Better than Buying: Barter Economy Matures from Niche to Trend

January 14th, 2013

Published on Spiegel Online International, by Susanne Amann and Janko Tietz, Jan 11, 2013 (Photo Gallery).

Once derided as an eccentricity of the environmental movement, the recent economic crisis has helped transform the sharing economy from a niche trend to a full-scale phenomenon. In the coming years, sharing cars, bikes and even clothing may become as viable as buying.  

From the perspective of the fashion industry, Johanna Lassonczyk is an ideal customer. She is young, places value on her appearance and, for years, has regularly bought new brand-name clothing and accessories.

From Lassonczyk’s own perspective, the fashion industry is in pretty bad shape. That’s because the industry has lost her, at least as a loyal buyer. The 31-year-old has recently started swapping instead of always buying new things. “At some point I had so much in my closet that I didn’t know where to put it all,” she says. The self-employed entrepreneur has recently started attending so-called swap parties. The last one was the “Xmas Event” hosted by the website “Swap in the City” at Cologne’s E-Werk concert hall. The motto of the event was “Bye-Bye Shopping! – Hello Swapping … //

… Changing Consumption Habits

Sociologist Harald Heinrichs has studied, for the first time, the extent to which the concept of the “sharing economy” is already being applied in Germany. “These alternative forms of ownership and consumption stopped being a niche phenomenon a while ago,” says Heinrichs, an expert on sustainability at the University of Lüneburg in northern Germany. He assumes that the sharing economy will continue to develop, “because particularly younger people, who use social media intensively, seem to have changed their consumption habits.”

In his latest study Heinrichs concludes: “Shared consumption, in the sense of common organizing and consumption via the Internet, is practiced by 12 percent of the population.” This share could grow, partly because enthusiasm increases as the age of target groups declines.
(full text).

Part 2: A Real Chance To Make Economy More Sustainable.

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