All about secondhand shopping: The definitive guide to buying and selling secondhand in Australia

Sydneysiders, we know you’re all itching to go second hand shopping. Now that we’re out of lockdown, it’s time to start our shopping list so when stores open, you’re all ready to hit the ground running (although you can always shop from online second hand stores like us any time).

P.s. this guide is also great for those of you looking for second hand gift ideas!

 

 

What does “second-hand” mean?

Second-hand generally means somebody has “first” bought the item from a retailer, and they’re looking to sell it to someone else i.e. the “second” hand.

But it doesn’t mean that the item is necessarily “used”. It’s possible that the item is still new with tags and still unworn or in “like new” or “lightly used” conditions.Regardless of the condition, the best part about shopping secondhand is, it’s still sold at a fraction of the price of the item, if you buy it at a department store, retailer, or directly in-store where the brand is sold. 

The word “secondhand” had a bit of a connotation in the past, but we think that it has become more and more of a misconception. Secondhand used to mean cheap, but thanks to better awareness around fashion waste, secondhand is also considered to be a sustainable fashion alternative because of its role in reusing existing products. That’s why SwapUp’s mission is to make secondhand mainstream.

 

 

Where do second-hand clothes come from?

It really depends on where the second-hand item is being listed!

Charity organisations get their second-hand clothes stock from donations. Market stallholders might be selling their own items or items that they buy in bulk from their second-hand clothes suppliers — usually within a specific niche. Since secondhand has become more trendy, some retailers like Amazon have also labelled their returned items as “used”, which is a bit misleading.

On the other hand, peer-to-peer marketplaces and consignment stores like SwapUp get our clothes from other people like you! If you are thinking of cleaning out your wardrobe and found that you have many hidden gems, you can sign up to sell with SwapUp. These options are especially great if you have:

  • Well, items that still have tags on them
  • A dress that you wore to a wedding once (no gown please)
  • The pair of shoes you got as a pressie and aren’t really your style
  • A nice leather belt that shrunk over Christmas
  • That wool jumper you bought in Melbourne and realised that you don’t need after you moved to Brisbane
  • The designer dress you spent an hour thinking about at the atelier, only to decide that it’s not for you when you got home!
  • Anything that swappers would dive for at a clothing swap event.

 

 

    Why should you buy secondhand?

    SwapUp’s survey found that 64% of people buy secondhand clothing to save money, followed by 20% to save the environment and 7% to find their own unique style. Other reasons people buy secondhand are the range of options available and the thrill of hunting down a thrifted gem (we don't blame you)! 

    If you still need convincing, our team has also written an article on the reasons to shop secondhand

     

     

    Is it okay to buy secondhand?

    Is it okay to buy second hand

     

    Of course! Buying secondhand can help you save money, while also reducing our collective impact on the environment, so it’s a more thank okay option to shop.

    What about the stigma, you asked? Some people used to think buying secondhand is only for those in need, but the truth is, only 5% of charity clothes are sold to those in need according to Vinnies. Nonprofits like Thread Together even provide new clothes at no cost. 

    What about cleanliness? Well, new clothes are not necessarily cleaner than secondhand — they’re just made to smell nice and crisp using chemicals. 

    What about trend? Have a look at the trends on the street these days. Past Y2K styles are suddenly in again, so there is absolutely no reason to think that secondhand is not trendy.

    We’ve debunked some of the myths around buying secondhand. Feel free to share the article with some of your loved ones who are yet to be convinced to buy preloved clothes!

     

    What are the environmental benefits of shopping second hand?

     

    What are the best things to buy and where can you buy them second hand from?

    We’ve learnt that the best things to buy are, first and foremost, the things we need. Now, that’s not to say that we should only buy the basic essentials as subsistence. We are lucky enough that, if you are reading this blog article, chances are you would care about some of your aspirational needs. It is perfectly okay to want to feel great about what you buy, so you can do well in whatever you do!

    That said, we’ve compiled a number of outlets where you could be getting quality secondhand items and certainly cheaper than if you are to buy those items new:

     

    Second hand clothes, handbags and shoes

    You need not look far, check out SwapUp’s secondhand women's fashion collection. For Wedding and formal dresses, we would recommend you check out Stillwhite.

