The demand for pre-owned luxury goods is increasing across the Arab region, particularly among shoppers in their late teens and early 20s. Once shunned by label-conscious Middle Eastern shoppers, who for decades favored purchasing brand-new designer clothing and accessories, pre-owned fashion items are finding a growing audience among the MENA region’s generation next. In places such as the GCC, where the majority of the local population is under 30, this nascent interest in pre-owned luxury can translate into a potentially vast and lucrative market.
The most apparent and talked-about reason for this new interest in pre-owned goods is increased environmental awareness among young Arab shoppers. “We see an increase in younger affluent generations – Millennials and Gen Zers – buying and selling clothes and accessories online, fueled by their desire for more sustainability,” says Kunal Kapoor, CEO and co-founder of Dubai-based online luxury marketplace The Luxury Closet. “The mindset has definitely shifted throughout 2020, potentially also due to the pandemic. Pre-loved luxury items are becoming more and more popular in the MENA region.”
While a wide range of items sell on The Luxury Closet, Kapoor says that some fashion goods tend to be favored over others. “The most popular items are handbags and fine jewelry. Brands such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel and Dior are the top brands in handbags, while Cartier and Van Cleef & Arpels are top brands in the fine jewelry category.”
The increased demand for pre-owned fashion goods is there for a slightly different reason, says Layla Bissar, co-founder and managing partner of pre-owned luxury boutique Chic Beirut in Lebanon. “I do truly believe that the emerging pre-owned fashion industry encourages sustainability, even if for the most part the main driver to buying pre-owned is financial. The younger Arab generation is financially savvy and see the resale market not only as a way to get their hands on the latest ‘it’ item for less, but also as means to unload their own used goods, inadvertently or intentionally becoming part of the circular fashion journey.”
But Bissar is also quick to point out that the eco-friendly aspect related to pre-owned goods is present in the young Arab shopper’s mind as well. “We are noticing the ‘buying less but better’ trend among our younger clientele. While shunning the fast fashion market is still an unrealistic expectation, we are increasingly seeing younger clients preferring to purchase a pre-owned ‘made-to-last item’ or marking their originality by buying rare vintage pieces.”
The Luxury Closet’s Kapoor sees this interest in pre-owned fashion as more than a trend, but rather the beginning of an important change in the shopping habits of the Arab consumer. “The importance of sustainable shopping is ranking higher and higher in customer purchase decisions, and it is here to stay,” he says. “The adoption of pre-owned is increasing, and the industry estimates that the pre-owned market share will more than double every decade. That means by 2030, one in six purchases will become pre-owned.”
The importance of the young shopper is such that Bissar has successfully opened channels of communication with her younger clientele and allowed them to influence her choice of goods. “We at Chic Beirut have a significant number of young customers, who more than once have schooled us on the latest streetwear brands and collaborations,” she says. “They have been a major influence on the curation of our collection and vision moving forward.”