In 2020, everyone spent more time at home. They also spent more money to furnish it: according to a recent report, furniture and appliance spending grew from 373 billion dollars to 405 billion dollars over the year. And while, yes, e-commerce sites across the board saw substantial growth, one market segment in particular saw a boom: vintage and consignment. Vintage and secondhand furniture retailer Chairish saw a 60 percent increase in sales. Luxury collectible site 1stDibs, whose largest category is home, experienced a 23 percent increase. Meanwhile Kaiyo, a startup that calls itself the “Thred-Up for Furniture” says they’ve seen triple digit growth month over month. Why? The easy answer would be because consignment is generally cheaper—always a literal selling point, especially during uncertain economic times like these. And, sure, price is certainly part of it. But heritage and collectible items flew off the shelves too: 1stDibs couldn’t keep Mario Bellini’s Camaleonda Sofa, Ray and Charles Eames’s Lounge Chair, or the Ultrafragola mirror in stock. Chairish saw users sell Michel Ducaroy’s Togo sofa at a profit. In its annual report, Kaiyo said they sold a DDC On the Rocks sofa for a whopping $18,346—far from a bargain. Then there’s the fact that vintage and consignment is expected to become even more popular in the next few years. Statista projected that the furniture resale market will increase 70 percent from 2018 to 2025. So what happened? First is the changing attitude towards secondhand goods. Thanks to the explosive popularity of sites like TheRealReal and Depop, millennial and Gen Z shoppers regularly shop for used clothes. The stigma soon faded for furniture as well: a Chairish report found that among Millennial and Gen Z consumers, 31% report that the pandemic increased their interest in buying used, vintage, or antique furniture online. Then there’s the cool factor. In the social media age, popular, mass-produced items can feel oversaturated in months and sometimes minutes. As a result, more younger consumers began to seek out rare or one-of-a-kind-clothing items. (“Authenticity is big,” Vogue found of the generation’s shopping habits.) Now, that desire is carrying over to home goods— especially for those with money to spend and an aversion to copy-and-paste apartments from Instagram.“ It is not just the lower price that attracts these true-luxury consumers. It is often the only way they can buy scarce, limited-edition, special sold-out collaborations missed the first time, or vintage items,” says a report by the Boston Consulting Group.
Another big reason behind the vintage boom? Sustainability. Shopping for used goods means supporting the circular economy—and keeping furniture out of landfills as a result. (In 2018, Americans threw out 12.1 million tons of furniture.) Some vintage and antique furniture companies, like ZZ Driggs, are even B-Corp certified. Finally, the deeply unsexy—but deeply logistical—issue: the supply chain. “Supply chain issues have increased demand for upholstered items such as sofas and accent chairs since the wait time to get these items brand new can be as long as 14-16 weeks,” Alpay Koralturk, CEO and Founder of Kaiyo, tells Vogue. Meanwhile, secondhand furniture (particularly when bought locally) can arrive in a mere few days. Sustainable, stylish furniture with a story—and no supply chain issue? No wonder more and more people are out with the new, and in with the old.