This holiday season, Katherine Fisher has a request to her family members buying presents for her and her children this year: No new stuff.
Fisher, a stay-at-home mom in Holden, uses Facebook groups and Craigslist to find clothes and toys for two young daughters throughout the year, and has already stockpiled gifts for her children this holiday season. For Fisher, shopping secondhand is cheaper, which makes sense for their one-income family. But it’s also far better for the planet.
“As a mom I’ve become more and more aware of climate change and conscious of the environmental impact that my consumption habits have,” she said. And so she has asked her family to avoid buying her children new things or objects made of plastic at Christmas.
That has led to some difficult conversations.
“Other family members like to buy new and give you things that we don’t need,” she said. “My mom gets really annoyed with me; she likes to choose her own gifts and she thinks I’m high maintenance.”
Fisher is among a growing subset of Americans shunning Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales, buying secondhand as a more sustainable option for gift-giving this holiday season.
Re-gifting itself is not new, of course. But as the resale market expands in the United States — estimated to double, to $52 billion, in a few years — it has made the idea of buying and giving used items far more palatable. In its survey of holiday shopping plans this year, research firm Accenture found that nearly half of all those polled said they would consider giving secondhand goods as gifts, and 56 percent said they would be open to getting them.
But that means getting everyone on the same page.
Eva Raposa is a self-described diehard environmentalist and the owner of a raw food business on Martha’s Vineyard. Three years ago, she decided to extend that sustainable sensibility to her gift-giving, and encouraged her family to visit consignment shops instead of buying her and her children new gifts.
“It created an interesting dynamic. We started having the talk with relatives, saying, ‘Listen we don’t want any of those things that are new and made in China and TJ Maxx,’ ” she said.
Some people weren’t as open to the idea, like her daughter’s godmother in Brazil. Raposa took a stand, telling her:
“This is really important to us. This is part of our value system and if you buy something made from China again, we’re going to take it to the thrift store. This is part of who I am and I’m setting an example for my daughter.”
There are slip-ups, of course, such as when her mother bought new Legos for her daughter last year. But overall, Raposa said her family has been pleasantly surprised with the great secondhand deals they’ve found for each other.
Janice Checchio, a Dorchester-based photographer, said she has spent the last six months snagging gifts for friends and family on Etsy and her neighborhood “Nothing For Sale” Facebook group. This year, she approached her parents and in-laws about finding holiday gifts for her 4-year-old son at yard sales or Craigslist.
“I’ve actually made a suggestion to my husband’s family that we welcome secondhand gifts and prefer them,” she said. And she says talking with her son about this kind of giving is a way to “sneak a little socially conscious thinking into his forming brain right now.”
Consignment stores are also targeting those shoppers specifically interested in the “responsible retail” movement, as Accenture defines it. Tam Tidwell, general manager of the Boomerangs secondhand stores in Boston and Cambridge, said she has noticed a subset of customers who are “really aware of reusing and reducing consumption.” So store associates are responding by putting “thrift your gift” tags on unique items throughout the store.
“We’re excited to fit into the sustainability trend and that kind of ‘shop small, shop local’ piece around being a responsible consumer,” she said.
Paula Rosenblum, managing partner of the RSR Research firm, said public sentiment about the resale market is shifting, even displacing fast fashion.
“Millennials are reaching an age when they want higher-quality products, and it’s a recognition that it’s a lot more ecologically sound,” she said.
And the success of the luxury consignment site The RealReal’s recent public offering earlier this year, as well as the new partnerships between online secondhand site ThredUp and Macy’s and J.C. Penney department stores, are further signs that responsible retail is coming into the mainstream.
Fisher said her mother is catching on as well, and has begun buying her daughters museum memberships and event tickets instead of new toys.
“It's not secondhand, but it is zero waste,” she said. “And experiences are gifts that I'm always happy for my kids to have.”