UK shoppers twice as likely to use buy now pay later apps than to buy secondhand clothing, research shows

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UK online shoppers have been revealed to be almost twice as likely to purchase new clothing and pay via ‘buy now pay later apps’ than to purchase cheaper secondhand clothes.

The Biggest Bargain Hunters study analysed the popularity and variety of money-saving searches made across the UK, to reveal which regions looked to stretch their budget the most in 2020, and which exhibited the most unsustainable spending when shopping online.

The study found that Brits’ fast fashion shopping habits have risen substantially over the last year during the Covid-19 lockdowns, as shoppers were more 98% likely to buy new items from unsustainable retailers than to actively seek out secondhand clothing online. 

Fast fashion – of the practice of high street retailers selling trend-based clothing that is made unsustainably and is sold at a discounted price – is a prevalent issue, as the UK buys more clothes per person than any other country in Europe, while roughly 300,000 tonnes of used clothes are destroyed each year.

At the same time as ‘buy now pay later’ apps saw almost twice the search volume of secondhand retailers, queries for ‘cheap clothes’ increased by 46.3%, while the UK’s top online retailers included Pretty Little Thing, Boohoo and Missguided.

This is despite widespread social media campaigns encouraging shoppers to purchase from independent retailers and to curb the rise of unsustainable shopping habits during lockdown. 

The increased use of ‘buy now pay later’ apps could be attributed to a rise in student shoppers, as ASOS came out on top for queries around ‘student discount’, followed by Boohoo and Pretty Little Thing. 

Brits were also found to be more likely to purchase clothing based on price rather than sustainability, with data showing Brits are 53% more likely to search for clothes that cost less than £5 – regardless of retailer or type – than those priced at £10 or more. 

On a city level, it’s Birmingham that reported the highest number of searches for ‘buy now pay later’ apps in 2020, while the North West was named the most frugal UK region of 2020.

In terms of which ‘buy now pay later’ apps Brits most often turn to when paying for hauls in instalments, Klarna dominates the market, followed by Clearpay and Zilch. 

Other findings from the study included that ‘cashback’ is the most popular search query in the UK overall, while Brits were most likely to seek out online discounts and deals from Amazon, Next or Debenhams.