UK’s first ‘share shop’ opens for business
29 June 2015 – words by Lucy Purdy – Positive News
A new kind of shop is aiming to transform the future of retail by lending rather than selling items and fostering more meaningful connections with the things we use
SHARE, in Frome, Somerset may be the first shop in the UK where lending, rather than selling, rules.
At this ‘borrowing hub’ items are loaned out rather than sold – and everything is personalised with the story of its previous owner. SHARE founders believe this nurtures trust and respect as well as providing a practical service.
The store also aims to reduce waste, save customers money and train young people with practical skills through workshops and social events.
People are asked to donate or lend useful, high quality items which the shop then lends out to others for several days at a time. Only a nominal fee is charged to borrow items: between £1 and £4.
At SHARE, all items are displayed with the object’s history and a photo of the person who donated it to encourage people to forge connections and introduce a richness of experience, arguably often missing from financial transactions.
“Enabling people to share resources not only saves money but reduces waste and carbon too.”
The shop opened its doors this spring after eight unemployed young people were given just two months to get it up and running. They were set the challenge by community enterprise Edventure: Frome as part of specialist training in community entrepreneurship, which sees participants ‘learning through doing’.
One of the people involved, Maija Helena Powell, 21, said: “Working on this project has been a huge eye-opener for me. I can’t think of anywhere else where I’d have the opportunity to create a sustainable business from scratch and get involved with every step of the process – from writing a business plan to actually building the shop interior.
“It has really changed how I think of work – now it actually seems possible that I could make a living at the same time as doing something good for society.”
Frome’s town council provided start-up funding and it is hoped that the shop will become a fully self-sustaining enterprise within six months.
“Enabling people to share resources not only saves money but reduces waste and carbon too,” said Anna Francis, Frome Town Council’s energy and recycling officer. “The average electric drill is used for just 15 minutes in its lifetime and with many households feeling the pinch SHARE means everyone will be able to access the items they need – from tools to cookery to camping equipment – without the expense, hassle and storage needed to buy their own,” she added.
One man, Mark, donated a set of golf clubs to the shop accompanied by an interesting story of how he came to own them. He ended up with them after attending a conference at which delegates were asked to bring something of sentimental value. Mark brought his grandfather’s gold wedding ring but it was lost, so he took the golf clubs home instead.
“Years later,” explained Powell, “someone contacted him having cleared out their house and found his ring. They returned it with a note saying: ‘It’s about time you were reunited with this!’ Not knowing the true owner of the golf clubs he has now passed them on into the world through SHARE.”
SHARE joins a growing network of sharing services around the globe including Leila, the well- established ‘borrowing shop’ in Berlin. Library of Things in West Norwood, south London, recently surpassed a £12,000 Kickstarter funding target to build upon the “roaring success” of its pilot project. The team behind Library of Things is keen to open source the model and see a network of sharing shops growing across the UK.