Swapping Replacing Shopping
Americans are spending more than $21 billion a year on toys
and games, according to NPD Group. Many of these items, though in fine condition,
are likely to end up stashed in dark corners of closets, basements, and attics
With holiday gift budgets squeezed, many recession-scarred families
are looking to the web for low-cost alternatives for acquiring clothes and
toys for their kids. In a robust twist on downtown thrift stores and online
classifieds, a number of community-based, parent-to-parent swap websites have
made clearing out the used but still useful, and trading up for age and size,
a lot more friendly.
ThredUP.com, “Where Families Swap Children’s Clothing
(and Toys) Online,” provides
a flat-rate shipping box. The sender fills the box and lists the contents
on the site. To claim a box, a member pays $5 to ThredUP, plus $10.70 for shipping,
and has a prepaid shipping label e-mailed to them. Members then rate each other
based on the quality of the items they get.
The swapmamas.com community takes
another, somewhat novel, approach. Members can swap for what they want, or
choose to donate to another member in need. The site claims, “No buying. No
selling. Just loads of good karma.” The
sender generally handles the shipping costs so, as founder Darcy Cruwys says
on the site’s “About” page, “This way, no one is actually PAYING
to RECEIVE goods.”
Other swap sites include Five Boroughs Clothing Swap,
a New York City-based clothing exchange marketplace; paperbackswap.com for
books; and Toyswap.com and ToysToTrade.com, both focused on toys.
the Los Angeles Times, Rachel Botsman, a social innovator
and co-author of “What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption,” said
one reason swap sites are growing is because sellers feel good their discarded
merchandise is being put to good use.
“Technology creates the efficiency to match millions of ‘haves’ with millions
of ‘wants,’ whatever they may be, as well as the social glue to create trust
between strangers,” said Ms. Botsman. “Swapping can provide almost
as much choice as traditional shopping.”
Discussion questions: Do swap sites in any way threaten traditional retailing,
either online or off? Is there a retail opportunity? Will swap sites and their
peers continue to rise in popularity once difficult economic times abate?
to Swap Everything – mommypoppins.com
- A nation of swap things – Chicago Tribune
- Frugal Parents Skip Stores for Online Toy Swaps – Associated Press/ABC
- Cash-strapped Americans seek holiday gift alternatives – alternet.com