Recommerce, or the buying and selling of used and previously owned goods, may be in its infancy in China compared to the West, but there is growing evidence that Chinese consumers, especially younger shoppers, are embracing the trend.

As reported by Alizila, the China Center for Internet Economy Research has estimated the second-hand market was worth Rmb 500bn ($71.1bn) in 2017 and forecast this would double to Rmb 1 trillion by 2020.

Research firm Nielsen has also calculated that the number of monthly active users on recommerce platforms in China increased 46.4% last year, representing almost double the growth rate of users in the overall e-commerce market.

Alizila, a news portal owned by e-commerce giant Alibaba, identified four factors unique to China to explain how the recommerce trend is taking off.

Firstly, it appears Chinese consumers no longer feel held back by the sort of cultural considerations that were once associated with pre-owned items, such as viewing them as a shaming sign of financial hardship.

Secondly, China’s growing standard of living has meant that as consumers’ ability to accumulate products increases in line with their enhanced spending power, so the second-hand market grows as well.

Thirdly, and perhaps most importantly, Chinese consumers attach far more importance to sustainability than previously. So much so that a Mintel survey has found that more than half of urban shoppers buy or rent second-hand products because they are good for the environment.

This outlook is especially strong among younger consumers, with the Sootoo Institute estimating that at least half of recommerce-platform users in China are aged under 24, while a third (34%) are aged between 25 and 30.

Idle Fish (or Xianyu in Mandarin Chinese) is Alibaba Group’s dedicated recommerce platform and more than 60% of its 200 million users are aged under 30.

According to Alizila, platforms like Idle Fish are tapping into the consumer desire for sustainability by offering rewards. For example, users of the Ant Forest mini-program can redeem recycling points to support tree-planting projects in arid parts of the country.

Finally, there is the community and entertainment element of the recommerce shopping experience in China, where consumers view shopping for second-hand goods as a social activity.

Like-minded communities on platforms like Idle Fish can exchange ideas and information about their interests and hobbies, while at the same time posting used items for sale.

Sourced from Alizila; additional content by WARC staff