    Second hand designer, vintage & collectables

    On the high end categories there are a number of companies that are willing to help you move those Chanel, Gucci, Louis Vuitton, and Prada items you own, including Revoir, Luxe.It.Fwd, and the RealReal.

    Furniture

    You can buy and sell second hand furniture through online marketplaces. If you’re looking for curated shops with some one-of-a-kind vintage and antique in the mix, check out this guide.

    Cars

    There are so many options for this one! Wherever you’re getting if from (dealer or private seller), we highly recommend getting an independent mechanic check out the car you’re interested in. You can hire mobile mechanics who are specialists for certain makes, like Peugeot or Mercedes, from around $300-500 per visit, and they’ll tell you if there’s anything in the car that you need to change soon. They can even tell you whether the price you’re paying is fair.

    Second hand books, video games, sports gears, and other entertainment

    • Video game consoles — for those of you who like my 37-year old husband LOVE video games, check out EB Game’s pre-owned consoles and games section. You might even find games that are “collectables” or so I’m told!
    • Books — with paperbacks we find that we prefer to visit the local store in person to see what treasures we can find, but if you prefer to shop online there are Brotherhood Books charity online bookstore and Elizabeth’s Bookshop. If you live or visit Sydney, we also highly recommend Sappho Books, Cafe, and Bar!
    • Bicycles — Check out BikeExchange where you can buy and sell bikes online! If it seems a little too technical, good old Gumtree often has deals too if you’re not in a rush.
    • Gym equipments — Grays Fitness is among the players who sell top brand used fitness equipments, delivering Australia-wide. 
    • Surfboards, rackets, and other sports equipment — Buying secondhand is great when you just try out a hobby. Instead of spending a fortune buying some top-of-line products, why not trial some secondhand items to see if the sport is for you?

      Uniforms

      Kids grow SO fast, so why not get secondhand items and reduce their fashion consumption from early age? If you’re in Sydney, the Uniform Exchange can be a good place to start. Alternatively, try your kids’ school facebook or other community groups. Surely the bigger kids would love to offload their too-small items too!

       

       

      Where can I shop second hand near me? 

      Where can I buy second hand online

      You see - we might be walking past some of these places regularly. But unless you have been given a reason to check them out, I bet that most of us wouldn’t go out of our way to see what they might be about:

      Op shops near me

      We’ve written about op shopping tips and the best op shops in Sydney and Melbourne here.

      Consignment shops

      Traditionally, consignment shops tend to be associated with higher-end fashion. But online consignment stores like SwapUp have changed the game by offering the same high-end services for mainstream products as well, because we believe that we need to recirculate everyday items better if we want to solve the fashion waste issue! 

        If you are unfamiliar with how consignment stores work, check out our guide to everything consignment (we know a thing or two since SwapUp is a consignment business too!)

        Apparently eBay consignment sellers used to be very common in the US (or at least that’s what the movie 40-Year Old Virgin gives the impression of). 

        Vintage shops

        They tend to be more expensive than other options, but only because they’re amazingly curated by talented stylists! If you’re in Sydney, check out this list of top vintage stores on TimeOut here.

        Pop-up weekend markets

        Markets such as Glebe Markets in Sydney, can be fun to visit as well as a great place to hunt for thrifted items. It has reopened post-COVID every Saturday, and you can meet and chat with the vendors in person. To top it off, there are also plenty of cafes and other local shops to explore in Glebe, like Sappho bookstore that we mentioned above!

        Garage sales and deceased estate sales

        They tend to be a bit more ad hoc and therefore not great for finding specific things, but could be a great source of fun if you’re not in a rush. Check out Gazza’s Garage Sale for a list of upcoming events in your area!

           

           

            Where can you buy and sell the best second hand clothes online in Australia?

            Online marketplaces

            eBay, Gumtree and Facebook Marketplace are some of the biggest you could find in Australia. You could also try Depop and Poshmark for fashion-specific ones. Be mindful that peer-to-peer marketplaces can be unreliable because people are not always responsive here (not to mention the pain of haggling, being ghosted, or paying for multiple shipping fees, etc.), so be prepared. If you agree to meet up, make sure it’s in a safe, public location. 

