Scotland: Increasing customer confidence in reused products

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Zero Waste Scotland Scotland: Increasing customer confidence in reused products

Scotland’s Revolve Reuse Standard aims to make reuse a key part of the economy. A barrier to reuse is often public confidence in safety and quality. The Revolve Reuse Quality Standard is an externally-validated tool designed to increase the purchasing of used goods.

Economic analysis (and good common sense) suggests that the most profitable value creation mechanism in a circular economy lies in smaller loops, such as maintenance and reuse. The rule of thumb “if it’s working, don’t mess with it” makes sense, for if you were to return a product back to its component parts or materials, you would lose much of the embedded energy and value added during the various stages of manufacture.

77% of the UK population want to shop second-hand, but only 27% actually do

Re-use does take place in different forms in today’s mostly linear economy, through long-standing channels such as jumble sales, charity shops and the antiques trade, as well as online platforms such as Gumtree and most notably eBay. However, research has shown that 77% of the UK population want to shop second-hand, but only 27% actually do. As such, Zero Waste Scotland identified significant opportunity to expand these practices in both scale and range of re-used goods.

Zero Waste Scotland identified that a key factor in this expansion was increasing public confidence in re-use businesses and goods. The result was the Revolve Re-use Quality Standard, an externally-validated tool designed and piloted in 2011 for Scottish re-use businesses to increase footfall in stores and the purchasing of re-use goods.

How quality standards can help the second-hand market

The programme was first rolled out to community-based service sector re-use businesses, with 30 businesses achieving accreditation under the scheme. A further 20 businesses are currently working towards accreditation, primarily in high population areas, and piloting is soon due to begin with UK-based charity chains and the private sector. In terms of the model, businesses currently pay £100 to join the initiative as a sign of commitment and are accredited with the Quality Standard in under 12 months. This process involves training, assessments, a ‘mystery shopper’ visit and other legislative requirements, to uphold the integrity of the Standard and ensure that it remains meaningful for the public.

The concept works on the basis that businesses displaying the Revolve standard are committed to the quality of their re-used products, and customer service that exceeds traditional perceptions of the second-hand market. In addition, businesses carrying the logo are obliged to test all the products that they sell, overcoming trust-based apprehension that may have put buyers off in the past.

The results so far

While data from Revolve is currently limited to a number of stores, businesses have reported increased sales and turnover of stock. In a sample of 10 stores, revenue has increased by just under £45,000 since 2011. Furthermore, it stands to reason that programmes such as this also improve standards in the re-use sector from within, by providing a goal for businesses to aim for and opening discussion around legislation, perception and barriers to progress for the re-use of goods.

Level of Government

National

Responsible Agencies

Zero Waste Scotland