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Carrefour and Zalando embrace circular economy with new reselling options

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Two European retailers have introduced new services that allow customers to resell items, showing the growing interest in circular economy initiatives.

Carrefour has introduced a new shop-in-shop called “Carrefour Occasion”, which will sit within its Les Ulis hypermarket.

Customers will be able to buy and sell a range of second-hand items, with a particular focus on technology items such as smartphones and video games as well as jewellery and books. Products will come with a one-year warranty.

The new space will be managed by Cash Converters, with on-site experts offering an assessment of the value of the item.

Carrefour plans to open an unspecified second location soon.

Pascal Clouzard, Carrefour France executive director, said: “The launch of Carrefour Occasion increases Carrefour’s contribution to the circular economy.

“Thanks to the expertise contributed by Cash Converters, this new concept is fully in line with new consumer trends focused on mindful, sustainable consumerism and greater purchasing power.” German fast fashion retailer Zalando has also announced it will add a “pre-owned” category to its site, which will go live later this year.

Customers can sell men’s, women’s and children’s items back to Zalando, which will list them after a quality check. The category will have the same user experience as other categories, as well as the same returns policy. 

The new category is based on trials via its Wardrobe app and Zircle store, launched last year. This allowed consumers to sell goods back to Zalando, which then sold them through the Zircle pop-up store in Berlin. This will be the first time Zalando has sold explicitly pre-owned items online.

Anne Pascual, SVP Product Design, said: “Fashion never stands still, but this feels like an especially significant evolution. It’s an example of how Zalando is much more than just a place that sells fashion; by creating a space where customers can buy and sell pre-owned fashion, we’re catering to even more customers, in greater and more meaningful ways.”

Our view: Many retailers already deal in second-hand goods – for example, UK video game seller Game sells second-hand games alongside new ones for slightly reduced prices.

These announcements show the new wave of interest from retailers who hadn’t previously sold second-hand goods directly themselves, largely driven by the growing demand for more sustainable business practices.

IKEA, which took part in a funding round for returns management start-up Optoro in December, is another example.

There are difficulties inherent in the format: retailers are volunteering for a new role as a guarantor of the product and will have to have robust assessment procedures in place. Carrefour has gone to a third party for this expertise whereas Zalando can, in theory, scale up the processes it already uses to deal with returns.

The other difficulty is in bringing the consumer on board. Both retailers appear to be focusing on making the sales process as smooth as possible; Zalando said in its announcement that it wanted to make selling as easy as buying.

Retailers who undertake such a role will also be keeping a close eye on whether the pre-owned category is cannibalising its normal product range.

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