Baby boomers are coming to resale, answering Gen Z’s demand for vintage

Resale has become a mainstream part of the fashion industry, but shoppers of different age groups are engaging with the model in different ways.

According to data provided by several resale companies, there has been a generational exchange happening on their platforms, particularly in the last year. Older users are selling the clothes they’ve collected over the years, and younger users are buying them up. According to January data from The RealReal, more than half of its sellers in 2021 were Gen X or older, or at least 42 years old. 

“When we unpack the trends among our 24 million-plus members who are driving the year’s greatest value gains, they connect back to the handoff happening between generations,” said Rati Sahi Levesque, president of The RealReal. 

This generational exchange plays into the current ’90s fashion trend being embraced among Gen Z. In 2021, there was a 37% increase in sales of vintage ’90s RTW sold by Gen X on The RealReal and a correlated 61% increase in ’90s RTW bought by Gen Z. 

According to data provided by Vestiaire Collective, sellers in older age groups are 35% more likely than other age groups to sell luxury goods. Those customers are primarily selling luxury products they bought on the primary market 5-10 years prior.

In turn, many resale platforms are changing what they prioritize in their marketing to accommodate. 

Poshmark has seen a 53% increase in search demand for “vintage.” Recent messaging to customers has taken place on Instagram, encouraging them to clean out their closets, and through the 2021 Poshmark Holiday Gift Guide, which noted the demand for vintage clothing.

“We aim to make the selling process easy and simple for all sellers on our social marketplace, no matter their age, whether by promoting closet cleanouts or sharing tips on what’s trending on Poshmark,” a Poshmark spokesperson said over email. An executive wasn’t available for comment on this story. “We know that demand for vintage and nostalgia-driven brands has been up over the past two years and we don’t expect it to let up anytime soon.”

Marketing specifically to older generations to entice them into the resale world seems to be working. In 2021, baby boomers were the fastest-growing segment of new resale adopters, according to data from retail analytics company First Insight. While Gen X, millennials and Gen Z increased their resale adoption by 35%, 33% and 44% respectively, boomers far outstripped them all, growing at 56% over the course of the year.

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