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Buy back better

14 May, 2021

As shoppers cautiously head back to the high street, several big brands have rolled out new circular shopping initiatives. From buy-back programmes to second-hand sales, these initiatives help brands appeal to an increasingly eco-conscious customer base while also boosting their green image. But are all sustainable shopping schemes created equal?

Take furniture retailer Made.com, who recently announced a partnership which will encourage customers to give away their old furniture for free via the donation platform Geev. Commendable? Certainly. But circular? Given that the scheme is premised on purchasing new items, we prefer instead Ikea’s newly launched buy-back initiative, which will see the company market pre-loved furniture to shoppers alongside new products.

Similarly, Asda has recently partnered with a vintage clothing retailer to sell second-hand clothing in selected stores across the UK. But with brands like lululemon and Nike announcing in-house programmes to take back and resell their goods (in addition to our previous coverage of Adidas efforts in this area), it feels like Asda missed an opportunity to take ownership of the end-of-life management of its own clothing products.

We’re all looking forward to a little post-Covid retail therapy, and it’s encouraging to see more pre-loved products in the market. But as more brands move to create space for second-hand sales, it’s important that they focus on building circularity into their own business model and on critically examining their contribution to current consumption patterns.

By Louise Podmore

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