The UK's most popular cities for pre-loved purchasing
Jun 21, 2022
The second-hand shopping market in the UK has seen a resurgence in the past couple of years, with the growth of second-hand clothing expected to double in size from 2019 to 2024, while also outpacing the growth of fast fashion in the next 10 years. As a result, online searches for charity shops and second-hand furniture are growing year-on-year.
Even the way that we talk about recycled purchases has changed. What was once ‘pre-owned’ is now ‘pre-loved’, ‘old’ is now ‘vintage’ and what was once ‘scruffy’ is now lovingly referred to as ‘shabby-chic’ - all of which is great for the popularity of second-hand shops that can be found by exploring your local high street.
Given the rise in Brits buying used rather than new shopping, the UK has developed second-hand hotspots, packed with prime real estate to get vintage, upcycled and pre-loved bargains and treasures.
In order to unearth these hotspots, we’ve taken a deep dive into all things thrifty and researched the following criteria to reveal where in the UK homeowners can get the most second-hand bang for their buck:
• The number of salvage and reclamation yards (per capita)
• The number of auction houses (per capita)
• The number of second-hand furniture listings on Gumtree and Preloved (per capita)
• The number of charity shops (per capita)
34 cities with populations of over 100,000 were analysed.
Manchester is the go-to city for second-hand furniture
Second-hand furniture is a great way for first time buyers to furnish a property without breaking the bank, or for crafty homeowners to work on as an upcycling project to add custom interior details into a new home.
By analysing the number of second-hand furniture listings on Gumtree and Pre-loved, we found that Manchester is the city with the highest number of second-hand furniture listings, with 479 listings per 100,000 people.
Chelmsford (454 per capita), Preston (352 per capita), Bradford (287 per capita) and Exeter (153 per capita) also rank amongst the top cities for finding the widest selection of second-hand furniture options.
For each research criteria, we also reviewed which UK cities had the most demand for second-hand shopping based on the number of Google searches from within each city.
In addition to listings, Mancunians are the third most likely to search for second hand furniture with 81 monthly searches per capita, behind Newcastle in first place (88) and Oxford taking the second spot (82).
Exeter has the biggest choice of auction rooms in the UK
Auction rooms provide a more social and vocal alternative for second-hand shopping, whilst also being a great way to while away a day, hunting for vintage treasures.
By analysing directory listings on Yell, Exeter was revealed to be the city with the highest number of auction houses with six per 100,000 locals, ranking just ahead of Brighton.
In joint third, Chelmsford, Newcastle and Belfast all place with three auction rooms per capita. The data shows a small skew in popularity for these second-hand services in the south as only three northern cities make the top ten.
Despite being home to the largest number of auction houses, the demand for these is actually highest in Norwich, Leeds and Bradford when it comes to Google searches.
Brighton is home to the most reclamation yards per capita
The third criteria to determine which cities in the UK have the most pre-loved pickings on offer was the number of salvage and reclamation yards. With nine per 100,000 people, Brighton just edges out Chelmsford to take the top spot, with Lincoln, Norwich and Manchester rounding out the top five.
Brighton’s supply of reclamation yards is matched to the local demand as the area has comparatively high search numbers for reclamation, ranking fifth for the number of monthly Google searches.
The cities taking the top positions when it comes to reclamation search demand are Cambridge, Bristol and Norwich.
Newcastle-upon-Tyne has the most charity shops per capita
Charity shops are a popular shopping destination that springs to mind when we think second-hand and Newcastle-upon-Tyne is the city leading the way with over 100 charity shops per capita.
Rounding out the top five were Lincoln (91 per capita), Oxford (81 per capita), Dundee (79 per capita) and Brighton (77 per capita).
It is Edinburgh however that has the highest demand for charity shops. Edinburgh claimed the top spot for the term ‘charity shop’ with 1,161 searches per capita (5,400 total), followed by Brighton with 1,151 per capita (1,600 total) and in third, Cambridge with 1,010 searches per capita (1,600 total).
