The time is ripe to make secondhand the first choice for Christmas gifts. The UK is expected to spend £82.2 billion during the Christmas season, putting us head and shoulders above other European countries. We’re a nation of shoppers and we just love to splurge during the festive season, even when six in ten of us say we’ll have less money to spend this year. As a result of the cost-of-living squeeze, 38% of us are planning to switch to cheaper brands or stores for gifts, but 11% intend to purchase gifts secondhand.
The trend of buying secondhand gifts has been rising steadily over the past few years, in line with the general rise of secondhand shopping, and it’s a welcome change of direction. Branded mugs, plastic gadgets, over-packaged toiletries, calendars of questionable taste, and all sorts of other superfluous gifts are manufactured in their millions each year and, unsurprisingly, a significant number of them are either politely tucked away never to be seen again or swiftly chucked in the bin.
Buying something shiny and new just so we can tick the box of having bought someone a present is a burden both on the recipient and the planet. Over 21 million of us receive at least one unwanted gift each Christmas (and nearly 10% of us have deliberately bought someone a gift they knew they wouldn’t like!). In shopping secondhand, we can step away from the novelty aisle (quickly please…) and towards something more personal and environmentally considered.
Of course, secondhand gifting doesn’t come without its trials. Around 43% of us worry that the recipient would be upset or offended. Perhaps they’ll think we’re being cheap, or they have a perceived stigma around secondhand items, or they’ll think we’re offloading something we no longer want. But we needn’t be concerned because over 60% of consumers would be open to receiving a secondhand gift, rising to 72% for Gen Z.
Just like any other, a secondhand gift is all about the thought. If you give your friend who can’t swim a pair of flippers from that weird shelf of anything and everything at the back of the charity shop, then it’s likely not going to be well received. But with a little time and consideration, could you find a beautiful vintage handkerchief sleeve blouse for your pal who lives and breathes Stevie Nicks, a kitsch dinner set for your sister who loves vintage interiors, or a stack of sewing patterns for your crafty housemate.
While a gift set of miniatures says “here, I got you something in a panic on my lunch break because I felt pressured into this social convention”, an early edition book, a vintage leather bag, a piece of antique glassware, or a hand knitted cardigan say, “I know just what you love, and I found this specifically for you.” Instead of fighting and sweating your way through the aisles of identikit smellies, socks, coasters, and candles, you could treasure hunt in your local charity shop, browse the rails of a vintage shop, or search resale sites from under a blanket on your sofa. And, as anyone who’s ever found a vintage treasure for a bargain price knows, you’ll likely spend a lot less than you would if you were buying new.
But what if someone on your list is just utterly opposed to pre-loved gifts and is guaranteed to turn their nose up at something which has already been used or worn? Well firstly, maybe they don’t deserve a gift from you if they’re going to respond like that, but secondly, let’s not forget just how much brand-new stuff is out there to be found. A scarf with the tag still attached, or a beautiful journal still in its plastic sleeve is still new, it just happens to have come into your possession via a more indirect route.
With that issue solved, I’m certain by now that you’re convinced secondhand is the way to go, so here are some tips for finding the best gifts:
Make a list
Just because you’re not heading to a shop with multiples of the same thing, it doesn’t mean you can’t make a list, the trick is to broaden your criteria just a little, for instance looking for an author rather than a specific book, or a colour and era rather than a specific garment.
Always check charity shop drawers
Of course, I’m not suggesting you start rifling behind the till but lots of charity shops have chests of drawers on the shop floor which are full of goodies that we overlook. I’ve found everything from ornate vintage buttons to silk scarves by having a good rummage.
Personalise your gift
A handwritten note on the first page of a book, an initial embroidered on a pocket, a scarf in their favourite shade tied around a handle, little touches make a big impact and will show that this is a gift chosen with only them in mind.
Let them choose
One of the great aspects of secondhand gifting is the potential to bring people around to the joys of secondhand, but for those who are already well versed in it, you could surprise them with a charity shop gift card (or even a HURR one) and make a secondhand shopping date part of your gift.
Christmas deliveries might mean you've missed the boat for a resale gift, but a top tip for future gift-giving: if you’re going down the resale platform route, set up alerts or saved searches to save yourself some time. That way, you’ll always know if something new which meets your criteria has been added.