Second-hand clothing market is big business now, raking in millions

Second-hand clothing has become a lucrative market. Picture: Pexels

Second-hand clothing has become a lucrative market. Picture: Pexels

Published Nov 25, 2022


Johannesburg – Pre-loved fashion is quickly becoming one of the hottest global trends with the global second-hand fashion market expected to grow by 127% by 2026.

South Africans are no strangers to the second-hand clothing market although our first experiences with pre-loved clothing may have been hand-me-downs from older siblings or extended family members.

All one has to do is take a walk through the streets of central Johannesburg to see the rich history of the second-hand clothing market in South Africa. The streets are abuzz with entrepreneurs with large bales of clothing items selling their wares.

One of the most popular markets is in De Villiers Street. Here you can find jumpsuits and blazers for as little as R50 to R150.

People visit these street “boutiques” frequently to rummage through the clothing, hoping to find some wearable gems.

The second-hand fashion trend is part of the global sustainability shift. Sustainability practices in the fashion sector cut emissions, reduce resource use and minimise waste, and are fast gaining popularity.

According to the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, fast fashion produces 10% of global carbon dioxide emissions each year and is also responsible for polluting landfills.

Gen Z and millennials are a big driving force behind the resurgence of the global second-hand clothing market as they look to find more sustainable ways to shop, eat and live.

Aune Aunapuu, the co-founder and CEO of Yaga, a social e-commerce company that enables people to buy and sell pre-loved fashion online, highlighted just how big of an impact the boom in the second-hand clothing market has had in South Africa.

Aune Aunapuu, the co-founder and CEO of Yaga. Picture: Supplied

“In SA alone, Yaga has saved around 500 000 items from landfills, and more than 40 000 items find a new owner every month.

“While promoting sustainable fashion, Yaga is also opening economic opportunities in the second-hand fashion industry, enabling South Africans to both save and make money on the Yaga platform. Just in October 2022, local sellers earned more than R10 million from items sold through Yaga,” said Aunapuu.

The platform has transformed the South African thrifting landscape, giving would-be entrepreneurs access to a wider network of potential customers, with the platform being visited 5 million times per month.

South Africa has seen local sales increase sevenfold in the past 18 months.

The future of pre-loved fashion is very promising, particularly in emerging markets. According to Aunapuu, in Africa, the industry has experienced growth four times higher than in the rest of the world.

This growth potential has seen Yaga raise €2.2m (about R39m) from international investors to allow it to further tap into the growth opportunities available in South Africa.

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