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The Circular Age Of Consumption
World Environment Day is a great time to start – seek out a pre-owned alternative from a quality-assured platform for your next purchase, and join the thriving community that’s joined hands for our planet
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One would be hard-pressed to find a family of siblings where the younger one has not enjoyed much of the hand-me-down clothes, toys and books of the older brothers and sisters. This habit of sharing has been rooted in our culture, expanding across family lines to cousins, and then to neighbours. And now, the mass market has taken the next big leap – they are now excited to share among not only those personally known to them but also with like-minded people across the world, connected only by the desire to particulate in the circular economy. Indeed, it’s one of the most effective ways in which we can leave behind a lighter environmental footprint.
The rise of social media and chat groups dedicated to swapping and buying pre-owned has kicked off tremendously over the past five years, with platforms to list everything from furniture and crockery to baby strollers and electronics. And people are shopping pre-owned with pride. There is a misconception by many, who believe that people who shop pre-owned want to hide the fact that their belongings are not newly manufactured. In fact, we’ve seen increasing numbers of people talking with pride about how they took the time to seek out a pre-owned alternative, eager to promote the conscious culture among peers. Even in our preloved social enterprise Dolce Vee, we’ve been heartened to see how many people opt to ship their pre-owned clothing purchases along with gift cards – it’s a real testament when people are gifting others pre-owned pieces and the fact that it is pre-owned increases the value of their gift because of its intrinsically sustainable nature.
To move the needle further on climate change, it is incumbent on enterprises to enable customers to harness this value. Consumers want to do right by our planet, but in a market crowded with temptations, we need to make sure that we are delivering environmental value in a format relatable to their purchase, while also checking the other boxes of functionality, style and price that buyers seek.
When making new products, it is often difficult to win the price game with sustainable materials, and so mass-market products with affordable price points and slim margins often find it hard to incorporate environmentally friendly practices. It’s usually the huge market-dominating players that can start trickle-down shifts in practices and government regulations that can level the playing field, so companies can’t compete on price by shifting to cheaper but more environmentally harmful practices.
But with the circular pre-owned market, price is the first win that we can present as part of product value, as pre-owned pieces are almost always sold cheaper than their newly manufactured counterparts. The second component of value is their sustainability, when chosen over a newly manufactured alternative. In this arena, we have found that macro-level statistics can be too abstract to be the basis of an individual customer’s decision. For instance, we launched the Dolce Vee Environmental Footprint Calculator in partnership with the Centre for Environmental Research and Education, the first of its kind in India, so that with each piece of clothing we process, we can give the buyer an estimate of how much water and carbon would be saved by purchasing that particular piece preloved over newly manufactured. Buyers are almost always surprised when they see how high these numbers are for the first time. After all, if you learned that buying that dress pre-loved over a newly manufactured one would save more water than you would drink in seven years, would you be able to look at that dress in the same way? Empowering customers with such statistics about their individual purchases gives them the tools they need to advocate circular consumption each time they step out in that dress.
The bigger hurdle for pre-owned is trust, which is perhaps the toughest shell to crack for a brand. Players in the industry have a deeper responsibility to ensure the trust of buyers is not shattered, because this is a relatively new market in India. Each type of pre-owned item needs a different inspection process, and contrary to popular belief, it’s not something that can be easily achieved by looking the piece over the front and back. Quality control for pre-owned is a combination of skills built and grown in an expert team, coupled with technology, algorithms and image recognition artificial intelligence. This is the exciting new frontier that is enabling buyers to enjoy pre-owned with trust and sellers to circulate their items with ease.
World Environment Day is a great time to start – seek out a pre-owned alternative from a quality-assured platform for your next purchase, and join the thriving community that’s joined hands for our planet.
Komal Hiranandani, Founder of the preloved fashion social enterprise Dolce Vee
Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.