Trade-in Your Fur Coat or Ferrari?

I remember, as a child growing up in Cork, that there was a second hand bookstore on the street (it was the pre-Zero Waste era but zero waste was being practiced by many without realising it, due to necessity). The bookshop offered trade ins for all sorts of paperback books & comics in a sort of private venture library. Later it extended to VHS video tapes (remember those). The place was generally busy and served a purpose that was appreciated by avid comic readers. I still remember the sort of musty smell inside the cramped space, that was stocked from floor to ceiling. (without any real index system). Part of the thrill of going there was not knowing what book or new comic you might discover. Now, businesses like this no longer exist but in a circular economy a modern , tech savvy version of the service could thrive.

Slow fashion scrappage.

In a recent submission to the Irish Government , ZWAI made a number of observations and recommendations to push the faster adoption of a circular economic model in Ireland. I recalled the swop shop as we reviewed the actions needed to combat Fast fashion and the enormous waste of discarded clothes. If we look at clothes like books and comics or indeed like motor cars, the way forward seems alltogether clearer.

One of the recommendations centred on creating a market for re-use of Slow Fashion items. So let’s offer a Trade-in (or Scrappage) scenario for high quality, slow fashion clothes. It’s just like the business model used for Motor car sales. (Don’t worry, we are not asking charity shops to sell used cars!)

Trading in your fur coat should be as easy as for your Ferrari ’ Sean Cronin, Zero Waste Alliance Ireland

How will it operate?

We must enlist the fashion retail chains and boutiques to make this happen as ubiquitously as in the motor trade. It will operate the same way. Customers trade in their fashion items in good resale condition and get a credit that is used towards the purchase of new items.

Branded stores and franchises (Debenhams, Next, River Island, etc) may restrict their re-use items to own brand clothes to maintain the brand image.

The Traded-in items go on display alongside the new items in the same store and with parity of placement.

As the goods are already used, guarantees need not apply (unless the vendor agrees) . VAT should not apply (as it was already collected on first sale).

We can encourage retailers to open these TRADE IN aisles/racks through rates rebates (based on a % of floor area allocated to the displays) or rent rebates.

Time for trade in schemes for fashion?


The customer will look after their clothes better and know there is a value to them, just like their cars. So they will be less likely to discard or dump them.

Customers will realise that cheap fast fashion items are worthless in the long term, so they get a better return on investment with high quality items (Slow Fashion).

This enforces the Circular Economy goal that goods are reused, reworked and recycled at their highest utility value.

We will achieve our goal of reducing the volumes of discarded clothes and creating an acceptance of re-use and repair for fashion items. It will also indirectly reduce the growth of fast fashion (low quality) sales as people will realise there will be no value in the goods as a trade in later.

What impacts can we expect?

There are always unforseen impacts to new initiatives. But the good may outweigh the negative.

  1. It may reduce the supply of items to charity shops as high value items will be traded back to the supplying store to get the best trade in price.
  2. To compensate for this the higher awareness will lift all boats. More people will visit re-use stores / charity shops. We will keep more clothes in use for longer by more people.
  3. Any stigma linked to charity shops will gradually disappear as people will see similar TRADE IN racks in their favourate high street Boutique or chain store.
  4. Charity shops will up their game to match the presentation offered in the TRADE IN sections of the fashion retailers. The whole shopping experience will become more normal and pleasant.

Now that just might be a stylish approach to ending the waste textile turmoil. We need Producers, Designers, Retailers, Customers and Legislators to come together on this before we drown in discarded textiles.

So how about getting started by asking your favourite boutique manager to consider opening a TRADE IN section in the store?