Laixa - 16 August 2021
Have you ever heard about it?
Well then…you’d better read this article, as you haven’t heard the last of it! The sharing economy entails making privately-held excess capacity of goods (or services) available for others, whether for profit or not. Are you still unsure whether or not you truly understand it? The best example of the sharing economy is Airbnb or Uber! With these new platforms, residential building owners are able to “share” their homes, which are rarely used to their full capacity. This underutilization of goods stems from the fact that we are in an era of overconsumption, which is the habit of consuming goods beyond our needs!
How long has this been around?
The sharing economy gained popularity during the 2008-2009 financial crisis. Many people had lost their jobs or reduced their income. In this case, the sharing economy helped these people look for solutions to their money issues. Also, over recent years, we have realized that the newer generations value use more than possession. This is what made platforms such as Airbnb and Uber so successful! Thus, digital development makes a large-scale sharing network possible.
Why not apply the sharing economy to the fashion industry then?
Although Pierre-Yves McSween’s book “En as-tu vraiment besoin?” (“Do you really need it?”) was successful, many people “forgot” to apply this reasoning to their buying habits.
Each person throws away 24 kg of clothing per year. When stacked, these 190,000 tonnes of fabric would form a mountain 55-meters high, or an 18-storey building!
Overconsumption is not a new phenomenon. Rather, it is the demand for an alternative to overconsumption that is a new and growing phenomenon. Whenever there’s an increase in demand, there’s an increase in supply! A market is quietly growing to share excess quantities, in several areas. This is precisely the case in the clothing sector. The Shwap Club is a Montreal-based company that specifically meets this demand, by providing a place to exchange clothing. Laixa had the chance to speak with Annette Nguyen, founder of the Shwap Club sharing economy company!
What is the Shwap Club?
If you don’t yet know about the Shwap Club, you’re really missing out! Nguyen decided to implement this second-hand shopping experience out of awareness of the enormous waste of “rags”. For the founder, it has always been normal to shop in thrift stores and to participate in the sharing economy. During the interview, Nguyen referred to her mother who was an antique dealer to explain where her passion for clothing with history comes from.
I feel like I’m wearing a piece with a soul, with memories.
Although Nguyen had the financial freedom to buy from department stores, there was something lacking. As a full-time lawyer for 9 years, she decided to treat herself to Shwap Club as a gift for her 30th birthday. Since that time, she still takes part-time contracts in her field of study. The Shwap Club is therefore much more than a place for exchange, it was born out of a desire to create an environment that resembles herself and her consumer values. In this way, Nguyen is among the people who want to provide tools to help those around them make this change in their consumption, one based on the sharing economy.
The Shwap Club member who benefited the most from the concept traded over 2400 items in the space of 18 months.
It’s been a year since I last bought new, thanks to you, and my wardrobe is completely from the Shwap Club.
What is e-commerce doing in the sharing economy?
This solution gives members the opportunity to shwap virtually and thus participate in the sharing economy. Here are e-commerce’s other benefits for the Shwap Club:
- If you’ve never been to the stores, you can check out the items available. So people who aren’t yet shwappers will still get a good idea of what Shwap Club’s inventory looks like. It manages expectations and is a great showcase for all of Quebec!
- It collects data to better understand customers. For example, which brands are the most popular, as well as sizes and categories of clothing.
- The new platform also facilitates selling clothing more quickly at the end of a season; this is a type of “liquidation” that Annette calls the “shwap-a-thon”. The e-commerce platform manages inventory control by giving greater visibility to the clothing that needs to go. At the Shwap Club, clothing has a shelf life of 5 weeks, and if the piece has not been shwapped by that time, it is donated to another organization. There you have it! Now you know the Shwap Club’s best-kept secret! You’ll no longer have to wonder why there are new items in stock every time you go!
How to apply the sharing economy on a small scale in your business
- Find ways to loan or lease your excess unused, unexploited or non-essential assets to other companies.
- Invest in goods and services and use them in conjunction with another business (like BizBizShare).
- Get a better understanding of your inventory system’s full capabilities, or do business with pros who can help you “manage” it.
- Join networks of local entrepreneurs. You’ll be able to share goods and services between yourselves, while giving each other fresh ideas on how to do things better!
- Participate as an individual in various sharing economy initiatives: inspiration can be found everywhere!
- Opt for shared workspaces if you have a “surplus” of office space!