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Second-hand luxury goods all the rage during pandemic

Second-hand luxury goods all the rage during pandemic. Picture: RODNAE Productions from Pexels

Second-hand luxury goods all the rage during pandemic. Picture: RODNAE Productions from Pexels

Published Jul 4, 2021


The second-hand luxury goods market was popular long before the pandemic struck, but lockdown has created the perfect environment for it to grow and thrive.

Since March last year, it has been a tumultuous time for various sectors of the economy with brick and mortar establishments closing their doors, travel bans, limits on the international shipping of goods and online stores only able to sell essential items.

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As a result, people all across the globe had to readjust their usual spending habits.

For the average consumer, these times offered the opportunity to save money on takeaways, weekend outings, petrol and occasional splurges like concert tickets or flights, but for the affluent, who’d normally spend their leisure time browsing luxury boutiques, attending art auctions and travelling internationally, they were saving more than could be spent and began looking for new ways to exercise their consumerist rights – opting to invest while in the process.

According to an article by Forbes, pre-pandemic if you were on the prowl for something that would grow in value, that could be flaunted and look aesthetic, art was the number one contender, but Covid-19 has completely rearranged the rules of luxury investing.

“For the first time in five years, the value of investable art turned negative, forcing the wealthy to look for luxury investments in more unusual places,” Forbes reported.

Made from leather with exquisite craftsmanship that requires a rare type of stitching that’s two centuries old in France, Hermès Birkin bags are sewn, polished and painted by hand with the utmost attention to detail.

It’s no wonder that these fashion accessories, along with other designer handbags, were some of the most profitable luxury investments last year.

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However, when the economy opened up again it wasn’t your typical designer stores that boomed in popularity. Instead, while other forms of retail took some time to recover from the knock, second-hand luxury goods retailers flourished.

Luxity is Africa’s largest source of authentic pre-owned luxury shoes, bags and accessories. In the last year they grew their sales by 63%.

In a State of The Luxury Market Africa 2020 report published by the brand, it was revealed: “Essentially, the local consumer base for luxury goods consists of a small base of wealthy South Africans and foreign visitors to the country.

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“Despite this, luxury brands are still (or increasingly) attracted to South Africa by an emerging and growing middle class. In fact, South Africa – with its already established luxury market, infrastructure and quality shopping centres – is becoming something of a shopping destination, since other countries on the African continent don’t have these offerings yet.”

According to trend researcher and analyst Nicola Cooper – the founder of Nicola Cooper & Associates – the growth within this market could also be attributed to luxury goods becoming more affordable due to lockdown, appealing more to the likes of the Millennials and Gen Z groups who are starting to view luxury items as an investment – particularly handbags.

“Millennials and Gen Z are Earth-loving groups aware that the future of our planet is in their hands.

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“As they begin moving into positions of having greater buying power, businesses are starting to realise the pull they have when it comes to deciding what is trendy,” Cooper said.

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

As a result, thrifting, antiquing and online marketplaces have become goldmines for this group to explore, discover vintage brands, new styles and aesthetics from previous decades and, most importantly, bring an end to fast fashion.

As the younger generation continues to support slow fashion by buying pre-loved designer items, the reputation second-hand luxury fashion once held as being “cheap” and undesirable is being replaced by one that is far more elegant.

Thrifting has entered the online realm in a big way with more and more businesses expanding on the business model.

The RealReal, ThreadUp, Rebag and Vestiaire Collective are just a few examples of some of the leading online brands whose websites boast the likes of pre-loved Bottega Veneta, Louis Vuitton, Gucci, Versace and more.

A second aspect as to why this industry has become so popular within this age group is social media. Influencers like popular YouTuber Emma Chamberlain (10.2 million subscribers) and Claudia Sulewski (2 million subscribers) have done brand deals with many of these sites by posting videos of themselves thrifting throughout Los Angeles, as well as filming hauls flaunting all their finds from these websites, always making sure to offer their loyal followers discount codes to use.

Additionally, celebrities including Lena Dunham and the Jenner sisters Kendall and Kylie, are major supporters of these companies, teaming up with them to either fluff up their own closets or trim them down. Kendall and her sisters Khloe and Kylie once teamed up with The Real Real to sell over 200 items from their own wardrobes.

“Millennial consumers are estimated to make up 50% of the luxury market by 2025.

“The new luxury consumer, in most cases, is categorised as people who fall into the younger generation.

“Aged approximately between 23-26, this group is well into their careers and are approaching their peak spending age,” said Cooper.

“This increased purchasing power drives them to enter into the luxury market and they currently represent approximately 32% of the market globally.

“Stories and narratives are a key touchpoint here, and they relate heavily to the desire for immersive advertising for luxury goods and this trickles over into pre-owned or pre-loved.

“Not only does it arrive with the key narrative from the brand itself but also reflects key beliefs or ethics defined by sustainability and anti-waste.”

The same strategy has been used in the South African context.

“Real Housewives of Johannesburg” stars, socialites and businesswomen Gugu Khathi and Brinnette Seopela have been enjoying the offerings of Luxity.

On the brand’s Instagram page, they recently posted a picture of Khathi being offered a tray of fine watches to choose from.

In the comments section, her friend Seopela said: “My bestie purchasing only the best from our favourite store.”

Social media influencer, model and actress Kamo Modisakeng also features on their page showing off a pair of red-bottomed shoes with a caption that read: “Shoes speak louder than words and these Louboutins are screaming ’flawless fashion’.”

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