No time for pre-loved – 7 reasons why women don’t buy second-hand clothes

We’re buying more and more clothes, at cheaper and cheaper prices. Most clothes are worn only 7 times. 30% of us admit to throwing out clothes we’ve only worn once.

In Australia the Salvation Army spend around $6million a year on waste collection/disposal because ‘we’ use charity shops as clothing rubbish dumps. Only 15% of donations end up in stores. More than 500 million kilograms of clothes end up in landfill in Australian landfill each year. Another 94 million kilograms are exported overseas.

Today is the last day of #SecondhandSeptember. Lots  of women took the pledge to buy no brand new clothes for 30 days.

I’ve been asking and interviewing Australian women about why they don’t buy 2nd hand clothes. Here’s why (from the 100 women I spoke too):

1. Time

Women don’t have the time to travel to different second-hand shops. Nor do they have the time to look, trawl or rummage through often poorly organised racks of clothes to find what they need.

“It’s too much effort for no gain. It’s easier and quicker to buy new.”

2. The ‘Experience’

Social media is full of ‘Influencers’ bragging that they’ve bagged a bargain or found a discounted designer brand. But that’s not the case for everyone – it’s a gamble. For many it’s a negative, unenjoyable and frustrating experience.

“I can spend a very long time in second-hand shops and walk away without finding anything – There’s only so many times you can go through that experience before you stop trying”.

3. Size

Size is an issue. Second-hand shops are often well stocked with young or teenage fast fashions or old-fashioned clothes but rarely the size, style or choice that women want or need.

“I am larger lady. Second-hand shops rarely have clothes in my size.” 

4. Smell and hygiene

Whilst we’re all happy to donate clothes most of us say that we couldn’t bring ourselves to wear someone else’s discarded clothes. The smell and hygiene are a ‘sticking point’ – we call it the ‘icky factor’ and a ‘pet peeve’. Women say they’ve seen the look on people’s faces when they admit to 2nd hand clothes.

“I think people think it’s disgusting that someone else wore those clothes before.”

5. Trust

Women said that they know and trust what they are getting – size, style, fit, quality and price – in their favourite retail stores. They said it’s about speed, convenience, certainty and guarantees.

“If you need a white T-Shirt you go to Kmart or Target because you know that they will have a T-Shirt in your size.”

6. Cost

Cost is an issue; especially as new clothes are often cheaper than pre-loved clothes. Women said that second hand needs to be affordable and value for money if we are going to circulate the unwanted clothes

“I think old second-hand clothes are overpriced.”

7. Type and quality of clothes

The type, quality and durability of available second-hand clothes are seen as an issue. Several women said second-hand shops were full of random collections of clothes that people no longer want that are only good for fancy dress costumes or for creative and artistic people.

“Second-hand shops are like black holes of impulse shopping. You buy based on impulse and the perception of getting a bargain. You get overloaded with clutter, compromise on suitability and buy things you don’t need.”

But it’s not all bad news. Lots of women see an opportunity for 2nd hand stores to organise clothes by brand or style, with specialist and online stores for particular types of clothes.

“I don’t know what clothes there are – what types and brands of clothes – so I don’t bother going there to look.”

Women would also buy 2nd clothes if there had the help of:

  • Personal shoppers
  • Stylists
  • Guides to find the 2nd hand shops
  • Listings of current shop stock

As more and more cheap clothes are tossed aside, we are all faced with a confronting challenge.

  • Do we continue to rampantly consume buying just for the sake of buying?
  • Or, should we buy less and help make second hand quicker, easier, cheaper and more enjoyable so that ‘pre-loved’ becomes a new ‘social norm’?

What do you think?

What are your thoughts and beliefs about 2nd hand?

What do you think is possible?