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Cost of living crisis: shoppers turn to second-hand appliances

A strain on households’ finances caused by the cost-of-living crisis is pushing shoppers to second-hand electrical goods as an alternative to new, a new survey reveals.

Research commissioned by consumer safety charity, Electrical Safety First, shows more than 40% of consumers are considering buying second-hand electricals as an alternative to brand new products, specifically due to the cost-of-living crisis, as households continue to feel the squeeze.[i]

More than 2,000 UK adults were surveyed across the UK as part of the Charity’s work to highlight the unintended safety consequences of the cost-of-living crisis as part of its ‘Saving Safely’ campaign.

Further findings revealed that of those who had purchased second-hand electrical goods in the last 12 months, more than 1 in 3 said their decision to do so was entirely influenced by the current cost-of-living crisis.[ii]

The charity is urging the public to ensure they perform spot checks of older, second-hand electrical goods that could present a risk due to damage, years of wear and tear or be subject to a safety recall.

Clothes, Kitchen Appliances & Handheld devices:

Analysis into the types of second-hand goods shoppers have purchased in the last 12 months, due to the cost-of-living crisis, shows clothes and books topped the list, whilst 1 in 6 consumers had purchased a second-hand white good, such as a fridge, tumble dryer or washing machine.

Second-hand handheld smart gadgets, such as mobile phones and tablets proved popular amongst those surveyed with 1 in 7 having purchased one, whilst almost 10% had bought beauty appliances, such as hairdryers or hair straighteners, second-hand.[iii]

Younger shoppers:

The research by Electrical Safety First also indicates that financial pressures caused by the cost-of-living crisis may be hitting younger people hardest, specifically in relation to consumer purchasing habits of electrical goods.

Of all age groups surveyed about their likeliness to purchase second-hand electrical goods, in place of new, due to the cost-of-living crisis, almost two thirds of 25-34 year-olds admitted they were more likely to do so – higher than any other group.[iv]

Trusted retailers:

eBay and Facebook Marketplace were the most prominent go-to places for second-hand electrical goods amongst general consumers, as community culture for shopping grows. In-person community shopping also proved popular for those surveyed with more than 1-in-6 having purchased a second-hand electrical good from a car boot sale.[v]

Yet second-hand goods purchased online and at community led events, such as car boots sales, can introduce a level of risk, as individual sellers may not perform adequate checks to ensure the products they are selling-on are safe.

Further research found that just over 1 in 4 shoppers checked if their purchase was subject to a safety recall, whilst almost half did not check for any visible damage to the cable or plug of the product.[vi]

Research showed that 48% of consumers who had purchased a second-hand electrical item in the past had experienced issues with it, including around 1 in 6 saying the item did not work correctly or at all.[vii] More concerningly 1 in 8 reported issues with overheating of the product they purchased.[viii]

Electrical Safety First is warning consumers to protect themselves with some simple checks before parting with their cash so that their saving does not end up being a costly mistake.

Martyn Allen, Technical Director of Electrical Safety First, commented: “With the dramatic rise of household bills, it’s no wonder consumer spending is shifting towards second-hand goods, as an alternative to new. However, buyers should beware their savvy shopping doesn’t turn into a costly mistake.

“Check the product you’re buying isn’t recalled and that it is fitted with a UK plug. Ensure cables aren’t frayed or wires exposed and always register a second-hand product when you get it home. Second-hand goods can be great for saving money and better for the environment, but no purchase should ever leave you at risk.

“Some charity shops have processes in place to ensure electrical goods are safe for resale, such as the British Heart Foundation and are a safer alternative for households to buy with confidence.”

Allison Swaine-Hughes, Retail Director at the British Heart Foundation, said: “The BHF’s 180 home stores are the biggest high street retailers of preowned electrical goods in the UK, selling over 40,000 TVs on average each year. You’ll have complete peace of mind and be confident that every donated electrical item we sell has been function tested to work correctly and is safe to use. Every item is also independently PAT tested (portable appliance testing) and labelled to show it has been checked.

“Customers can buy in confidence knowing we provide a six month guarantee on all donated electrical items and in the event of any problem with the item, all we ask is customers provide a proof of purchase when returning it to us.”

For more information on checking for product recalls, safety ceritfication labels, and more, visit the Electrical Safety First website here

Last updated 08 November 22