Where do all the wellies go?

I have been struggling to source a pair of secondhand wellies and a rain jacket for my 3 year old son recently. I am left wondering why the supply of secondhand clothes for young boys is so low.
This is a photo of kids wellies taken outside in a park or a wooden area.
Photo by Gemma Evans available on Unsplash

The secondhand market kids clothes is expanding in the UK. So much so that, early March, the Financial Times — not a publication renowned to pay a lot of attention to small people- dedicated an article to the fashion trend.

“The resale market for children’s fashion is getting bigger and glossier”, the newspaper noted as department store Selfridges opened a new space dedicated to luxury ‘preloved’ kids clothes.

It’s a trend that I had noticed as well and applauded. Still, seven months later, the market is not big enough for me and my friend Julie to find secondhand waterproof gear for our sons — both aged 3- in just a few clicks or visits to nearby charity shops in our area of North West London.

Last week, scouring the internet, I was reminded how time consuming buying pre-owned clothes for boys well out of babyhood is — something that I had happily forgotten about since the last time I had gone through the same frustrating experience.

I keep telling myself that it is not wasted time because of the money saved and, above all, because of the natural resources spared by not buying a brand new item of clothing. There is nothing more sustainable than buying a piece of kit that doesn’t need manufacturing, packaging and shipping from the other side of the planet.

Nevertheless, I wish to spend less time shopping for my son.

“Where do all the wellies go?”, I keep wondering, wishing I could make up a tune or even better a kids’ story about the welly hunt.

Some of the reasons why they aren’t more kids’ clothes — especially boys- available are quite obvious.

First, brands’ offer for boys is more limited than their girls’ range. Lisa Marucci, the founder of Slof (Slow fashion for Kids), a website that praises itself in selling “affordable, sustainable and luxury” clothes for babies, toddlers and more grown up children, confirms.
“For example as ‘bottoms’ for girls you would have trousers, shorts, skirts, skorts, leggings, dresses, tights etc. whereas boys would be more limited to trousers or shorts. (…) I also think there is less variety in terms of colours/styles. Certainly when I started this I would get a lot of the same in for boys i.e. blue or black trousers”, Lisa explains by email.



Second, in general, the demand for ‘preloved’ clothes exceeds the offer because families hold on to clothes in order to use them again for their younger children and/or pass them onto nieces, nephews and friends.

Photo of a child taken from behind. The child is wearing a rucksack and a yellow jacket. He’s outdoors.
Photo by Daiga Ellaby on Unsplash

By the time the clothes have been worn by 2 or 3 kids, most of the garments are, at best, well used. I suspect lots of parents don’t see much value in spending time sorting out the clothes in order to advertise them on online platforms. That would explain, partially, why 350 000 tonnes of clothes end up in landfill each year in the UK.

Even taking this into consideration, I am baffled by the scarcity of secondhand clothes for sale for my child’s demographic. Surely, there are only so many pairs of shoes and jackets that can fit in your porch area and wardrobes, right?

What I’ve learned through my recent quest is that no all wellies are created equal. Quality is an issue.

Jojo Maman Bebe’s waterproof footwear, for example, have a litany of bad reviews on their website. Lots of buyers complain that the wellies very quickly split at the ankles. I found it quite surprising as Jojo Maman Bebe is an upmarket brand with the reputation of manufacturing good quality clothes and I haven’t had any issues with clothes I bought from them.

Quality kids clothes get snapped up very quickly. It’s wise to browse your favourite specialist websites quite regularly.

I have to admit that eBay is a good place to source clothes for my son, even though I am not a big fan of bidding. Having to come up with a bidding strategy for any item, let alone a rain jacket, is not something that I do with great enthusiasm. Mental overload alert!

Buying clothes ahead of time, as in one or two years ahead, is also a way to smooth out the hunting process. Agathe Fontaine, the founder of Family Affaire, an online business selling high end preloved children’s clothes, tells me it’s the best way to save money.

I’ve come to realise that buying in advance also forces you to clear your child’s wardrobe regularly instead of waiting until it bursts out with stuff and you start piling up on shelves in his room and other rooms of the house (yes, I am talking about me).

White chair with a neat pile of folded clothes.
Photo by Sarah Dorweiler on Unsplash

Armed with Agathe’s advice, I prepared a bag of toddler’s clothes to send to Eco Mama & Babe buy back scheme — mostly Jojo Maman Bebe items that I had bought for my son brand new when he was a baby and I was too sleep deprived to shop secondhand.

The website, which was launched last year, offers to buy back a wide range of quality British brands whether they were originally bought from their website or not (more details here).

Family Affaire also buys clothes from customers. They keep 50% of our sale prices and offer home pick up when possible. They sell a wide range of British and French brands — high end ones such as Bonpoint, Jacadi and Petit Bateau but also Boden, Joules and John Lewis. 

I suspect that the economic crisis provoked by the Covid pandemic could boost the secondhand clothes market for children. That, in turn, may force the more sustainable brands to step up their game.

Toddler with curly blond hair wearing a red polo and flexing his arms. Water in the background.
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

I wish Frugi, which was a pioneer in its sector 15 years ago and is a market leader, would have a buy back programme similar to Eco Mama & Babe. It could only reinforce the loyalty of their existing customers and make them truly sustainable.

Where do you buy your kids’ clothes from? Have you ever bought second hand clothes for them? I’d be interested to know what your experience is. Please leave a comment below.