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Why younger consumers are dropping fast fashion in favour of fast vintage

Marcus Jaye
04 July 2022

"Insane" queues welcomed the opening of The Vintage Store in Hull’s St Stephens back in April, 2022. As reported in the local Hull Live/Hull Daily Mail, “queues were seen through the shopping centre as shoppers waited for the grand opening, with the golden ribbon finally cut at 10am. Staff described the store as 'packed out', with shopping operating on a 'weigh and pay' protocol, meaning shoppers don't pay per item of clothing but purely on how much of it they purchase.”

This recent outpost from the fast expanding The Vintage Store chain was in a large store formerly occupied by Arcadia’s Topshop. A former wholesaler, The Vintage Store opened another new 12,000 sq ft store at the Grosvenor owned Liverpool ONE shopping centre at the end of May (pictured above).

Many independent vintage stores used to be on the shabbier and cheaper peripheries of town’s and city’s high-streets, not in prominent high-street sites vacated by fast fashion or in Britain’s glossy floored shopping centres. When Beyond Retro opened a store at London’s flagship Westfield shopping centre you knew vintage had gone truly mainstream. 

Research from eBay Ads found searches for "pre-owned" rising 19% in January 2021 compared to January 2020 and increased a further 38% in January 2022. 22% of 1,000 consumers surveyed reported that they are conscious of discarding and sending items to landfill when they could be repaired, recycled or sold on, with 19% saying that they try to avoid fast fashion brands or brands that they consider to be unethical.

Aaron Thornhill, Retail Manager, The Vintage Store, says: “The Vintage Store is a company brought to life at the end of the lockdown with the mission to bring vintage clothing and sustainable fashion to the high-street.

“Starting out in Hull, with a great response, we soon followed by opening stores in York, Newcastle, Meadowhall and most recently Liverpool,” he says.

Thornhill tells that the response to The Vintage Store’s recent openings have been great and has been well received by the high streets in which they operate. The Vintage Store has plans to open in prominent sites in Nottingham, Birmingham, Glasgow, Oxford, Leicester, Manchester and Leeds, and is looking for more retail opportunities.

“Vintage stores can bring a new look at how people can shop. We are trying to shine light on the importance of shopping sustainably and show that vintage clothes are a lot more than what people think they can be,” says Thornhill. “We get clothes in incredible conditions that are 20+ years old, but you’d think they’re new. And I don’t think people expect to see the sort of quality clothing we have when they think vintage,” he says.

Thornhill believes the reason vintage is replacing fast fashion is because people are becoming a lot more conscious of their consumer habits and becoming a lot more willing to shop second hand/preloved.

“I wouldn’t say ‘Fast Vintage’ is the right term to use,” says Thornhill. “More slow fashion, sustainable fashion, or just shopping vintage. These clothes have been about a long time, there’s nothing fast about it.

eBay Fast Vintage

eBay is this year's fashion sponsor for Love Island taking second-hand fashion mainstream

Thornhill thinks eBay’s current sponsoring of ITV's reality show Love Island – which is known to be a highly influential force when it comes to selling fashion –  is a good thing because it’ll sway the eye of the watcher towards buying second hand/sustainably.  “Having the likes of ‘Boohoo’ as a sponsor isn’t very relevant anymore, I guess,” he says.

Thanks to Love Island, searches for ‘sustainable fashion’ have skyrocketed by 100% in the seven days after it aired, according to Google Trends.

Also driving this trend is price. With a cost of living crisis and a younger generation (Gen Z) with smaller disposable incomes, vintage is often a cheaper way to buy something new.

According to a joint report between Bain & Co. and Depop, 65% of users choose to buy pre-loved items for the prices. However, in the same report, 75% of the users who were surveyed admitted that the main reason they shopped second-hand was to reduce general fashion consumption. All surveyed were aged 24 or under.

Beyond Vintage Fast Vintage

Beyond Retro has opened in Westfield

In March 2022, vintage chain Beyond Retro opened a permanent store at the largest shopping centre in Europe, Westfield London. The new store is located near the Apple and Nike Town stores. This followed a Beyond Retro "Garage Sale" pop-up at Westfield Stratford the previous year.

Kate Orwin, Leasing Director UK at Unibail Rodamco-Westfield, comments: “We were delighted to welcome Beyond Retro to Westfield London, earlier this year, which debuted as the first sustainable, vintage fashion store at Westfield.

“Findings for our ‘How We Shop: The Next Decade report’ revealed that two thirds of customers want stores to make products in store and on demand to minimise waste. Additionally, we’ve seen a growing trend towards consumers choosing sustainable brands, as they look to make more conscious decisions about what they buy and how it can impact on the world.” she says.

“In a further step to support our Better Places 2030 agenda and introduce shoppers to new ways to shop sustainably, we’ve previously teamed up with sustainable fashion brand, we are., which launched its largest London ‘second life’ vintage fashion pop-up event at Westfield London across three days and are set to return later in the year due to its enormous success,” says Orwin. “It was brilliant to able to support we are.’s revolutionary approach to fashion, allowing consumers to invest in more ethical wardrobe.” she says.

"Fast Vintage" is now appealing to shoppers who previously shopped new. It’s now cooler and more acceptable to buy vintage or pre-worn clothing, especially for younger age groups.

Landlords and shopping centres needed to start thinking differently to fill many large units left by the pandemic, retailers disappearing or reducing their store count or footprints.

A major driver of footfall for the shopping centres or high-streets and a tick in the green credentials box for them, vintage shopping has a buzz and a sense of discovery that is so important for IRL retail. It is much harder to shop vintage online and shipping costs can make the prices more prohibitive.

Love Island featuring pre-loved clothes from eBay has pushed the idea of buying and wearing vintage mainstream and is a daily reminder for people who watch the show. This demographic was very much targeted by high street and fast fashion retailers previously.

For vintage chains, the high-street has become more affordable thanks to less demand for the prominent space. This is a huge, more sustainable opportunity, and, who knows, those skinny white jeans could have been worn on previous series.

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