Out of Context

Second Hand Stoke


Last spring’s thredUP report* describes a used apparel market tsunami. Second hand garment sales are increasing significantly around the world and growing exponentially in the United States. Tucked into those numbers is the outdoor industry with its unique combination of fashion and functionality. 

When Covid locked everyone up and the only escape was to go outside, the outdoor industry  went boom. Retailers sold all the outdoor gear and clothing they had. Now, with the pandemic disruptions fading, much of that equipment is entering the resale market as customers reorganize their lives, upgrade their gear, or change pursuits.  All that used outdoor gear is jump-starting a new market segment around the reselling of technical equipment and clothing, and customers are responding.

New outdoor gear is expensive and the discount when buying used stuff is important, but this movement is about more than price. I believe there are a couple of distinct reasons the used outdoor gear market’s time has come and it will continue to grow and thrive.

In the background is brand parity. All of the major outdoor brands make great gear and you don’t look too much like a geek if you wear any of their garments. The global acceptance of performance and quality among the core outdoor companies allows customers the freedom to choose fabric, fit and function over branding. Note that wearing used outdoor clothing doesn’t replace the artifacts of tribal loyalty that are displayed within the community; displaying the proper footwear, sunglasses, and hat-slash-logo continues to be important.

The shift to a ‘used first’ mindset combines price sensitivity with environmental awareness. The used gear market is a community where the buyer is also a seller. Everyone within the community shares a sustainability viewpoint where thrift, practicality and environmental impact are key values. There is a connectedness among those that commit to the ethical choice of purchasing used products rather than new. The buying secondhand lifestyle tags you as smart and trend-right among your friends while leaving you invisible to the day-to-day masses. That social and sustainable combination is powerful in today’s world.

The mountain shop of the future will be a hybrid affair. Used gear will share space with new product as retailers respond to increasing pressure for sustainability. The gross margin dollars from used equipment sales are offset by lower, or no, cost of goods. The consumer benefits from the retailer’s vetting of used products, free expert advice about its use and customer service is located nearby when things go wrong.  The best place to buy outdoor products will be from these specialty new & used retailers that understand the ins-and-outs of modern gear and are willing to embrace the repair and reuse mindset that is the foundation of a sustainable future. If the outdoor industry makes this transition it will reshape and transform specialty retail. n

Disclaimer: Mr. Gray continues to signal to his tribe by wearing Nike Lavadomes and an old pair of Vuarnets. The publisher may not share his opinions or sense of late 80’s style.


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Dec 7, 2022


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