Over the last few years, interest in sustainability and what this means for the environment has skyrocketed, especially when it comes to furnishings. Over 22 million pieces of reusable furniture are thrown away every year, couple this with the growing cost of living crisis, and you’ll find that many people are seeking out cheaper and more ethical alternatives to furnish their homes. From buying at charity shops and antique fairs; to scouring flea markets and car boot sales. Old furniture sourced at these locations can be easily spruced up or restored with new fixtures like cabinet knobs and drawer handles.
But which cities are the most popular locations for thrifters? We've taken a look at Google search data to reveal the areas with the highest demand for thrifting shops and upcycled furniture to show how this demand has changed over the last two years. We’ve also taken a look at the proportion of car boot sales and antique shops in each city to reveal the best locations for bargain hunters!
The most popular cities for thrifting
Cambridge 3,224 searches per 10,000 people
Cambridge can be crowned the most popular city for thrifting, with well over 3,000 searches for second-hand shops over the past 12 months. Vintage shops and flea markets have always been a part of Cambridge’s shopping scene, playing host to plenty of quirky shops packed to the rafters with historic trinkets and antique furniture, and its a major hub when it comes to secondhand books too.
York 3,061 searches per 10,000 people
If you’re looking for a bargain, York’s second-hand shops are some of the most popular places to find them, with thrift-related searches per 10,000 people totalling just over 3,000 over the last 12 months. The city is home to a wide array of vintage and antique shops selling everything from vintage wedding dresses and rare designer pieces to retro lifestyle and homeware., so its no surprise it takes second place.
Lincoln 3,034 searches per 10,000 people
As people become more aware of the environmental impact of their shopping habits, buying second-hand has skyrocketed in popularity as shoppers want to avoid the resource-intensive nature of brand-new goods. Few are more aware of this than the residents of Lincoln as the city ranks third when it comes to second-hand-related searches with 3,034 per 10,000 people.
The most popular cities for upcycled furniture
Dundee 744 searches per 10,000 people
Buying furniture second-hand doesn’t just start and end with cheaper prices. If you know what you’re looking for you can often find durable high-quality craftsmanship guaranteed to last a lifetime. When it comes to searches for second-hand furnishings, Dundee takes the top spot with 744 per 10,000 people.
Carlisle 671 searches per 10,000 people
Nobody wants to have the same furniture as everyone else, and buying second-hand is the perfect way to show off your unique tastes and express your personality by getting your hands on rare items no one else will own. Residents of Carlisle know this better than most as the city has 671 searches per 10,000 people for second-hand furniture.
Edinburgh 490 searches per 10,000 people
A key advantage of buying second-hand furniture is that it’s infinitely and easily customisable. Upcycling old furniture is one of the most popular interior decor trends today and there are plenty of how-to guides online on how to repaint, repair and redesign old furniture. Edinburgh takes third place for upcycled furniture searches with 490 per 10,000 people
The cities with the biggest increase in thrifting searches
Chelmsford 42% increase in search volume
The market for second-hand goods has skyrocketed in popularity over recent years thanks to more environmentally conscious shoppers, with UK high streets being home to an estimated 3,800 charity and second-hand shops. Chelmsford has seen the biggest increase in the popularity of thrifting with a 42% year-on-year increase in second-hand-related searches.
Armagh 40% increase in search volume
The popularity of thrifting isn’t just confined to brick-and-mortar shops, online shopping for second-hand goods through apps has now made it easier than ever to buy and sell pre-loved goods like clothing and furniture. Up next is Armagh, with the Northern Irish city experiencing a 40% increase in searches for thrift and vintage shops over the last two years, landing it in second place.
Derry/Londonderry 32% increase in search volume
Taking third place is the second Northern Irish city on the list. Derry/Londonderry has seen a 32% increase in searches between 2021 and 2023. The city is leading the way when it comes to second-hand and pre-loved goods, with plenty of charity shops in the city centre all within walking distance of each other.
The cities with the biggest increase in upcycled furniture searches
Salford 58% increase in search volume
Upcycling furniture appeals to many crafty shoppers as, after only a little effort, you can make an ordinary piece of furniture truly your own by customising it with a fresh coat of paint or a few small repairs. Salford is the city seeing the highest rise in searches for upcycled furniture since 2021 with terms like “second-hand furniture” and “upcycled furniture” increasing by 58%.
Stirling 56% increase in search volume
Upcycling is very much on trend at the moment as environmental concerns have made many people conscious about reducing the amount of waste going into landfills, and upcycling is the perfect way to cut down on waste and give a unique touch to space. The citizens of Sterling are championing the recycling trend, with searches in the area increasing by 56% over the last two years.
Newport 54% increase in search volume
Upcycling is a key aspect of the circular economy, the idea that nothing should go to waste and goods should be kept in circulation for as long as possible to avoid using new materials as they become scarcer. The citizens of the Welsh coastal city of Newport have fully embraced this idea, with a 54% rise in searches for upcycled furniture over the last two years.
The cities with the most antique shops
Birmingham 145 antique shops
Antique shops often have rare and unusual finds that could liven up a space by adding some old-world charm and make a statement even if it's just one piece amongst more contemporary furnishings. The citizens of Birmingham are spoilt for choice when it comes to places to find these rare gems, with 145 antique shops.
Leeds 139 antique shops
Up next is Leeds, playing host to 139 antique shops. Despite trends in the interior design world changing rapidly from season to season, antique shops are still in high demand in the city as they stock classic stylish furnishings which never go out of fashion.
Liverpool 127 antique shops
Antique furniture appeals to a lot of thrifty people as it is often cheaper than buying brand new “fast furniture” and it’s already stood the test of time so you can guarantee it is high quality and built to last. Taking third place is Liverpool, with the city being home to 127 antique shops.
The cities with the most car boot sales
Worcester 30 car boot sale locations
Car boot sales are a great way to declutter your space, getting rid of things you don’t need anymore without just throwing them away, and you could pick up a bargain in the process. Worcester has the highest number of car boot sale locations with 30.
Chelmsford 28 car boot sale locations
This city in Essex is home to one of the most popular car boot sales in the country, which for more than 20 years has run every weekend from March to November. Chelmsford takes second place with 28 car boot sale locations.
Stoke-on-Trent 19 car boot sale locations
Rounding out the top three is Stoke-on-Trent, with 19 car boot sale locations. Car boot sales in this Staffordshire city are the perfect place to find not just everyday items that might be useful around the house, but rare and unusual vintage finds while having a fun day out in the process too!
Beginning with a list of UK cities, to find the most popular cities for thrifting, we took the total annual search volumes from March 2022 to February 2023 for “antique fairs [city]”, “antique shops [city]”, “car boot sales [city]”, “charity shops [city]”, “second-hand shops [city]”, and “flea markets [city]” according to Google Ads. This was compared to the total annual search volumes from March 2021 to February 2022 to find the percentage difference.
To find the most popular cities for upcycling, we took the total annual search volumes from March 2022 to February 2023 for “second-hand furniture [city]”, “vintage furniture [city]“ “used furniture [city]” “upcycled furniture [city]” “refurbished furniture [city]” “preloved furniture [city]” “nearly new furniture [city]” “pre-owned furniture [city]”. This was compared to the total annual search volumes from March 2021 to February 2022 to find the percentage difference.
The total number of antique shops and car boot sales in each area was taken from Yelp.
Population figures were taken from The ONS.