How Italians shop (and what they buy): second-hand and online items

It’s called the “second-hand economy”, literally “second-hand goods economy” and is taking on a specific shape and weight. During the pandemic, especially in the middle of the cloister, we realized that we had superfluous products and that we needed to save, a combination that helped to break those residual psychological resistances that made us refractory to the products used.


Italians are growing online: eight out of ten

This is the photograph taken from the eighth edition of the report prepared by the Second-Hand Economy Observatory 2021 and edited by BVA Doxa on behalf of Subito, an online sales platform that, in 2019, registered 13 million unique monthly users. The report was made between February and March 2022 on a sample of 2,074 people contacted by phone or via the web.

To understand the evolution of the second-hand market from the inside, we took the opinion of Giuseppe Pasceri, CEO of

A 24 billion market

During 2021, the purchase and sale of used cars reached a total of 24 billion euros and 23 million people participated with an average per capita expenditure of just over a thousand euros. Online has an increasingly massive contribution and constitutes 49% of the entire sector, reaching a value of 11.8 billion, a strong growth compared to the 5.4 billion achieved in 2014. It must therefore be considered that the combination second-hand and digital is becoming more and more solid. Offline marketplaces and the sale of used products among acquaintances or through word of mouth are making room for the web.

the online market

Since 2014, or since the Second-Hand Economy Observatory monitors market trends, the percentage of people who buy used products online has gone from 30% to 70% (2021 number), the percentage of those who sell online has increased from 45% to 72%.

Online is becoming more and more vital for the used car market as well. Subito wanted to give a new impetus to this trend, creating TuttoSubito, a service that ensures both the shipment of the products sold and the payment by the buyer. “A paradigm shift that, a few months after its launch, is very positive. Working in this segment with real innovation benefits everyone”, says Pasceri.


Drones and home deliveries, the invasion that didn’t happen

by Simone Cosimi

2021 was the year that online shopping overtook offline purchases. The most loyal customers are Gen Z (born between 1997 and 2010), then millennials (born between 1981 and 1996), Generation X (born between 1960 and 1980) and Baby Boomers.

What tips the scales towards online is speed (49% of those surveyed), wide choice (43%) and the convenience of managing a purchase or sale from home (41%). I also like the possibility of negotiating the price and the possibility of dialogue between buyer and seller.

What we buy online and offline

Online, the sports and hobbies, electronics and vehicles sectors stand out. Offline channels are preferred for shopping which Subito makes fall into the home and person category. Also good clothes and accessories.

The generations that buy play a different role. Baby boomers, that is, the older ones, tend to buy offline while, looking again at the data for 2021, Generation Z is very active online but does not despise traditional shopping channels.

What we sell online and offline

Offline they mainly sell furniture and household items, books and magazines. The main players are still the young generation Z, active online in the sports and hobbies, vehicles and electronics categories.

While women do not give particular importance to the sales channel, men prefer online channels, keeping an eye out for offline as well (in 28 cases out of 100).

electronics and used

Second-hand electronics in 2021 achieved a global turnover of 4.1 billion euros. Online channels are chosen by 54% of buyers and 43% of sellers.

A sector revitalized by the pandemic that forced many to equip themselves with tools for agile work and distance learning. Even purchases of consoles and video games – which experienced a strong boost during periods of seclusion – contributed to the increase in numbers.

Why do we sell second hand?

The lack of use of an object is the main reason that leads us to part with it, followed by the desire to move to a more advanced model than we have. The needs born during the pandemic and economic needs, together, determine the sale of one in five objects.

Baby boomers are most likely to sell what they don’t use, evictions push millennials to part with unnecessary possessions. The reasons are mainly related to the desire to get rid of unnecessary objects (79%), linked to sustainability (44%) and profit making (39%).

The reasons that may be linked to sustainability are mainly three: 54% of those participating in the second-hand product market recognize that it is useful for the environment, 50% appreciate the possibility of giving products a second life and, for 48%, it is a smart way to make the circular economy.

A growing market

72% of those who buy used and 76% of those who sell now are regulars. One in three people (29%) buy used at least once a month and 43% at least twice a year. On the other hand, 23% of those who sell do so at least once a month and 46% at least once a semester. “In 2021, more than 3 billion searches were carried out on Subito, visits are also growing and the number of ads, almost 50 million, published throughout the year”, explains Pasceri. Numbers that lead us to bet on the online second-hand sector: “In the coming years we want to invest in resources and people, in technology and innovation to make the market increasingly fluid and closer to people. One of our mantras is user centricity.”

The pandemic affected the growth in turnover: “If we look at the trajectory of the second-hand market we see that it has been growing continuously over the last fifteen years, if we look in particular at 2020 we see that there is a slight decline due to the lockdown during which people could not meet. Coming out of this dark moment for all of us, what we perceive is a continuation of this trend of accelerated growth. The change in lifestyle due to the pandemic has benefited this market, “explains Pasceri.

The sale and purchase of used products is becoming an attitude that loses the harmful connotation linked to necessity and is increasingly considered smart and synonymous with sustainability, the report concludes.

The cultural bias towards second-hand products is changing, as Pasceri illustrates: “The second-hand market has gone through several phases in recent decades, with the arrival of online having been seen as a smart way to save money. There is a cultural factor, especially in our country, where some categories of used products are rarely used. In France, this market is ahead in terms of acceptance. In fact, in recent years, also thanks to the pandemic, but not only, there has been a cultural change on the part of Italians. Today, second hand is no longer an alternative market, but it is central. The research carried out with DOXA confirms that those who use second hand do not use it as an alternative, but many Italians see it as a real sales channel and online simplifies a lot”.


“Subito was born in Milan in 2007, founded by Schibsted, the largest Scandinavian-Norwegian media company,” explains Pasceri. “After almost fifteen years it is among the ten most visited sites in Italy and is part of the Adevinta group, a spinoff of Schibsted, listed on the Oslo stock exchange and present in sixteen countries”.

In addition to the website, Subito also offers mobile apps (here for Android, here for iOS) that have been downloaded 6.5 million times. It immediately has 49 million ads published (up 15% from 2020) and 135 million average monthly visits (46% from apps, 41% via mobile site and 13% via desktop). There are 300 employees and 2.6 million daily users (+10.6% compared to 2020).

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top