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Mayuri Wijayasundara

Looking at Preowned Goods in a New Light

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We often drift to purchasing something new and shiny, fresh off the shelves, when we think of buying something. Retail and advertising industry techniques are also made to influence us into purchasing “unused” and “unopened” products by offering a perfect, clean look and an unboxing experience tailor-made to entice and excite us. With such a mindset setting the norm for how products are purchased, it has been difficult to change our lifestyles to appreciate preloved products. But change is on the horizon.

As the years have rolled by, the preowned product market has surged, with such items being considered “cool” and “stylish”. The adoption of online marketplaces such as eBay, Facebook Marketplace, and Gumtree has made it easier for people to sell and buy used products, leading to further acceptance of used and pre-owned products.

Before we dive into the benefits of pre-owned products let’s first look at some facts about how purchasing happens.

Typically in a purchasing process, the customers go through several steps according to research. These include problem recognition, product research, comparison and evaluation, product purchase, and feedback. Factors such as brand, price, risk, and seller location, also play a significant role and are considered closely by consumers/buyers in purchasing decisions.

The steady increase in the pre-owned and used product market shows that people are considering these factors more diligently.

Considering these numbers, we can see the trend moving towards a more sustainable market position.

And with this trend comes some benefits. 

Reduce demand for natural resources

Buying pre-owned products allow us to add items to our life without using additional resources in the manufacturing process. For example, the fashion industry which is responsible for 8-10%of global carbon emissions uses massive amounts of water and exploits workers and animals worldwide. Buying clothes that already exist slows down the fast fashion cycle and avoids other garments from being manufactured.

Increased affordability and accessibility

Used and pre-owned products typically cost much less than those fresh off the shelves. This makes expensive products such as phones and electronic items which are considered essential today more affordable for consumers in lower price brackets.

Less overstocked and underused items in our wardrobes and shelves

If we think about buying for the need, and not for the “new” experience, we are more likely to make purchasing decisions as the need arises rather than falling prey to overconsuming. This reduces the number of products in our lives and gives us better utility management with what we own.

Making it a lifestyle choice, decoupling from affordability, and purchasing power

Lifestyle can be defined as “a pattern of consumption that reflects a person’s choices about how they spend time and money, but in many cases, it also refers to the attitudes and values attached to these behavioral patterns.”

This mindset can be established by increasing the awareness of the consumer on the benefits of living and being conscious of the impacts on the environment.

A fact that is undeniable considering the purchase of preowned items is that, there is a reasonable level of stigma associated with it. Especially, in consumer products such as clothes and shoes, the factor of compromised hygiene plays a critical role. There is an underlying assumption that pre-owned items are often made available targeting consumers who can afford to buy them but not the new. However, pre-owned items are not only for those who purchase them because they are affordable but also for consumers with higher purchasing power who could buy new but choose to purchase them as a lifestyle choice.

What actions can be taken to influence further adoption of pre-owned products?

1. Create a positive purchasing experience when buying preowned goods

As we all know, the experience of unboxing a brand-new product has its charm. If pre-owned goods are to build a greater market demand, they should be presented in an appealing and desirable manner. Presenting the products in the best light, refurbished to provide a clean and polished look to the product could give the product more appeal to customers.

How we talk about used and pre-owned and/or used products matters a lot as well. There is typically a greater negative connotation associated with the term second-hand and the term “used” or “pre-owned” is more on the neutral side. Identifying them as “pre-loved” items provides a positive association with the product as is often seen to be used by marketers.

2. Create ambassadors for pre-used buying 

It can not be denied that influencers (such as celebrities) have a significant impact on market trends and cultural norms. Partnering with these influencers could help send a positive message about championing a more sustainable lifestyle that embraces pre-owned goods. This trend has already begun with examples such as Tasha Ghouri who became eBay’s first ‘pre-loved ambassador.  Kate Middleton from the British royal family is often observed to recycle her wardrobe,  discarding the tradition of wearing new as a celebrity all the time.

3. Active promotion by brand owners with a positive connotation, encouragement, and incentives

As market demand for pre-owned goods increases it would be beneficial for brand owners to initiate programs and incentives for their adoption. For example, Apple has a certified refurbished program that repairs and resells preowned products as good as new. Companies such as Thredup, the RealReal, and Depop also specialize in resiling products.

Be it environmental, financial or simply a lifestyle choice, going for pre-owned products comes with its own challenges and benefits. But, when we look at its objectives, the benefits far outweigh the downsides. Our choices will not only influence our own life but also send a message to manufacturers and the community at large to encourage a shift towards a future that appreciates the purpose of a product than its mere existence as a new unboxing experience.


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Mayuri Wijayasundara


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