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Step inside: welcome to the second-hand shopping mall!

Berlin is a cultural hotspot beloved of famous artists. My favourite singer David Bowie recorded three albums in the German capital. Now it seems the city is inspiring entrepreneurs to embrace sustainability. How? By dedicating an entire floor of a shopping mall to selling used items.

On the heels of the pandemic, commerce is thriving. I can attest to wanting to escape the house after months of confinement and go for lunch, go shopping – just because we can do so again. There is simply no substitute for getting a freshly brewed latte macchiato with my girlfriends.

It doesn’t surprise me to learn that Europe is home to around 9 500 shopping malls. France, the UK and Germany lead the market with annual turnovers of more than EUR 125 billion; EUR 110 billion and 77.5 billion, respectively. Rather than jumping on the ‘must-have gadget’ bandwagon, Berlin is taking a unique approach by opening what it calls the ‘shopping mall of the future’.

It contains drop-off points for end-of-life products, repair cafés, thrift stores, pop-up stores that act as a public yard sale, restaurants that serve food and drinks made from close to ‘use by’ ingredients (to reduce waste) as well as a space where various creative workshops can be held. Fun fact: the location is called “Bewahrenhaus” – which loosely translates as store meant to preserve/save things.

‘Every household in Berlin has about 250 unused items lying around,’ estimates Dorothee Winden, deputy press speaker of the city’s department for the environment, transport, and climate. She believes the second-hand mall will make it easy for consumers to find fully functional used products when they’re shopping for replacements. In turn, this will extend the lifecycle of existing products and curb consumerism, reducing the need to mine for virgin resources.  

The post-consumer shopping centre is now open for an initial period of six months, which  sounds like a good excuse to visit the city during my Christmas break – to support eco-friendly businesses and my own sanity. Ultimately, Berlin wants to build three to four such locations that are open all year round, permanently. 

Based on data from online resale store ThredUp, this call comes at the right time. The US second-hand market alone is projected to double in the next few years, reaching US$ 77 billion (EUR 65 billion) by 2025.

Perhaps we should all take a moment to consider what 250 ‘forgotten’ products we can do away with (I’ve been meaning to clean out my three wardrobes but putting it off because it’s a momentous task even with Bowie guiding me through the chaos). I think I’ll start with something small and recycle hardly worn stilettos, old jewellery and the coffee cup collection. Decluttering is healthy, right?

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