To buy and sell second hand counters many labels that mark out a consumer society – consumerism, materialism and the desire for something new. There are many outlets for purchasing second hand items – charity shops, car boot sales, Ebay, vintage/antique shops, local classified ads etc, with of course saving money as a key motivator. That said, cost is not the only motivator, particularly when it comes to vintage fashions or antique furniture which are desirable for their authenticity and uniqueness (making them often more expensive than purchasing new).
Research on the subject of second hand consumption is sparse (cue moi) but a French consumer study by Guiot and Roux (2010) did attempt to list the motivational factors, which are as follows,
1. Search for fair price
2. Gratificative role of price
3. Distance from the system
4. Ethics and ecology
6. Nostalgic pleasure
7. Treasure hunting
8. Social contact
As you can see, price and the pleasure gained for capturing a bargain comes first. Indeed it has been suggested by other researchers that ‘getting a bargain’ is more important than the actual item bought. How often have you heard someone say, ‘I got a great bargain!’ before they even say what they have bought. In terms of buying second hand, this is not such a bad thing, but purchasing new items just because they are a bargain (as so many of us do) is more worrying.
‘Distance from the system’ is the idea that by buying second hand you are shunning mass materialism and brand advertising and going against the grain. Consumers who shop second hand primarily for this reason will go out of their way not to line the pockets of multi national corporations. It links to the concept of recycling and reusing for the sake of the environment, indeed if you can get it second hand why add to the waste in the world by buying new?
Then there is the satisfaction of ‘treasure hunting’. This might be pleasure gained from simply rooting out a bargain, or it might be hours/weeks/years spent looking for a collector’s item. The rise of the vintage fashion store means that it is now fashionable to wear garments from the past, and why not when new garments in store are simply reinventing the fashions of previous decades. Real vintage pieces are authentic, unique and have an inbuilt biography. This is where social contact can provide more than could ever be gained from a first cycle exchange. At car boot sales for example, buyers and sellers can discuss previous histories and find a common bond over goods. Although this history can work both ways, with a key reason given by shoppers for not going into vintage or charity shops being that they don’t know where an item has been before and who has owned it. And this is seen by many as an inherently ‘risky’ activity.
Guiot, D. and Roux, D., 2010. A Second-hand Shoppers’ Motivation Scale: Antecedents, Consequences, and Implications for Retailers. Journal of Retailing, 86(4), pp. 355-371