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Our 2020 Secondhand Economy Report

Every Kiwi has $1,500 right under their nose. What's lurking in your garage?

18 November 2020

New Zealand’s secondhand economy in 2020

We’re proud to release Trade Me’s second annual secondhand economy report.

In 2019, we set out to explore the New Zealand secondhand economy for the first time. We wanted to know more about what motivates people throughout New Zealand to sell, what they have lurking in their garage and why we like (or dislike) buying secondhand. What we learned is that millions of Kiwis love to participate in the secondhand economy every year. They have many motivations but overwhelmingly they want to care for the environment, save money and give more items a second life in a new home.

This year, our report brings together the responses of approximately 3,600 New Zealanders to detail what New Zealand’s secondhand economy looks like in 2020. It provides insights into our buying and selling habits, our attitudes towards preloved items, the impact of COVID-19, and offers some tips on how Trade Me can help Kiwi bargain hunters turn their items collecting dust, into dollars.

What is the ‘secondhand economy?’

Any time a preloved item is bought, sold, swapped or given away - that all contributes to our secondhand economy.

Secondhand goods have been a fundamental part of Trade Me’s DNA since we opened our virtual doors in 1999. Legend has it that our founder Sam Morgan couldn’t find a secondhand heater for his chilly Wellington flat, and so began the idea of Trade Me.

Today, there are 1.2 million secondhand items on Trade Me at any one time with Kiwis from around the country wheeling and dealing to turn their trash into someone else’s treasure.

Over the years we’ve seen new categories blossom and others fall away, but what has remained is the thrill of the chase and the love of a bargain. We regularly hear stories about the pride and joy our members get from buying that perfect item or cashing in on something they thought was worthless.

The secondhand economy in 2020

Across New Zealand, we estimate there are 90 million secondhand items lurking in people’s homes and garages that are no longer used or needed.

Savvy Kiwi could make $1,500 by selling their unwanted items!

Let’s face it, we’re all looking for an easy way to put a little extra money in our back pocket.

Based on the average selling price of items sold on Trade Me, we estimate that every Kiwi has approximately $1,500 worth of unwanted stuff gathering dust in their cupboards, wardrobes and garages that they could turn into dollars. That’s approximately 18 used or unwanted items gathering dust that could be given a new home with someone else.

Just 14 percent of Kiwis say they don’t have any unwanted items to sell.

How do New Zealanders feel about buying secondhand items?

One in two New Zealanders said they feel super proud of their secondhand bargains, compared to just 1% who feel very embarrassed about not buying new.

This means Kiwi are even prouder of their secondhand treasures than they were in 2019 when just 22% said they were super proud of their preloved purchases.

"I don’t get why it would matter if something is new or secondhand.

Over 86% of Kiwi said they’re at least a little proud of buying secondhand.

Who loves secondhand the most?

Kiwis in rural New Zealand feel much stronger about buying secondhand than those in our main centres. 33% of Kiwis in rural areas said they ‘definitely would’ buy secondhand compared to 26% of those who live in our big cities.

Northland is secondhand central

Those living in and around Northland are the strongest supporters of the secondhand economy (40% ‘definitely would’ buy secondhand), followed closely by Kiwis in the Wairarapa (39%) and the West Coast (39%).

Of New Zealand’s main centres, Wellingtonians like to support the secondhand economy the most (with 34% saying they ‘definitely would’ buy used items) followed closely by Cantabrians (31%). Aucklanders, on the other hand, are the least inclined of any region to buy secondhand (23%).

Why buy secondhand?

The primary reason Kiwi decide to buy secondhand is to save money (66% of respondents), but for many, it’s about sustainability too with 46% of Kiwis saying they buy secondhand to protect the environment.

"Buying secondhand is good for our family, our budget and our planet.

"First I try to get the item repaired, then check for secondhand items because that’s more sustainable and better for the environment.

For some, it’s also about the thrill of the chase and finding something unique (11%), or supporting other Kiwis selling their preloved goods.

"I buy secondhand if I am able to save a few dollars and also because of the uniqueness of the product that some mightn’t find in store at the time or ever.

13% of Kiwis say they buy secondhand because the item they want is simply not available new.

Some objections to buying secondhand include not knowing the quality of the item or wanting an item that is covered under warranty.