Eco-friendly and second-hand gifts increase in popularity this festive season, say op shop owners

Eco-friendly and second-hand gifts increase in popularity this festive season, say op shop owners
  • PublishedDecember 20, 2023

In research released by the Monash Business School, the 2023 Christmas Retail Trends Report, 51 per cent of Australian shoppers reported sustainability is an “important factor” when making a retail purchase. 

As consumers around the globe become more conscientious of the impact of “fast” retail, more Australians are turning their attention to resale platforms to buy quality at a lower price.

In fact, according to research published in April by Statista, in 2022 Australia’s second-hand economy was valued at $60 billion.

But how are those considerations factoring into the holiday season in 2023?

A sign says think first, buy secondhand
A sign at a Castlemaine op shop promotes sustainable purchases.(ABC Central Victoria: Tyrone Dalton)

Christmas consumers consider charity

Castlemaine op shop owner Tiffany Inglis said more people were buying Christmas presents from thrift stores to be more sustainable and to ease cost-of-living pressures.

“I think there’s a general shift away from mainstream gifts and people are trying to buy or make more interesting gifts,” Ms Inglis said.

“The cost of living is having an impact and is making it harder for people to justify buying new things.

“We’ve seen a 20 per cent increase in sales this December versus December 2022. And people are spending more on each transaction.”

To reduce waste, some residents are buying second-hand glasses and plates from the op shop for a Christmas party and then returning them once the party is over.

She said she was seeing an increase in bargain-hunters upcycling preloved items or making things for sustainable Christmas gifts.

“People are thinking about it a lot more. There’s a lot of information about where our stuff ends up … that’s distressing for people,” she said.

“There was a stigma around second-hand … that’s beginning to change and people are more willing to accept second-hand gifts.”

a woman smiles holding a stack of christmas hand towels
Castlemaine op shop owner Tiffany Inglis.(ABC Central Victoria: Tyrone Dalton)

Trash or treasure?

On the west coast of Victoria, Colleen Hughson can often be found combing the beach.

The eco-warrior from Beach Patrol volunteers to pick up litter as it washes ashore every week. The most common finds include fishing lines, plastic bottles, bottle caps, and even shoes.

Ms Hughson has been finding ways to turn the trash into treasure.

“About six weeks ago I started making earrings for friends and family and they were like, you have to start selling these,” Ms Hughson said.

“I’ve been making the earrings out of the broken-up plastic embedded in resin and hanging from hooks.”

After two community markets and dozens of successful purchases, Ms Hughson said it was a great way to raise awareness of marine debris.

“I’ve been collecting [plastic waste] for six years … having conversations about the waste is part of selling those earrings.

“I’ve sold about 80 pairs already and I only started making them five weeks ago.

“I’ve noticed my attitude to plastic waste has changed … I often look at it like, oh, it’s a blight and hasn’t had a purpose once I’ve collected it. So it’s really lovely to create something with it, and give it a new life.”

West Warrnambool Neighbourhood House coordinator Jill Bourke has been hosting creative decoration-making sessions over the past few weeks using marine debris, in part supplied by Ms Hughson.

“People let loose with their imagination,” Ms Bourke said.

“[There were] wreaths made from tangled fishing lines, some people made cards.

“I think it brought about a lot of awareness when we were doing our own Christmas shopping and being like ‘Oh, it’s such a waste, so much plastic.'”

a plastic santa
This Father Christmas decoration was made from plastic marine waste.(Supplied: West Warrnambool Neighbourhood House)

Reworn and reloved

Every month Jacqui Jarvis helps organise a second-hand market in Ballarat that has clothing stalls, gifts and pre-loved goodies.

The Reworn Market held a Christmas edition this year, and Ms Jarvis said the popularity of the market was a testament to a shift in consumer attitudes.

“I think most people come for that sustainable and environmental side of things,” she said.

“Some come because they can get brands they may have never have been able to afford before … and they can get them at hugely discounted rates.”

women look through racks of clothes
The Ballarat Reworn Christmas market raised $2,000 for locals in need.(Supplied: Rochelle Tournier-Jarvis)


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