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The Newest Trend in Holiday Gifting? Old Stuff

The final weekend before Christmas rivals Black Friday for the amount of money spent at stores. But this holiday season, a crop of e-commerce players gave shoppers new reasons to skip the mall.

Companies that sell used apparel and other goods are trying to convince consumers that it is acceptable to buy hand-me-downs as holiday gifts.

ThredUP Inc., which runs a consignment website and has opened shops at several retailers including

Macy’s Inc.,

began selling gift cards for the first time this year.

The RealReal Inc.,


REAL 1.98%

which resells luxury handbags, watches and apparel, assembles an elaborate gift guide and offers gift wrapping.

And Poshmark Inc., a marketplace where people buy and sell used apparel and accessories, held a series of “closet cleanouts” over Thanksgiving weekend in which sellers discounted a variety of items. “It’s our version of a Black Friday sale,” said Poshmark Chief Executive

Manish Chandra.

Even traditional thrift stores are getting in on the act. For the first time this year, Goodwill Industries International Inc. stores across the country are grouping giftable items like jewelry and home décor together so they can be found more easily.

Sellers of used goods are capitalizing on trends already working in their favor, including consumers’ interests in protecting the environment and bargain hunting. Some shoppers are embracing recycled garments as an antidote to the cheap, throwaway clothes of fast fashion chains.

Employee Felicia Joaquin prepares clothing orders for shipment from The RealReal, which resells luxury goods, in Brisbane, Calif., in August.


Photo:

Christie Hemm Klok for The Wall Street Journal

Deborrah Traylor

bought her 22-year-old daughter a thredUP gift card as a holiday present this year, because her daughter has sworn off buying new clothes. “She believes the clothing industry has too big an impact on the environment,” said Ms. Traylor, a chef who lives in Longmont, Colo.

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Ms. Traylor also plans to buy thredUP gift cards for some of her employees. “Out here, everyone is environmentally aware,” said the 54-year-old.

Nearly half of 1,500 U.S. consumers surveyed by the consulting firm

Accenture

PLC said they would consider giving secondhand clothing as gifts. And 56% said they would be happy to receive preowned gifts for themselves.

The No. 1 reason for giving a resold item is to save money, according to a different survey of 1,200 consumers by consulting firm Deloitte LLP. Other reasons include trading up to higher-end brands and environmental concerns.

Zarina Hamdard,

a 35-year-old interior designer in Brooklyn, bought her mother a

Tiffany

& Co. crystal vase from The RealReal this holiday that was listed at 45% off the retail price.

Across the country, in Fargo, N.D.,

Kaili Jo Schmidt

bought seven gifts for family members at her local Goodwill and at another thrift-store chain. Her total outlay for the clothing was $36. The 21-year-old said she started shopping at thrift stores for the first time this year to save money.

“I can get gifts that are less expensive, and then everyone can have a little something from me,” said Ms. Schmidt, who works as a paraeducator while going to school part time.

Sales of secondhand apparel are expected to grow 16.6% this year to $28 billion, up from $24 billion in 2018, according to GlobalData PLC, which prepared the research for thredUP.

That is a tiny fraction of the $3.8 trillion in U.S. retail sales. Most holiday shopping still happens at stores and websites that sell new goods. And many consumers, even those who buy secondhand items for themselves, would never give a preowned gift. The main reason, according to Deloitte, is a fear of looking cheap.

Jennifer Adolfie,

a 33-year-old insurance underwriter, said that is an old way of thinking. Just because something is preowned doesn’t mean it is in bad condition—something sellers of vintage goods have long known. She searches for items that look like they are new.

Resellers of designer clothing and apparel say there is no reason to be bashful about buying and selling preowned luxury wearables. The RealReal consignment company is cashing in on the trend. Photo: Lydia Randall/WSJ

Still, before giving a preowned gift, the Charlotte, N.C., resident offers this caveat: “You might just want to wash it.”

Younger shoppers are far more likely to buy thrift gifts. Nearly two-thirds of Generation Z shoppers said they would buy secondhand gifts, but only 13% of baby boomers said they would, according to Deloitte.

“The older you get, the more disposable income you have, so you are more likely to buy new,” said

Rodney Sides,

the U.S. leader of Deloitte’s retail and distribution practice.

Some shoppers go out of their way to make the items look as if they weren’t preowned.

Carrie Scott,

a 47-year-old marketing executive, said she scours Poshmark, thredUP and

eBay Inc.

for previously owned items that have never been worn and still have their original tags.

“I don’t tell people where I bought it,” said the San Francisco resident. “I wouldn’t want to buy something used as a gift. But if it’s never been worn, I can take advantage of the discount.”

Write to Suzanne Kapner at Suzanne.Kapner@wsj.com

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