Green shoots: ReTuna shopping centre

Green Shoots is our series on businesses that demonstrate the kind of change that we want to see, good examples of fair and sustainable ways of doing business. There’s an introduction to the series here, and we kicked off with the John Lewis Partnership as a model of employee ownership. This example comes from Sweden, and an intriguing circular economy twist on the shopping centre.

retunaReTuna Återbruksgalleria is a mall that only sells repaired and upcycled goods. Its 14 business units sell computers, toys, clothes, furniture, bikes and a variety of other things. Shoppers can browse these secondhand and refurbished goods and visit the cafe, which serves organic and locally sourced produce.

The mall is owned by the council, and is located on the same site as a recycling depot. When people bring in items to dispose of them, staff are able to divert and put aside anything that could be fixed up and sold on. These items are passed on to the businesses, who repair them in workshops and deliver them to the shops. It reduces waste to landfill and finds new value in items that would otherwise be thrown away.

The mall has also created over 50 jobs in repair and retail, and a conference centre and recycling training centre help to spread the word about the innovative model.

ReTuna Återbruksgalleria is located in the town of Eskilstuna, and it’s had interest from around the world. It is the first shopping centre of its kind, but it is unlikely to be the last. As we move towards a circular economy and better stewardship of resources, malls like this one could serve a useful function. Sometimes buying secondhand can also feel second best. This makes it attractive, even aspirational.

Buying secondhand can also be haphazard. In Britain the main retailers of secondhand goods are charity shops, which often have a random collection of donated clothes, a shelf of books, another of toys, and household odds and ends. A shopping centre that sorts these out makes it easier to find what you need, making a more convenient shopping experience and saving time.

It’s also interesting to see a public-private partnership at work. The shops all run as businesses, working together with the local authorities as part of the town’s recycling structures. It creates opportunities for small business, and values skills in repair.

How long until we see something like this in Britain, I wonder.

Have you got a ‘green shoots’ business that you’d like to recommend, or write about? Let us know in the comments below.

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