Skip to content

‘Pre-loved doesn’t mean second-best’: Young Canadians thrift holiday gifts

Inflation, ethical concerns, leading younger generations to make more second-hand purchases
A Value Village store is seen Tuesday, Dec. 12, 2017, in Edmonds, Washington. With the holidays approaching, gift-giving while staying on budget is at the forefront of many Canadian’s minds, but when it comes to price-conscious alternatives like thrifting, a stigma still remains. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Elaine Thompson

Marissa Myers has been shopping almost exclusively at second-hand stores for the past three years.

The 24-year-old sales associate at a non-profit consignment store in Calgary grew up shopping second-hand and is a self-proclaimed “avid thrifter.”

“There’s absolutely no way that I can justify shopping new and retail when there’s already so many clothes in existence,” she said.

Myers is not alone.

While many Canadians rely on thrift stores every day, the rising cost of living, as well as ethical concerns, is leading younger generations to make more second-hand purchases.

According to a report published by thrift-store chain Value Village, 80 per cent of generation Z in Canada and the U.S. have purchased clothing at a second-hand store in the last year.

And some are turning to used items this gift-giving season.

But the stigma of purchasing second-hand items still lingers, especially when it comes to gifts.

Myers said items may be perceived as dirty, less desirable or not fitting within social norms, holding some people back from thrifting.

This holiday season, however, Jeff Smail, vice president of business development at Value Village, said thrift stores are seeing more people purchase second-hand gifts, given the current economic climate.

To help reduce the stigma, Natacha Blanchard, a spokeswoman for reselling online platform Vinted, said people can start by requesting second-hand items for the holidays.

“If you want to help promote more second-hand gifts, why not make your wish list just with second-hand?” said Blanchard.

She said that in addition to being more ethical and price-conscious, gifting a used item can make for a unique and sentimental gift.

“I received a [second-hand gift] that had a little note that explained where the product comes from and what its past life was,” she said. “Something you cannot really get new.”

Throughout his 33 years working at Value Village, Smail said he has noticed that thrift shopping has always been popular with younger generations.

“I was the most popular dad around because I worked for Value Village and so it has always been the upcoming generations that have been interested in thrift,” he said. “I think part of it is the uniqueness of the offering.”

But this time around, Smail believes the trend among generation Z looks like it’s here to stay, as younger Canadians are more concerned with the environmental impact of their actions compared with older generations.

Experts say that the clothing industry of today has many young people worried about how their shopping habits might be contributing to climate change.

Around 30 years ago, apparel companies offered two to three collections per year. Now, the average fast fashion company will offer up to 24 collections every year, said Javad Nasiry, associate professor of Operations Management at McGill University.

One way that fashion retailers have adapted to the growing demand is by reducing the quality of materials used for a garment, reducing its lifespan, said Nasiry.

In addition to the high concentration of resources like water used to create clothes, the textile industry contributes to mass amounts of landfill waste.

According to Value Village, 95 per cent of clothing and textiles thrown away in landfills could have been re-worn or repurposed.

While Nasiry recommends reducing overall consumption habits by repairing or renting clothing items, he said that thrifting is also a great way to reduce waste.

While the holiday season can create a lot of financial stress and waste, thrift stores and reselling platforms can offer a cheaper and more environmentally-friendly alternative to wish-list items.

Gifting used does not only apply to clothing, as second-hand jewelry, electronics, children’s toys and books also make great gifts, said Blanchard.

“We need to understand that pre-loved doesn’t mean second-best.”

—Caitlin Yardley, The Canadian Press

RELATED: Think Barbiecore and all things pink for holiday gifts