With malls in the U.S. in the midst of what analysts are calling a retail apocalypse, nervous store owners are looking for any signs of life. A new shopping experiment in Sweden is offering a different model for consumerism, but it’s idea of rebirth may not be what brands are looking for.
ReTuna Återbruksgalleria may sound like a piece of flat-pack furniture, but this new take on retail—a mall featuring only recycled or reclaimed goods—would be the last place to find such a disposable produce. According to Anna Bergström, one of the founders, the new concept is all about sustainability. Everything for sale in the shopping center, which opened in August of 2015 in Eskilstuna, a city 75 mile west of Stockholm, has been upcycled. Shoppers are encouraged to drop off used items when the arrive, which will later be transformed by the designers, craftspeople, and store owners working inside.
ReTuna represents a partnership between a municipally-own company and local non-profits and businesses, an outgrowth of local officials wanting to do more to help promote sustainability and address Sweden’s waste reduction plan. The city owns the property and rents it to tenants who support sustainable businesses practices.
“I think it was a good combination of brave politics, good lobbying and a municipality wanting to do better,” says Bergström.
This mall, in many respects, offers everything you’d expect at any other typical shopping center, employing more than 50 people in more than a dozen different stores. Shoppers can find furniture, bicycles, household utensils, clothes, decorations, building materials, old doors and windows, computers, and electronics, as well as a conference facility and organic cafe. In March, a florist’s shop opened selling “ecologically grown flowers and plants” in, of course, re-used flower pots. In addition, ReTuna host DIY classes and demonstrations.
It may sound too good to be true, but Bergstrom says the numbers show the experiment in second-hand shopping has been a success. Since opening, the mall has drawn about 600-700 people a day, and 2016 sales totaled 8.1 million SEK, or $910,000.
“I want people to make more conscious choices and be aware that the elections make a difference,” Begstrom says. “And then of course, I want everyone to help out preserve our common living place, the planet of Mother Earth!”