Shoppers look to 'close the loop' on fast fashion

Press Release

  • UK shoppers spent £187m on 20million pre-owned fashion items on eBay in the last 12 months, a 15% rise in five years
  • Searches for ‘sustainable’ fashion items soared 600% in the past three years
  • Middle aged shoppers buy six times more pre-owned fashion than Millennials
  • Data backs up the ‘Blue Planet effect’ - with 2017 a turning point for consumer attitudes to sustainable shopping.

London, 5 September 2019: UK shoppers are buying and selling more pre-owned fashion online now than five years ago, as ‘sustainable’ fashion becomes increasingly popular, finds eBay. 

According to new consumer spending data from the platform, UK shoppers spent £187million on over 20million pre-owned fashion items on the site in the 12 months to June 2019, a 15% increase compared with 2014, as circular economy values influence today’s mainstream shopping behaviours. 

The data also shows UK shoppers are increasingly seeking out more environmentally friendly fashion options. Searches on eBay that include words associated with ‘closed loop’ shopping have increased dramatically in the past three years (July 2016- June 2019):

  • ‘Sustainable’ up 600%
  • ‘Used’ up 417%
  • ‘Eco-friendly’ up 344% 

Yet, the growing trend for recycling fashion isn’t solely being driven by shoppers. Almost 10,000 new sellers registered on eBay in the 12 months to June 2019 specifically to sell and recycle their pre-owned items as supply keeps pace with demand. 


Popular purchases 

The data shows a consistent upward trend over the past five years, with purchases of pre-owned jumpsuits, hats, scarves, swimwear, coats, jackets, handbags, purses and trousers increasing year-on-year. 

Over six million pre-owned shirts were bought on eBay in the 12 months to June 2019, making them the most popular pre-owned fashion item among UK shoppers, followed by pre-owned dresses (4.3million), and pre-owned coats (2.9million).

Pre-owned jumpsuits saw the biggest growth in purchases in the five-year period as the trend for lower hemlines and more modest, comfortable fashion grows. Purchases of pre-owned jumpsuits were up 41% compared to five years ago.

Pe-owned jackets (+19%), coats (+16%) and scarves (+16%) also saw a significant rise in purchases between July 2014 and June 2019.  


Millennials make way for the middle aged 

Middle aged consumers are the driving force behind the rise in purchases of pre-owned fashion. Those aged between 40-49 years bought over four million pre-owned fashion items on eBay in the 12 months to June 2019, the most out of any age group and over six times greater than the number of pre-owned purchases made by the under 30s.

Purchases of pre-owned fashion items have also been incrementally rising over the past five years (July 2014-June 2019) among the baby boomer generations. Shoppers aged 50-59 have bought 16% more pre-owned fashion the 12 months to June 2019 compared to 2014, while purchases among the over 60s have grown 41%.


The ‘Blue Planet effect’

The data also pinpoints 2017 as a turning point for consumer attitudes to pre-owned fashion – following the ‘Blue Planet effect’. Prior to the airing of Blue Planet 2 in October 2017, purchases of pre-owned items on eBay were incrementally falling. However, from 2017-2019 they jumped by 10%, signalling a shift in consumers’ ethical consciences.

The data also proves the ‘Blue Planet effect’ is impacting the supply of pre-owned fashion items on eBay. In the years following the documentary’s release, over 30,000 new sellers joined eBay to list and recycle pre-owned items, up 7% (2017-2019). 

Commenting on the findings, Helen Riley, Head of Fashion at eBay, said: “Consumers are picking up the pace in their backlash against today’s throwaway fashion society and it is evident on both sides of the eBay platform, with millions more used items being bought and sold now than five years ago. 

“When you couple the increasing popularity of pre-owned fashion items with the explosion of sustainable fashion searches, it becomes clear that the ‘conscious shopper’ is not just someone on the hunt for a bargain – it captures those who want to take an active role in protecting our environment. 

“Whether it’s from a charity shop, vintage fair or marketplace, buying a good quality, pre-owned item of clothing, rather than opting for ‘new’, is a simple and easy way shoppers can reduce the environmental impact of their wardrobe, and they are clearly doing so in their masses.” 

Sean and Liam Sheahan, owners of Sheanies Vintage, added: "Sustainability is a huge trend that’s becoming increasingly important to our customers. Nowadays vintage fashion is celebrated, not just as a style choice, but as an ethical choice. The taboo around wearing secondhand clothing has lifted in recent years and the vintage clothing market has really taken off as a result. Some of our customers wouldn’t have dreamt of shopping for clothes in a second-hand store five years ago, but now they’re our regulars! 

“We’ve also found that our customers are more conscious of the origins and the sustainability of the materials used in our clothing. This demand has led us to source eco-friendly materials such as linen & hemp to create our own fashion range which we’ll be launching soon. " 

- ENDS -

Notes to editors 

Data included relates to the number of new sellers, purchases and searches made on The data covers the five-year period between July 2014 and June 2019, each year relates to the period July-June inclusive.


About eBay 

eBay was the first online marketplace. Today, it’s a household name. A regular feature in lists of best loved brands, it connects millions of buyers and sellers, helping customers to find the item they’re looking for from its 1.3 billion listings. With 182 million buyers in 190 markets, trade is fast. The UK website sells a car part every second, and last year the online marketplace saw must-have items like LEGO Harry Potter flying off the virtual shelves every ten seconds. 

This incredible interest directly benefits the small businesses who trade on eBay, giving them access to an audience once unthinkable for a small shop on the high street. Throughout its history, eBay has helped many thousands of small businesses to succeed. Small British firms regularly rank in the top five grossing sellers on’s biggest trading days like Black Friday, and over one thousand British sellers who started with a shop on eBay are now running million pound businesses, providing jobs to people in their communities. 

By partnering with sellers in this way, has helped hundreds of thousands of British entrepreneurs over its 23-year history. As a hub of retail in the UK, the marketplace also continues to welcome top brands to the site – including Currys, Halfords, GoPro, Canon and more. 

eBay also makes it easy for customers to give to charitable organisations. Using eBay for Charity, sellers can donate a portion of their sales and buyers can shop while supporting their favourite causes – adding to the funds that has raised for UK charities to date.