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Chinese second-hand platforms expand to circular economies

Xianyu and Zhuanzhuan, two of China’s largest and most popular secondhand trading platforms, have recently begun pushing new narratives for their e-commerce businesses.

Stepping out of the boundary of a “secondhand trading platform”, Xianyu has begun to push operational sellers to the forefront of its platform. Meanwhile, in November 2022, Zhuanzhuan held a brand upgrade conference, bearing its new slogan “Secondhand Saves the World”. The secondhand platform announced that Zhuanzhuan would no longer be just an Internet e-commerce company, but a circular fashion brand as well. So far, the platform has invested $100 million in Hongblin, a well-known domestic recycling fashion lifestyle platform.

“Many people’s previous impression of Zhuanzhuan may be an e-commerce platform for buying and selling idle items, but this year we have transformed ourselves into a circular economy industry company,” said a representative during Zhuanzhuan’s brand upgrade conference.

The recent move reflects the increasingly challenging market of secondhand e-commerce. In the first half of 2022, the scale of secondhand e-commerce transactions amounted to 240.12 billion RMB ($34 billion) with expectations to reach 480.24 billion RMB ($69 billion) by the end of the year, a year-on-year increase of 20%. However, in the most profitable year of 2016, the growth rate in the industry was close to a staggering 700%, which has clearly slowed down since then.

However, Xianyu and Zhuanzhuan are not the only e-commerce giants dipping their toes into this market. In March 2022, Douyin launched its “Secondhand Goods” channel, dedicated to the sale and recycling of secondhand goods. Through short videos and live broadcasts, not only can users better understand the products themselves, but also play contribute to its recycling and consignment services.

As such, Xianyu and Zhuanzhuan must tread carefully as other e-commerce giants aim to swoop up their target audience.


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