Circular project shows that the products and services of the future are smart and attractive2023-11-23
Christmas is just around the corner, there are lots of presents to buy and endless opportunities to get swept up in a shopping spree. This can make it hard to resist the avalanche of advertisements, such as the campaigns leading up to Black Friday. As a counteraction, a sustainable alternative has made a successful entrance in a local shopping centre in Karlstad, and Karlstad University is there to conduct research.
Emma Sundh is the project leader of Rundgång – a mini shopping centre that promotes a circular economy and is anything but your ordinary flea market.
- We not only offer carefully selected second hand products, but also remake, vintage, repairs, reconditioned technology and waste- and resource-smart products as well as rental services, says Emma Sundh. In this way, instead of selling seven coats, you can sell one coat seven times. And with the location in central Karlstad, we want to show that many “ordinary stores” actually also have circular concepts in their business models. Rundgång shows that everyone is invited to the circular party.
There is a psychological aspect behind the location of Rundgång. By placing it directly adjacent to its complete opposites, it is possible to challenge the conflict between buying new products and the circular economy – and create a new way forward where conventional commerce stands side by side with start-ups with a common concept: circularity. Per Kristensson is a professor of consumer psychology and innovation and director of the Center for Service Research (CTF) and conducts research on issues related to consumption.
- Most people are aware that we have a climate challenge ahead of us and that we need to change our behaviour, says Per Kristensson. At the same time, in the last fifty years we have learned to “go shopping” - which has become a social activity that appeals to a lot of people. Rundgång offers an opportunity to reconcile these two objectives that normally conflict. New innovations and entrepreneurship are often seen as attractive and therefore a visit to Rundgång becomes a positive experience.
Is it easier to attract young people to a shopping centre like Rundgång?
- Young people are more environmentally aware and have a different view of the future than the older generation and want to engage in circular consumption for environmental reasons, says Per Kristensson. If we look at reports from Svensk Handel, for example, the market for second hand and circular products is estimated to expand substantially in the coming years. In some groups, wearing second hand clothes has become a status symbol. Particularly among young women, where second hand is the first-hand choice for many.
What about men and women – are there any differences there?
- In general, more and more households choose to explore second hand options first, rather than buying new products. There is, however, a difference between women and men, where women are the ones who request second hand options to a greater extent. Rundgång has been designed to be a stylish, appealing and crisp alternative with a product range and prices that suit different tastes and target groups and has been placed in the middle of the shopping centre with high visibility and entrances from multiple directions which feel inviting. The fact that you can see people in the store is a social cue for other customers to also go there.
And people have found their way to Rundgång. With almost 18,000 visitors and 892 sold items in the first two weeks, it has been nothing but a success. The results also show that the shopping centre has generated SEK 168,000 in revenue for the circular stakeholders and 5,000 kilos in reduced carbon emissions. And the success has sent ripples far beyond Karlstad.
- There has been great interest in Rundgång, says Henric Barkman, project manager of Climate Neutral Karlstad 2030. We have had study visits from both companies and organisations. The stakeholders involved in Rundgång are also open to spreading the concept to other cities. Second hand has been an alternative to traditional retail for many years. What we are now seeing is that more and more actors within traditional retail are adopting circular concepts and that the gap between circular and traditional retail is decreasing. As part of Climate Neutral Karlstad 2030, we want to continue bridging that gap and explore opportunities for collaborations, such as Rundgång.
Research at Karlstad University
Being within close proximity of the phenomena that you are studying is a researcher’s dream. Jenny Karlsson och Jessica Edlom at the Service Research Center are following the development and result of Rundgång from an academic perspective through the research project Again.
- Although reuse and other circular solutions are becoming increasingly common in the retail industry today, there is a need for more knowledge about how companies can create better conditions and customer experiences around the sale of reused products to promote the transition towards more sustainable consumption, says Jenny Karlsson, Senior Lecturer in Business Administration.
- Many companies are asking for concrete advice and recommendations to create sustainable business models, and at the same time we need to know more about what encourages customers to make sustainable choices so that the companies can meet an increased demand for reused products in the long term, says Jessica Edlom, Senior Lecturer in Media and Communication Studies.
Back to Emma Sundh, who has put a lot effort into promoting Rundgång.
- There are lots of clever ideas, but people often forget about how to the package them. It is important to make the idea attractive, desirable and cool. The transition must be ten times more attractive and smarter than the existing alternative. It’s about using commercial tricks in terms of how you style, present and curate the products in order to reach new target groups and broaden the customer base.
Emma Sundh is also an influencer with a clear focus on sustainability, which has also helped promote Rundgång and the importance of more sustainable consumption.
- As humans, we follow the crowd and do what everyone else is doing. In addition to being inspired, we try new ideas by watching influencers, for example. If they take the train to go on holiday or buy things second hand, it is “okay” for me to do the same. Influencers have a huge following that they can direct into both sustainable and unsustainable ways, but above all, they have an opportunity to normalise circularity - that that’s the thing.
- If you ask the average person or company what a circular concept is, the majority won’t know what it is and what it means, Emma Sundh continues. So in addition to making it easier for consumers, putting Karlstad on the map and cutting emissions, this is about spreading knowledge about what a circular concept looks like, create curiosity, inspire new businesses and ideas. And making more people realise that the products and services of the future are smart and attractive. Then maybe that change in behaviour, which is so important, won’t be so difficult after all.