Like many other things, the lockdown in India has accelerated online thrift shopping. Yet, it’s still a very niche concept in India. Practically, thrift stores primarily sell but are not limited to second-hand household goods like vessels, or furniture, and clothes. But thrifting could include shopping at garage sales and flea markets.
This concept is extremely popular in the West, and usually, the profits go to charities or churches. Thrift shopping does not only target the poor but is extremely popular amongst people on a budget like students, the middle class, activists, and minimalists. There are multiple reasons for its success in the West. Those reasons include: it is pocket-friendly, it is good for the environment as it saves energy (that usually goes into growing materials like cotton, etc.) as objects are recycled and given a new home, it caters to the need of sustainability, and almost everything is available in very good condition.
As mentioned earlier, thrifting in India started to pick up only during the lockdown. It was primarily started by school and college students and was marketed and functioned on social media platforms such as Instagram and TikTok. One of these many students is Kanya Shrivastava. She said, “During the lockdown, I realized I had many clothes that I had never worn, nor used. I did not want to throw the clothes away either though, which gave me the idea of putting them to use while also making a profit out of it.”
In theory, thrifting should be extremely helpful for people below the poverty line. But since thrifting is primarily an online activity, it might be a little difficult to market to and educate them about it. According to the ‘Household Survey on India’s Citizen Environment and Consumer Economy’, 88% of Indian households have a mobile phone. However, in 2019 the survey said, “India is expected to continue coming online at a steady pace, as recent trends have shown. However, one might wonder why that is not happening faster, given how data prices dropped with Jio’s entry a while ago.”
Next Billion (The Next Billion Users program at Google conducts research and develops products for individuals all around the world) found that 43% of India’s illiterate and poor will use the Internet by 2030. Furthermore, more than 31% of those who are not online do not know how to use the Internet at all, and more than 13% do not have access to it. However, as of now, the number of people below the poverty line online is extremely small.
From the above arguments, it is probably safe to assume that thrifting might not be an accessible option for the poor in India currently. There are only a few physical thrift stores, primarily located in metropolitan cities. That is why it will probably take a little longer for thrifting to become a viable option. An increase in access to the Internet and the opening up of more thrift stores in rural areas will definitely boost sales from those below the poverty line.
Written by: Samiksha