Despite having the highest search demand for charity shops, Edinburgh only ranks at number 11 when it comes to the highest number of charity shops per capita. Meanwhile Newcastle, despite being home to the most charity shops, only ranks at number eight when it comes to Google search demand.
*Drumroll please*…. The second-hand capital of the UK is...
We ranked the 34 UK cities against our four second-hand criteria to generate a score out 100 to reflect the pre-loved offering available in each location, with Brighton boasting an impressive 77/100, making it prime real estate for those who love to thrift, recycle and reuse.
Thanks to its healthy supply of reclamation yards and second-hand furniture shops, Chelmsford landed in second place with an overall score of 72/100.
Taking the third spot in our index was Exeter, home to the largest number of auction houses, with a good score of 65/100.
With just one point in it, the go-to destination for charity shops per capita, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, ranked fourth with 64/100, followed by a tie for fifth place between Lincoln and Manchester with 61/100.
Cambridge has the highest demand for second-hand shopping
Whilst Brighton comes top when it comes to the supply of second-hand shopping, it’s the people of Cambridge that are most frantically searching for pre-owned offerings. Despite boasting the highest intention, Cambridge ranks at just number 16 when it comes to the supply of its charity shops, second hand furniture, auction houses and reclamation yards.
Why you should shop second-hand
All the data is indicating that Brits are striving to be both more sustainable and more financially savvy through pre-loved purchasing. As a result, we have compiled a guide of the top reasons to choose second hand:
Perhaps the most obvious motivation to shop second-hand is the savings available when doing so. With the cost of living crisis affecting purse strings across the country, choosing second-hand is a quick and simple way to save money.
Second-hand can often be high quality
We have all heard our grandparents say ‘they don’t make them like they used to.’ With the introduction of mass and automated production, not all clothing and furniture can stand the test of time.
Often the quality will improve thanks to the hours of care and attention to detail that have gone into clothing and furniture production, which could indicate why vintage and period styles are still thriving in popularity decades later.
By buying pre-loved, you’re also having a positive environmental impact by divert items away from landfill. You can also do your part by selling or donating used clothing and furniture but also hardware items like old fence panels and partially used tins of paint on local second-hand sites.
Often, people can come to you to pick these items up, saving you a job of heading to your nearest refuse centre.
Support good causes
When buying second-hand from a charity shop, you are also funding charitable causes which, besides the obvious benefit to the charity, also makes you feel doubly happy about your new purchase.
Curate a unique interior and fashion style
Vintage and period items have the benefit of being scarce, allowing you to stand out from the crowd with unique and one-off fashion and interior purchases. Upcycling furniture is also a great way of owning something completely bespoke and gives you a sense of pride when visitors to your home ask where a piece is from.
The social factor
With the rise of online shopping, the social element of a trip down to your local high-street is lost. As much of the second-hand market is solely an in-person affair, shopping in this way can become an enjoyable day’s activity rather than a frantic scroll on your phone. It’s a great opportunity to rope in friends and family for the ride as sometimes it takes more than one pair of eyes to find your treasure in amongst the pre-loved piles.
Second-hand shopping has long been a cultural trend, but its recent championing by TikTok creators has given the trend a boost. There is no sign of this slowing down, in part thanks to a change in attitude, the necessity to be more money savvy and an awareness surrounding mass consumerism’s environmental impact.
So now you’re armed with a wealth of benefits to buying better with pre-loved purchases, what more excuse do you need to start opening your home to what was once considered old, used and dated and give items a new lease of life. After all, if TikTok says it’s cool, you know it’s all the rage.
We looked at 34 different cities across the UK and collected totals on the number of charity shops in a given city, the number of second-hand furniture listings on Gumtree and Preloved, the number of salvage and reclamation yards in a city, and the number of auction houses/rooms in a city. We used these totals, combined with population data, to calculate per capita stats.
Only cities with a population of over 100,000 were included in this dataset.
Reclamation/salvage totals, and auction rooms totals, were taken from Yell.
Data is correct as of January 2022. Search volume data is from February 2021 – January 2022.