Providing the most comprehensive and up-to-date information and analysis of the US Circular Economy market, including the behaviours, preferences and habits of the consumer.

Circular shopping options (eg rentals and resale) continue to gain popularity across categories with both brands and consumers. While the COVID-19 pandemic has caused a negative setback, especially for rentals, the circular economy is resilient and has the potential to keep growing in competition and, most importantly, in popularity.

As consumers shop more consciously, they will continue to turn to these options for value and affordable access to high quality brands, as well as for a more sustainable way to shop. Moving forward, circular shopping options will continue to become more prominent across retail as brands look to evolve their offerings to appeal to consumers’ changing wants and needs.

As of January 2021, 37% of consumers had acquired pre-owned items in the past year, down from 43% noted in last year’s version of Mintel’s The Circular Economy – US, February 2020. The imposed lockdowns and the fear of virus transmission harmed the market without a doubt. Nonetheless, as brands continue to focus on safety measures, consumers become more comfortable with utilizing these options and the rollout of the vaccine continues, the market has been recovering.

Read on to discover more details or take a look at all of our US Retail market research.

Quickly understand

  • The impact of COVID-19 on consumer behavior and the circular economy.
  • The recessionary impact on alternative shopping options.
  • Items consumers are interested in buying secondhand/renting.
  • Attitudes toward circular shopping options.
  • Circular economy trends.
  • Circular economy market size.

Covered in this report

Brands: Rebag, Trove, Love Home Swap, Walmart, Poshmark, The RealReal, IKEA, Rent The Runway, Depop.

Expert analysis from a specialist in the field

This report, written by Marisa Ortega, a leading analyst in the Finance sector, delivers in-depth commentary and analysis to highlight current trends and add expert context to the numbers.

Alternative shopping options were not exempt from the devastating effects of the pandemic. Despite consumers’ precautions due to the coronavirus, the economic and environmental benefits of alternative options are making them stand out from traditional retail. With the rise of new ways of acquisition, opportunities among new target segments and cemented interest among younger generations, the circular economy is definitely here to stay.
Marisa Ortega
Cross-category Analyst

Table of Contents

  1. Overview

    • What you need to know
    • Key issues covered in this Report
    • Definition
    • COVID-19: US context
    • Economic and other assumptions
  2. Executive Summary

    • Top takeaways
    • Circular economy outlook
      • Figure 1: Circular Participation, January 2021
    • Impact of COVID-19 on the circular economy
      • Figure 2: Short-, medium- and long-term impact of COVID-19 on the circular economy, March 2021
    • Opportunities and challenges
    • Further adopt and expand circular shopping options across categories
    • Focus on sustainability and tangible impact
    • Streamline the process to sell personal items
  3. The Market – Key Takeaways

    • The market proves to be resilient
    • Resale is the bright spot in the economy
  4. The Market Landscape

    • Circular shopping options are poised for growth
      • Figure 3: Interest in circular shopping options
      • Figure 4: Retailers shopped, January 2021
    • Resale snapshot
    • Rental snapshot
      • Figure 5: Category Interest in renting, January 2021
    • Impact of COVID-19 on retail and the circular economy
      • Figure 6: Short-, medium- and long-term impact of COVID-19 on retail and the circular economy, March 2021
  5. Market Factors

    • High unemployment and low confidence lead to increased focus on value
      • Figure 7: Consumer confidence and unemployment, 2000- January 2021
    • The rise of social shopping communities
    • The sustainable lifestyle
    • Technology contributes to evolving the circular shopping experience
      • Figure 8: Rebag launches image recognition technology for resale
  6. Market Opportunities

    • Simplify, and gamify, the selling experience
    • Influence through the desire of owning less
    • Redefine ownership through communal living and bartering
      • Figure 9: Love, Home, Swap redefines travel
    • Leverage partnerships to expand offering and reach
      • Figure 10: Trove and Patagonia partnership
  7. Companies and Brands – Key Takeaways

    • Adopt and expand circular options
    • Meet consumers where they are and how they shop
  8. Competitive Strategies

    • Walmart partners with ThredUp to meet the evolving consumer behavior
      • Figure 11: Walmart and ThredUp partner to offer resale options
    • Poshmark expands product offering with focus on pets
      • Figure 12: Poshmark expands into pet products
    • Gucci and The RealReal focus on sustainability impact of circular fashion
      • Figure 13: the RealReal x Gucci partnership promotes luxury circular shopping
    • Ikea drives loyalty by extending the lifespan of its furniture products
      • Figure 14: Ikea launches Buy Back program
    • Rent the Runway evolves to cater to evolving consumers
      • Figure 15: RTR Swap Stop
  9. The Consumer – Key Takeaways

    • Furniture gets the spotlight as home becomes the center of everything
    • Savings and sustainability support circular shopping
    • Increased hygiene efforts are diminishing consumer cleanliness concerns
  10. Consumer Trends Impacting the Circular Economy

    • Surroundings
    • Value
    • Identity
    • Experiences
  11. Items Purchased

    • Consumers gravitate to circular shopping options across categories; furniture and clothing lead the way
      • Figure 16: Item acquisition, January 2021
    • Children’s clothing is the proof that the secondhand seed has rooted
      • Figure 17: Children’s clothing acquisition by age of children in the household, January 2021
    • The casualization trend in fashion may bring traction to rental
      • Figure 18: Everyday clothing acquisition by gender and age, January 2021
    • Men choose circular shopping options for higher-priced, infrequent purchases
      • Figure 19: Item acquisition by gender and age, January 2021
  12. Reasons to Use Alternative Shopping Options

    • Get more, with less
      • Figure 20: Reasons to use alternative shopping options, January 2021
    • Older generations are waiting for the call
      • Figure 21: Category interest by generation, January 2021
      • Figure 22: Reasons to use, or consider alternative shopping options, by generation, January 2021
    • No matter the lens, sustainability is in focus
      • Figure 23: Reasons to use or consider alternative shopping options, sustainability drivers, by generation, January 2021
    • Parents look to free up space
      • Figure 24: Reasons to use or consider alternative shopping options by parental status, January 2021
    • Rentals are piquing men’s curiosity
      • Figure 25: Reasons to use or consider alternative shopping options. by gender and age, January 2021
  13. Barriers to Using Alternative Shopping Options

    • Back end of the business is no longer unseen
      • Figure 26: Barriers to using alternative shopping options, January 2021
      • Figure 27: Educational series by rent the runway
    • Fees and complicated processes can deter consumers – especially males
      • Figure 28: Depop focuses on convenient reselling experience
      • Figure 29: Barriers to using alternative shopping options, January 2021
  14. Attitudes toward Alternative Shopping Options

    • COVID-19 presents pros and cons for circular economy
      • Figure 30: Attitudes toward shopping alternatively, January 2021
    • Alternative gives a leg up to traditional retail
      • Figure 31: Attitudes toward shopping alternatively, by generation, January 2021
  15. Appendix – Data Sources and Abbreviations

    • Data sources
    • Consumer survey data
    • Abbreviations and terms
    • Abbreviations

About the report

This market report provides in-depth analysis and insight supported by a range of data. At the same time, introductory and top-level content is provided to give you an overview of the issues covered.


Mintel provides a range of market information, frequently through the category level, including market size and forecasting, complete with market drivers that illustrate the forces that shape a category or market.


Mintel’s proprietary consumer research provides our analysts with the attitudinal and behavioral data used to provide valuable insight to topical issues.


Mintel provides overviews of the top brands and manufacturers, and uses consumer research to explore attitudes and reactions to brands, as well as insight into what will resonate with consumers.


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