Is second-hand going to be the new normal?

Households have an average of 20,000 personal belongings – many of which are never used. Every time I walk around the house, I see opportunities to bring this average down. I (almost) only buy things I really need, and yet I still see items that are mouldering away. Empty notebooks, pans, tennis rackets, a juicer and a blender, crockery, or clothes I no longer wear. Books the children are too old for. Bed linen in the wrong size, or boots that don’t fit well. They are often beautiful, high quality, and deserve a second life.

Berlin has come up with an answer to this. The local authorities have opened a department store selling second-hand goods – all carefully selected and displayed across several floors. The department store wants to offer everyone a true shopping experience, an outing. And in doing so, it is looking to make second-hand the new normal. Shoppers have different motives to buy something there. Some have little to spend, others want to reduce waste, and yet others are looking for something unique for a fair price.

Berlin isn’t the first city to commit to second-hand. Sweden has boasted an entire shopping mall with used items since 2015, where IKEA has a store too. This doesn’t surprise me in the least as Sweden has blazed the trail in sustainability. A country where young people no longer dare tell each other that they have bought something new as that’s no longer socially accepted.

We’re not that far yet in the Netherlands. This was quite clear, judging by the large number of shoppers looking for bargains on Black Friday, but we are making steps towards reaching a broader public. Online fashion giant Zalando now sells pre-owned clothes, H&M is testing online sales of second-hand and vintage clothing, and the Utrecht-based social enterprise United Wardrobe has been acquired by the Lithuanian company Vinted, that has put second-hand shopping firmly on the map in eleven countries in Europe.

These developments are in line with a trend we’ve been seeing for some time: people are becoming more critical of what they do and do not buy, and increasingly aware that everything that is newly manufactured has an impact on society.

I realise that I need to keep close tabs on what we use and don’t use at home. And if I do need something, I need to carefully consider where I’m going to buy it. And now is hoping that we also get a beautiful second-hand department store here in the Netherlands.

***** Asceline Groot is an entrepreneur at hetkanWEL (itCANbedone), author of ‘Het Nieuwe Groen’ (The New Green), Content Coordinator at The Crowd Versus and a PhD candidate at Radboud University Nijmegen. In her columns, she writes about social enterprises and start-ups and about trends and developments in sustainability.