Our shopping habits are changing as we become more aware of the damage we’re causing to our planet. We’re now demanding more sustainable products which are better for the environment, and brands are being forced to use eco-friendly packaging.

Recent years have also seen a rise in the popularity of second hand shops, vintage markets, and charity shops once again. For years, consumers have been sucked in by the thrill of ‘fast fashion’ - getting the latest catwalk trends and high-fashion designs quickly, and at super low prices through mass-production. But now many of us are starting to take a stand against fast fashion, and ‘slow fashion’ is quickly becoming the more sustainable way to shop - with slower production schedules, small-batch collections, and zero waste designs.

More and more brands are realising the need to recycle, repair and reuse to do their bit to reduce waste. At Decathlon, we’re dedicated to sustainability, so we’ve made it our business to reduce our impact on the planet and give lightly marked sports equipment a Second Life to prevent them going to waste. This article will take a look at why we should shop second hand, and why it’s better for the environment.


The Rise in Second Hand Shopping

As sustainable-conscious consumers continue to shop for pre-loved items, the UK’s second hand market is set to surge in coming years.

While buying pre-owned items isn’t for everyone, many people are turning to second hand shops, vintage markets, and charity shops to expand their wardrobes - not just out of financial necessity, but out of choice. And this opens up a huge opportunity for retailers to tap into this growing trend, while improving their own green credentials.

2020 was a huge year for second hand shopping. And while we were forced to stay at home, shoppers moved their spending online.

Sales of second hand fashion soared during lockdown, and according to data from eBay, the equivalent weight of 900 double-decker buses was saved from landfill thanks to purchases of pre-loved items, as consumers looked for more sustainable fashion options. Decathlon also carried out a survey of 15,946 UK adults as part of the Decathlon Activity Index, and it showed that running clothing, running trainers and bikes were the most popular sporting and fitness equipment bought second-hand during the pandemic.

Overall, there has been a 404% year-on-year increase in pre-loved sales in 2018, extending the life of millions or products which would have otherwise gone into landfill.

British consumers are leading the way for change, as lockdown gave us more time to reflect on our shopping habits. We turned to charity shops and independent businesses to not only save some pennies, but the planet too.


Why should we shop second hand?

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Second hand shops are becoming more and more popular nowadays, and not only because of the vintage trend. We like to declutter and avoid the accumulation of unwanted clothes. And we also want to know our pre-loved goods aren't going to waste and ending up in landfill.

Until the mid-19th century, second hand clothing was a vital way of acquiring clothes. And it was only through industrialisation, mass-production, and increased incomes, that the general public was able to buy new, rather than used clothing.

Now, a second hand goods customer is often extremely cost conscious, and is concerned about the impact the production of new goods, and the disposal of unwanted goods, has on the environment. But in fact, there are so many reasons to shop second hand.

  • Buying second hand is enjoyable: Hunting through charity shops and car boot sales can be so much fun! Discovering lots of unique pieces and finding that hidden gem can give you a real buzz - and you never know what treasures you might find.
  • It will save you money: Used items are usually a fraction of the price of a new item. There are plenty of bargains to be had in second hand shops and on pre-loved websites, with many items only being worn once, or used a handful of times. And selling your unwanted items can make you some money too, while decluttering your home.
  • You can get up to date tech: When buying electronics, always consider second hand or refurbished items. Refurbished phones will have been inspected and repaired, meaning you’ll be getting up to date tech at a reduced price, and without such a high environmental impact. You’ll often usually get a warranty too.
  • Second hand goods are better quality: Older items from decades ago, particularly clothes and furniture, are quite often better quality than a lot of what you can buy new today. That’s because the focus was more on quality over quantity, and things were made to last. Better quality materials were used, and items were often handcrafted or made in small batches, rather than mass-produced. So, why buy a cheap, low-quality copy of that 70’s piece from a high-street retailer when you can get your hands on an original item for a fraction of the price?
  • It’s more sustainable to buy second hand: When you buy a used item you are saving on all the resources it took to make that item. Did you know it takes 2,700 litres of water to produce the cotton needed to make a single t-shirt? A t-shirt from a charity shop doesn’t have that environmental impact.
  • Reusing promotes a shift to a circular economy: If we want to create environmental sustainability for future generations, we need to work towards a circular economy. Currently, goods are produced, used a few times, and then often thrown away. These end up in landfill, or they pollute our natural environment. A circular economy means everything is reused, repaired, and recycled.
  • Second hand can be unique: Ever met up with a friend and been wearing the same outfit? Or turned up to a party, only to see someone else in the same dress as you? If we’re all buying from the same shops on the same high streets, then it’s going to happen at some point. Vintage items can be quirky, unique and beautiful. And chances are, if you find something you love, it will be one of a kind. Why not fill your home with quality antique furniture that compliments your style? Your vintage dresser is more likely to become a talking point than that mass-produced coffee table.
  • It’s easy to shop second hand: With charity shops all over the country, and pre-loved websites like eBay, Vinted, and DePop, it’s easier than ever to buy second hand. You also have pawnbrokers, antique jewellers, used car dealerships, car boot sales, and vintage markets. And many retailers, including Decathlon, now have their own second hand initiatives. Find out more about buying sports equipment through Second Life.
  • You can give something back: By buying second hand, you could be supporting a charity or a small business. Even if you’re just buying from individuals on eBay, you’re helping someone clear out their wardrobe and giving their unwanted clothes a good home, rather than buying new from a corporate giant.


