"I didn't fully trust used goods in the past, but now I would buy whatever secondhand. In many cases, they look clean, as if they had never been used," she said, adding that a flat-screen television set is an exception due to its fast development.
The secondhand market is growing rapidly, particularly for those who still want to enjoy their shopping despite the lingering economic downturn. Specialists say consumers' minds are apparently changing in Japan, where people were widely believed to be far more obsessed with new products over used goods than in other developed countries.
It used to be that secondhand goods were mainly the province of a rather limited number of people, such as antique lovers or fashionably dressed youths looking for clothes in a specific style. But the situation is gradually changing, said Miho Ohara, a senior researcher at advertising agency Hakuhodo Inc.'s Institute of Life and Living division.
On April 17, Bookoff opened its first complex to sell used books and apparel on a single, expansive floor in Akishima, western Tokyo. Next to 910 sq. meters crammed with used books, DVDs and video games — the company's mainstream lineup — stretches another 628 sq. meters of sales space with lines of yellow, purple and sky-blue T-shirts, brand-name polo shirts, jeans, caps and sunglasses.
"We are aiming to be the fast fashion retailer of used clothes by selling reasonable but stylish clothes," said Nobuhiko Hanzawa, coexecutive general manager of Bookoff's sales division. On the store's first day 2,772 customers streamed in, among them about 200 people who had lined up before the doors opened, the company said. Akiko Sato, a 47-year-old local resident, called shopping at the store "treasure hunting."
The company plans to open four bigger secondhand complexes by the end of this business year next March. Rakuten started an online marketplace for secondhand products in March 2009. From Rakuten's main site, users can jump to its secondhand marketplace, where there are some 4,500 online shops handling used goods.
Rakuten started out with personal computers and five other items: cameras, musical instruments, home appliances, games and books. The range has now widened to 27 and includes clothes, golf equipment, furniture and accessories.
For the year ending in March, total sales through Rakuten's secondhand market doubled, and sales of certain items grew even more. For instance, apparel grew 2.8 times, brand-name bags jumped 3.1 times and books were up four to five times, said Masanori Yako, who leads the secondhand sales promotion team.
The subsequent recession reduced incomes and prompted more people to turn to low-priced secondhand goods, she said. "I think another factor is that people, having become more ecologically conscious, are trying not to be so wasteful by throwing away so many things," Ohara added. "And the economic downturn has just accelerated the trend." (The Japan Times)