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Canada's second-hand economy worth $30 billion: report

A customer looks at clothes on display at a store of a major second hand clothes importer in Hungary, in Budapest November 5, 2014. REUTERS/Bernadett Szabo

Want to help boost the Canadian economy, and put a little green back into your pocket and the planet while you’re at it?

Then go on and buy that gently-used sofa, the pre-loved hockey skates or vintage Volkswagen camper van you’ve been eyeing online.

The benefits of participating in the new-to-you market won’t stop at the smug feeling you’ll get from scoring the best deal in town.

A new study, commissioned by the online classified site Kijiji, found that our second-hand spending puts about $34 billion into Canada’s GDP and supports the equivalent of 300,000 jobs.

“By keeping the money here and re-circulating it in the Canadian economy, it has a positive effect for the economy,” Peter Spiro, an economic consultant and co-author of the Kijiji Second-Hand Economy Index, tells Yahoo Canada Finance.

It also diverts tons of excess waste from the landfill by giving products a second life.

In addition, the second-hand market is “a remarkably simple, and essentially painless, way to reduce Canada’s carbon footprint,” Spiro says.

The study is the first of its kind to examine the second-hand economy from a macro-economic and sustainability perspective, says Spiro.

It comes as spending on used goods continues to trend upwards in Canada.
We are already doling out as much as $30 billion a year in the second-hand market, about 15 per cent of the value of new goods purchased.

And no wonder: A family of four who spends a yearly average of $22,000 on new goods will save about $1,150 per year by buying used, according to the report.

Who buys second hand?

Scott Neil, manager of vertical sales for Kijiji, says more than 23 million Canadians participate in the site as either a buyer or seller over the course of a year.

“The target market is very broad, and not just traditionally what you may have thought about,” Neil said in reference to younger users.

“It is a really good selection of Canadians across all demographics,” he said.
The classified websites are so much more convenient for both buyers and sellers than past forms of second-hand markets. As more people post more used goods, more people flock to the sites to see what’s for sale.
“It creates a positive snowball factor,” Spiro says.

On average, we each grant a second life to 76 products every year, according to the Kijiji index.

The study – which included a national survey – found clothing, shoes and fashion accessories are the most popular items to purchase, followed by entertainment equipment and household appliances, and baby clothing and accessories.

Among buyers, saving money (mentioned by 75 per cent of respondents) is the most commonly cited reason Canadians shop for second-hand goods.
But the environmental feel-good factor is also an important driver, mentioned by 65 per cent of respondents. More than half, 58 per cent, named the thrill of the chase as motivation.

Authors of the report suggest that the economic argument that more consumer spending on new goods is desirable as a form of demand that stimulates the economy is “outdated.”

The vast majority of the manufactured goods that Canadians purchase are imported.

Given that, the report states, “There is an opportunity to increase employment through sustainable activities such as repair and refurbishment that reduce the dependence on imports.”