            Online thrift and consignment stores

            You can try Salvos Stores or, once again, this is where SwapUp comes in :)

               

               

                Why are the environmental benefits of buying second hand clothing?

                Reduce fashion waste

                  With fast fashion profiting off overproduction and overconsumption, fashion has become highly energy-intensive, unethical and wasteful. The fashion industry is on track to consume 26% of the world’s carbon budget by 2050. Each piece of clothing can take 40 years to decompose while footwear can take almost 1000 years. If we continue to produce and consume like there’s no tomorrow, there really will be no tomorrow for us, chicas.

                  This is why buying secondhand is critical because we can reduce fashion production and stop clothes from going to landfills. A piece of garment can be worn longer and shared between multiple people. We can make more long-lasting items where, in turn, the overall cost of owning our clothing items becomes lower. Make sure that 

                  This is a cause upon which SwapUp is built. You can find more tips on reducing your fashion environmental impact here.

                  Reduce emissions from fashion manufacturing

                    Approximately 70% of fashion emission comes from producing raw materials and manufacturing.  A viable circular economy where items can be continually passed down, reused and eventually recycled, we could reduce the need to produce new clothes. 

                    According to the environmental consulting group Quantis, the cost of distributing fashion only accounts for 1% of the total emissions by the industry, as cited from the report “Measuring Fashion: Insights from the Environmental Impact of the Global Apparel and Footwear Industries study”. 

                    By going secondhand and extending the life cycle of a clothing item by 9 months, we can reduce the environmental impact of that garment by 20-30.

                    Avoid chemical treatments 

                      Did you know why new clothes often tell you to have them washed before you wear them? Well, it turns out that new clothes are often treated with stain-removers, colour-fasteners, anti-wrinkle agents, softeners and other chemical treatments, so it is fair to say that they can be toxic to some extent to us living beings. 

                      Now, even if you wash them (which you totally should!) these contaminants are still going to end up in the ecosystem somewhere and become pollutants for some time, until nature's “liver” neutralises them. So, in our opinion, it is best to try and avoid buying new clothes as much as we can. You can read more about this here.

                       

                       

                      What are the other advantages to buying second-hand goods?

                      We surveyed people who love op shopping and here’s the top reasons why they buy from op shops:

                      Find your own unique styles 

                        Let’s be honest. We love our options. And that’s the whole raison d'être of fast fashion. They exist to produce more and more quickly. In order to be able to afford and cater to us… wait for it… options. Nobody wants to rock up to an event wearing something remotely similar to another person. It is not entirely logical, but you know it’s true so we can admit to that! Now, imagine, as one of the biggest online thrift stores in Australia, SwapUp carries thousands of brands, styles and sizes. Every item is unique. So if you are looking to find a truly unique style for yourselves, where do you think you have the least and best chance of doing that? A local thrift store, a small consignment shop, or here at SwapUp?

                        Live with the story

                        “I love the idea that other people have had fun, laughter, and lived life in something I now will own”

                        That was the winning entry in our customer survey competition last time. When you buy second hand, you get to relive the story of each item. If you’re looking for some short shows on this theme, check out Netflix’s Worn Stories. We found it pretty funny and heartfelt at times! 

                        Support charities 

                          It always feels good to do good! You can dress up to the nines and help a charity when you go to your local op shops. 

                          If you have other charities or causes to support but they don’t have an op shop, you could sell your items and donate the proceedings to them. You could easily do this with SwapUp as you have full control over the payout you earn from selling your items with us. 

                          You can choose to use your credit balance to shop with us, cash out or donate! Yes, we give you an option to put your money towards a good cause or two, such as Seed Australia and the Bali Children Foundation. If you have another organisation you would like to support through SwapUp, hit us up with your recommendation and we’ll try to make it happen for you! 

                          Save $$$ - Who doesn’t love a bargain? 

                            When you buy second hand, you can get like-new items for a fraction of the cost. With SwapUp, you can save up to 90% off the RRP, just because somebody has literally bought it first for you! 

                            You can take this even further by trawling through our sale section (while it lasts), which are not anything of lesser quality and yet they’re more heavily discounted! Why? This is because they are items that we’ve held onto for some time, and ultimately we’d like for them to find a new, loving second home already.