Why is buying second hand good for the environment?

Let’s face it, we all love a bargain.

But the fast fashion model has taken low cost to the extreme by mass-producing clothing. On the surface, this doesn't sound like such a bad thing, other than the fact everyone ends up walking around in the same outfits. But unfortunately, this has led to a throw-away culture.

Society has lost the true value of clothing, which is incredibly harmful to ecosystems worldwide. Because of low prices, ever changing fashion trends, and an unbelievable amount of choice, consumers place less value on their clothing, and we simply discard our unwanted goods due to poor quality, or a change in trends.

Around 1 million tons of clothing is thrown out every year in the UK. Of that, 700,000 tonnes is collected for reuse and recycling, with the remainder sent to landfills or incinerated, at an estimated cost of £82m. When waste products are buried in landfills or burnt, carbon dioxide and other harmful gases are released into the atmosphere, which ultimately leads to global warming. Not to mention the ever-increasing size of landfills, taking up valuable land which could be used for more important purposes.

Slow fashion is the widespread reaction to fast fashion. It’s about buying quality over quantity, and spending more time choosing pieces which we know will last. It encourages slower production schedules, small-batch collections, and zero waste designs. And it ultimately gives consumers the opportunity to invest in well-made clothes which we’ll keep in our wardrobes for years to come - rather than them ending up in landfill.

Slow fashion is a huge step forward for the fashion industry and in the fight for sustainability. Though it can come with a hefty price tag. So if you like mixing up your wardrobe without spending a fortune, while respecting the environment, buying second hand could be the perfect solution. Selling and buying pre-owned goods is an eco-friendly habit. And according to a recent Decathlon survey, almost a fifth of Brits said they buy second hand items as opposed to new products for environmental reasons.

Buying second hand clothing in particular, limits CO2 emissions and the use of fertilisers and pesticides, as well as saving billions of litres of water that would have been used to produce new clothes. In fact, it’s estimated that with around 600kg of used clothing, there will be a reduction of 2250kg of CO2 emissions, 3.6 billion litres of water saved and 144 trees planted. And that’s a lot less waste going into landfill!


Why are more big companies bringing out second hand schemes?

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More and more brands are championing sustainability. This could be through using sustainable materials and processes to produce goods, or selling second hand. Companies are also realising the need to recycle, repair and reuse to do their bit to reduce waste.

  • IKEA: Furniture and homeware favourite, IKEA, has recently launched its buy-back and re-sale scheme, in an attempt to reduce the number of products going to landfill. The move is part of the retailer’s sustainability drive to become “climate positive” by 2030. They will buy back your used furniture in return for an IKEA refund card. They then resell your second hand furniture in their dedicated buy-back area in store or online, where it provides a chance for someone else to give it a second life at an affordable price.
  • ASDA: The supermarket’s clothing brand, George, will be selling second hand clothing in 50 UK stores after a successful trial in Leeds. The move is part of the retailer’s ‘George for Good’ commitment to drive down textile waste, as well as being an advocate for sustainable sourcing. Asda launched the scheme encouraging customers to take unwanted clothes back to stores, and is now planning to stock used garments in a joint venture with specialist wholesaler Preloved Vintage Kilo - to give a new lease of life to pre-worn garments.
  • H&M: High street retailer H&M were the first fashion brand to launch a global garment collection initiative in 2013, allowing customers to hand in any unwanted clothing to a H&M store, regardless of the brand or condition. Each year, they also launch their ‘Conscious Exclusive’ collection, comprising "high-end environmentally friendly pieces, aiming to move H&M’s fashion and sustainability development towards a more sustainable fashion future."

These schemes, as well as many others, are helping brands to become more people and planet positive, while promoting a shift to a circular economy.


What is Decathlon’s part in this?

At Decathlon we’re also dedicated to sustainability, and we’ve made it our business to reduce our impact on the planet and give lightly marked sports equipment a second life.

That’s why we’ve launched our Second Life initiative, where our expert team of technicians repair a range of products, focussing on refurbished bikes, fitness equipment, kayaks, tents and many more. In a recent Decathlon survey, more than a third (34%) of Brits say they would be happy to purchase second-hand sporting and fitness equipment. We’re then able to offer these products to our customers at discounted prices to prevent them from going to waste.

Read our article on understanding what effect the life cycle of a bike has on our planet.

Our Second Life products come from a range of areas within Decathlon. They might have been marked in transit, purchased by a customer and returned, used by our designers or testers, or showcased in store. And while they are fully functional, they can’t be sold as ‘new’ due to scratches or minor damage to the packaging - even though they’re still in excellent working order.

So, each Second Life product is refurbished to a high standard and undergoes a rigorous condition rating process before being assigned a grade from A to D, which then determines its discounted price ranging from 10-40% off. This means we are still able to offer customers all of the original Decathlon promises, warranties and guarantees as a brand new product bought from www.decathlon.co.uk or in our stores.

Check out some of the Frequently Asked Questions to find out more about Decathlon’s Second Life sustainability initiative.

So, whether you’re looking for some jeans, a bike, or a sofa, it’s much better for the environment to buy second hand. After all, new products usually require an entire global chain to produce and transport, along with the environmental costs that an industrial system occurs.

Do you want to live a more sustainable lifestyle? Are you looking for ways to save money? Do you enjoy giving products a new lease of life? Buying second hand could be the way to go!


If you want to find out more about what Decathlon is doing to become more sustainable, you can read about our sustainability goals or discover our eco-design products.