The $34-billion Canadian Industry Nobody Ever Measured

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Image: Lauren Jong

Image: Lauren Jong

On average most of us granted a second life to 76 things last year. In Kitsilano, where we have a lot of young families and students as well as a neighbourhood tendency toward eco-awareness, the results are higher. Smart phones, baby gear, cars, textbooks, and more were all bought and sold second-hand.

How do we know? Kijiji just launched the first-of-its-kind index of Canada’s second hand economy. Although this alternative marketplace is overlooked by formal economic statistics, it’s obvious that second hand sales in Canada have been growing swiftly of over the last decade. Canadian consumers spend close to $200 billion on new durable and semi-durable consumer goods. It turns out that the second-hand economy adds up to $34 billion. That’s about 15 per cent of the value of new goods purchased. It’s only going to get bigger.

Why is the second-hand economy growing?  First,  free online classified sites make it easier than ever to connect buyers and sellers. Second, there is a more awareness and concern about social responsibility, the environment, and reducing waste. Canada is acknowledged to be a heavy user of world resources and as a result, a growing level of consciousness that we need to contribute to global sustainability and reusing goods is an ideal way to do it.

It makes sense to encourage the growth of the second hand economy for reasons that go beyond the environment. Unlike the market for new goods, most of which are imported, the money spent on used goods keeps dollars in the Canadian economy. Also, individuals save money by buying and selling used. On average, a family of four that participates in Canada’s second hand economy saves $1,150 per year.

Which regions are the best at buying and selling used?

British Columbia had an average level of intensity in second hand practices, buying and selling an average of 74 items per year. The prairies and Alberta appear significantly more engaged in second-hand practices, respectively granting a second life to 115 and 106 products. Quebec registered the lowest score with 50.

The most common second hand items bought in sold in Canada are clothing, entertainment equipment and baby gear. Here are the most popular items Vancouerites are searching for in the online classifieds.

Kitsilano has a high density of young families and has a lot of turnover in the baby items category. We also have a higher than average Vancouver density because of the UBC student marketplace. Students resell many items, but most commonly textbooks and furniture.

How often do you buy or sell used? Why or why not?

Last modified: March 4, 2015

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