailers are using new and innovative ways to tailor the recommerce model to their business. Everything from refurbishing items through to setting up buy back sites such as those devised by Levi. Levi encourages consumers to recycle their jeans at the end of their lifespan or when no longer needed. In doing so, Levi will grant the customer a gift card which can be redeemed on future purchases.

Charity Shops Online

Another trend that’s gathering momentum is the movement of charity shops online. Online communities are popping up promoting the sale of second hand goods from fashion to furniture and it’s proving popular. There are charities who are partnering with leading brands to strengthen this model even further. ASOS for example have launched their charity boutique working with five charities; Oxfam, Save the Children, British Red Cross, Cancer Research UK and the Royal Trinity Hospital. Proceeds from the sale of second hand items are then distributed to the charities.

Increasing Awareness

Recommerce is certainly becoming the latest trend in retail, not only because of the financial benefits that it offers consumers, but because of the increasing awareness around the environment and how the wrong buying decisions can hinder rather than help reduce waste and protect the world around us.

Retailers can use recommerce in a positive way and as a profitable tool to reuse, recycle and extend the lifespan of otherwise unwanted or unused items. Companies such as Depop, ThredUp and The RealReal are expanding rapidly, and they are becoming a popular and go to platforms for consumers to purchase highly sought after items in an environmentally friendly way.

While there is still a long way to go, these initial tentative steps are movement in the right direction.

Recommerce is only set to grow in the coming years and it’s something that all retailers, from small businesses to well known high street brands and designer labels should be considering as part of their business strategy.


PS, Are returns & overstock damaging your business? If you are ready to join the reCommerce revolution with a sustainable selling solution then contact ClearCycle today.

Dan Hague ClearCycle

Dan Hague

17 March 2021

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