The Rise of Online Thrifting


With people nowadays wanting to become more environmentally and economically friendly, thrifting is a great option for the nature- and money-conscious. But what do you do when your favourite thrift stores have become either unsafe or shuttered during a pandemic? Online thrifting is the solution for this new problem, but it didn’t just bloom out of the necessity of the pandemic.


Thrift’s Rebirth

Sites like Poshmark, Depop and threadUp have seen a meteoric rise to the top of the internet in the past few years, and to back up this evidence,  many of these companies have reported  their sites’ statistics on a yearly basis, and they paint a vivid picture of what online thrifting has and will become. One of the most important factors in thrifting nowadays is how comfortable people are buying used clothes, as in previous decades, buying used fashion has often been looked down upon. Now, however, it is reported that over 75% of people surveyed through Poshmark, which is a combination of users and non-users, felt comfortable buying used clothing from individuals online. 

Another trend in thrifting is reselling items you find at either a physical thrift retailer or online. Typically, what happens will be that someone will find an item of apparel that has a higher value than what it is selling for at the time. This valuation is dependent on many factors, specifically age, popularity of the size, brand, condition, and overall rarity or desirability. This trend is supported by Poshmark’s findings that over 48% of all users who had sold items on the site used those profits to purchase more used items on the same site itself.


Popularity… among teens?

But what about the types of people to use online thrifting sites? 2020 statistics provided by online thrift giants Poshmark and threadUp show that a shocking amount of Gen-Z folks are taking a shine to this new era of thrifting. Poshmark reports that, on average, 16.5% of someone of Generation Z’s closet consists of thrifted or second-hand clothes, which is more than any generation before it. These statistics are supported by the fact that over 90% of Gen-Zers are open to buying used fashion, while 80% also said that they didn’t believe there was or should be a stigma surrounding thrifted finds.

Thrifting is also fun for teens and young adults due to the mystery of the hunt and being able to score an item for less than it is worth. As Abigail Puketza, former Knight Crier editor, stated in a May 2019 article, “Many people are turned off by the fact that the origin of the clothes is unknown, but that is what makes it fun! You are continuing the legacy of the clothes for a fraction of the price.”


Side hustle or full-time job?

And reselling clothes doesn’t have to just be a side-hustle either. For Gen-Z users alone, Poshmark reports that 40% of them have earned up to $4,000 in profits on the app from reselling fashion, and 10% have even earned up to $10,000 dollars in profit. A surprising 22% of the entire app’s sellers have made reselling on the app as their full-time job. And, since the Covid-19 pandemic hit the U.S. and the world hard, over 50% more people are reported as cleaning out their closets and donating or selling clothes than pre-Covid times.



Other than being able to find a good deal and making a bit of extra cash, online thrifting is grabbing potential customers who want to help the environment. Re-using old clothes can help with the growing problem of pollution that the fashion industry is responsible for, which, as Sam Corbin with reports, is “…8 to 10% of global carbon emissions…” Thrifting offsets this high level of pollution, as the clothes you buy have already gone through the manufacturing process, and, as Rachel Kibbe, a sustainable fashion activist states, “”The only true sustainable way to shop is to not shop at all… Unless you’re buying clothes that [already] exist.”


Staying Safe

During the pandemic, whether or not your local thrift store has been forced to close (temporarily or even for good), going out anywhere other than necessary places seems a daunting task, even months after full lockdowns ended. And while Covid-19 doesn’t last long on surfaces, the possibility of coming into contact with an infected surface while the virus is still present or the act of physically going out to a packed store will be a turn-off for many fearing for their health and safety. Luckily, online thrifting almost fully solves this problem. The CDC states that, “Transmission of coronavirus occurs much more commonly through respiratory droplets than through objects and surfaces, like doorknobs, countertops, keyboards, toys, etc… evidence suggests that SARS-CoV-2 may remain viable for hours to days on surfaces made from a variety of materials.” With online thrifting, as long as the item is far enough away to warrant shipping rather than pickup, Covid-19 should have died off on the item’s surface before it reaches you at home.

Physical thrift stores have, however, taken a hit during the pandemic. Christina Kallas, manager and Co-Founder of Philly Aids Thrift in Philadelphia, knows that her store has been affected as well. “[The pandemic] has definitely hit us hard,” she says, “and we made the decision to close down right before the mandated shutdowns, which would have made it 4 months that we were shut down. There was a loss there, but we were able to receive the [PPE] funds. At first, we were open, I think, only about 6 hours a day, but now we have normal hours yet staggered capacities.” She,  as well as the other staff members, have considered online sales, but decided against it as, “we thought that it was awesome to get that really radically awesome, unique item here physically in the store… we’ll put things on social media to attract attention to certain items for pickup, but fully online sales, for the inventory we have, would require hiring employees for the purpose of online sales only, and we would need more space for that operation.” So while thrift stores have been hit relatively hard compared to some other businesses, these options of online sales and/or advertising are still out there as a solution, if only temporarily.



Thrifting online, while convenient especially in these times of a pandemic, is also very useful and interesting at any period of time, pandemic or not. Good deals can be very easy to find, and you can make some good money while doing so. With stigmas surrounding thrifting vanishing into thin air, and the rise of the internet, you can bet that the rise of online thrifting has a long way to go before hitting the brakes.



  1. Poshmark Reports
  2. Crunchbase – threadUp
  3. threadUp Statistics Report
  4. Investor’s Business Daily – Retail Industry is Shaken Up by The Used Economy
  5. Wharton – The Rise of Re-Commerce
  6. Insider – Here’s why buying clothes secondhand is the best way to shop
  7. The New York Times – Secondhand Shopping During Coronavirus
  8. The CDC – Cleaning and Disinfection for Households
  9. The Knight Crier – The ultimate guide to thrift shopping