Cash-strapped Scots are selling belongings and buying second-hand to help get through the cost-of-living crisis.

Second-hand goods were once seen as other people’s unwanted cast-offs and buying them regarded as a sign of being a bit down on your luck.

However, it’s now emerged that a rising number of cash-strapped Scots are turning to buying second-hand clothes, other people’s unwanted household goods and old toys for their children to ease the strain of the cost-of-living crisis.

New research by the Centre for Economics and Business Research (CEBR) also shows significant numbers of Scots are selling their belongings for extra cash to help make ends meet.

In both cases – whether buying or selling – Scots pointed to the cost-of-living crisis as being the key reason for turning to the “pre-loved, pre-owned” marketplace.

The research showed the main items being bought and sold are everyday basics such as clothes, books, footwear, and toys and games. The latter in particular raises the prospect of children finding second-hand gifts under the tree this Christmas.

It comes after a string of warnings from charities and poverty organisations over rising pressure on food banks and soaring energy bills pushing more Scots into fuel poverty.

To add to the stress on households, mortgage bills are set to soar following the Bank of England move to raise interest rates by 0.75% to 3%.

Peter Kelly, director of the Poverty Alliance, said: “The present costs crisis is part of a decades-long injustice, where people have been denied incomes that are adequate enough for a life of dignity and security.

“When that happens, people look at other ways to get the money they need– so it’s no surprise that more of us are selling our possessions.

“Sometimes that might be clothes that we no longer wear – but sometimes people are forced to part with items that have real sentimental or practical value just to make ends meet.

“That’s completely unjust. We can build a better future by strengthening our social security and boosting wages, so that selling things becomes a fun way to get a bit of extra cash, rather than a means to live.”

According to the research, 79% of Scots are using online marketplaces to boost their income by selling their “pre-loved” items, with 62% saying they were selling due to rising household bills and nearly half (47%) because they want extra income.

While 34% said they are more likely to sell belongings now than 12 months ago – a sign of how the squeeze on incomes is beginning to bite.

The research, carried out by CEBR along with used car marketplace, Motorway, found that as well as raiding wardrobes and lofts for items to sell, Scots are buying second-hand too.

Almost three quarters (72%) said they were trying to save money as opposed to supporting charity shops or for environmental reasons.

That trend is expected to continue, with 43% saying they expect to spend more on second-hand items over the next year.

The research adds that the UK’s pre-loved economy has ballooned to an £6.5bn - an increase of 48% since 2020, suggesting the pandemic and cost of living pressures are behind the rise.

And with dire warnings of a long, difficult recession ahead, the research also suggests the second-hand market will grow by upwards of 15% in each year between 2024 and 2027 to a value of £12.6bn – around double its current value.

At UK level, it found more than half of those buying second-hand goods (57%) would prefer to purchase new instead, indicating the shift is driven by need rather than a simple change in preferences.

Owen Good, Head of Economic Advisory at CEBR said: “Our analysis highlights the considerable contribution of the pre-loved market to the UK economy at £6.5 billion, with the total value of the market expected to double over the next five years, highlighting the traction pre-loved goods have gained amongst consumers.

“This is especially pertinent given the ongoing cost-of-living crisis and severely dampened spending power of consumers, with our research finding that the value offered by the pre-loved market is a key driver of its growth over the last several years.”

News that Scots are turning to selling possessions and buying second-hand follows a report from the Joseph Rowntree Foundation last month which warned nearly one in five low income households in has already gone both hungry and cold this year.

Its Poverty in Scotland 2022 report found one in ten (11%) of large families have accessed a food bank and over one in five (22%) had resorted to selling household belongings to make ends meet. The figure is higher (24%) among families where someone has a disability.

Other groups have already highlighted the impact of the crisis: Age Scotland says its research has shown four in ten (42%) of over-50s are struggling to pay their fuel bills, while the cost-of-living crisis has sparked a warning that the NHS in Scotland could be crippled by a toxic mix of Covid, flu cases and vulnerable people suffering from the impact of cold and hunger.

John Dickie, Director of Child Poverty Action Group in Scotland, said: "It's great that people are seeing value in second-hand, pre-loved possession, reducing waste and landfill but it's also vital we remember that no family should ever need to sell important possessions to make ends meet. 

"A vibrant ‘pre-loved’ economy needs to be part of an economy that delivers people decent wages and a social security system that means they are able to pay the bills and buy the things their children need for the best possible start in life.”

Audrey Flanagan, of Glasgow’s South East Food Bank, said: “The thought of people selling their belongings to get by is extremely sad, but I suspect people on very low incomes have been doing this for a long time.

“They probably wouldn’t even think of telling us they were doing it because it has become normal for them to buy second-hand and to sell what they can.”

Although an increase in buying and selling second-hand goods has environmental benefits, the CEBR research shows only 37% of Scots saw waste prevention and the environment as the key factor for selling, and 39% for buying second-hand.

One factor fuelling the shift is said to be the boom in online marketplaces and apps like Vinted and Depop: the percentage of second-hand goods sold that way has jumped from 57% in 2017 to 74% in 2022.

That, along with findings that suggest shoppers are more motivated by finding a bargain than supporting charity when shopping for second hand good may raise concerns for Scottish charities, whose high street shops rely on donations of clothes, bric-a-brac and books.

However, Zero Waste Scotland, which supports more than 100 charity shops through its Revolve certification scheme, said its research suggests 49% of Scots are motivated to buy second-hand because they are better for the environment.

A spokesperson said: “The reuse sector has been steadily growing over the years, as more and more people realise the benefits of purchasing high-quality previously-owned goods.

“Buying second hand is better for both purse and planet and can even help others by raising money for good causes.

“It’s important to remember that everything – even second-hand items – have a carbon cost and where possible, we should all be looking to keep things in use for as long as possible. “In doing so we can help preserve the planet’s resources and secure a sustainable future for generations to come.”