Would you like to shop in a mall that sold only recycled merchandise? Of course you would! I know that I would. Well someone in Sweden has built such a place. It is called ReTuna Återbruksgalleria (ReTuna Recycling Gallery after the name of the town). It is billed as the “Worlds First recycling mall,” and I find the idea exciting, especially at a time when US retail businesses are suffering under pressure from online offerings and over priced white elephant real estate, which prompts me, and no doubt many others, to ask, what might be some pros and cons of developing such a project in the US?
First a bit of qualification is required, meaning I am not about discussing here all of the many and obvious benefits of recycling which has already been done elsewhere and better. The exception is to note that there is a whole new lexicon of terms to watch for. Words like “up-cycled, re-purposed, waste stream, embodied energy, circular, or closed loop economy,” may all indicate a “cultural shift” towards a public/private business model. How much of each is a question not much discussed in reference to the Swedish project. Certainly local public garbage disposal is a big factor in their equation.
MY question here, bringing me back to the a fore mentioned pros and cons, is would it work in a completely private local US market? On the pro side; it is not difficult to find many retailers already in the recycling business, neither are service companies refurbishing used products unavailable, nor are vacant shopping centers. Also, it may be that this market is more insulated from online competition than mainstream resellers. Certainly, unrepeatable recycled merchandise appeals on many levels to wide and varied market. It would therefore appear that potentially successful tenants already exist, should some astute real estate owner decide to advance such a project.
Of course the con side of the discussion involves all of the business planning and costs involved in launching such a project. Further, and perhaps the most difficult hurdle to overcome, involves forcing a shift in the current “Thrift Store” perception assigned to anything not quite new. It is were we, as architects and store designers, can greatly impact the success of a project, first by understanding and even participating in a clients marketing plan, and then by delivering an exciting and cohesive renovation design to actualize it. It is what we do!