The Next Economy
UK ‘Borrowing Hub’ Challenges Consumption Economy

The “sharing economy” has become a buzzword of sorts in recent years. Everything from cars to homes and even people’s dogs can now be “shared” with strangers connected through digital technology. But what about everyday “stuff”? That old guitar collecting dust, the hammer buried in your drawer or even… your trusty unicycle?

The sharing economy is particularly popular in the United Kingdom, where research has shown some 65 percent of adults already are part of it, benefiting from £4.6 billion ($7.1 billion) worth of savings or earnings.

And now a UK store, aptly called SHARE, wants to take the sharing economy to the next level by letting you literally share all that old stuff you never use. The average drill, for example, is used for only 13 minutes in its entire lifetime. The company is premised on the idea that, instead of buying that drill, you can borrow one from a neighbor that you’ve never met before.

All items at SHARE are displayed with the item’s history and a photo of the person who donated it to foster community and introduce a richer experience that typically are missing from financial transactions.

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Another interesting possibility for SHARE is allowing users to “try before they buy” more sustainable products.

The shop recently tweeted the availability of LED lightbulbs, which users could borrow to see if they wanted to switch over to the more energy-efficient lights.

Those hoping to borrow from SHARE must first become a member, which can be done by visiting the shop and filling out paperwork, the company says. SHARE is free to use and donations are voluntary, but the company asks members to contribute in three ways: giving money, donating a useful item or volunteering.

Members are able to borrow any item in SHARE’s catalogue for a period of 7 days, but are encouraged to bring items back as soon as they’ve finished using them, so they can be available for others. There is a suggested donation system of between £1 and £4 ($1.5 and $6), the shop says.

The idea for SHARE was born in early 2015, as a partnership between Frome Town Council, social enterprise Edventure, Sustainable Frome and The Cheese and Grain, a local music and events venue. A group of eight young people set up the shop in just two months, as part of specialist training in community entrepreneurship, run by Edventure. The local community assisted by providing advice, expertise, time, donations, opinions and moral support, SHARE says.

Frome’s town council provided the initial funding, and the SHARE hopes to become financially self-sustaining within six months.

SHARE is the latest in a growing trend of “sharing hubs,” which also includes Leila, an established ‘borrowing shop’ in Berlin, as well as the Library of Things in West Norwood, south London. In San Francisco and New York, there’s also Yerdle, an online marketplace where shoppers can give and get things for free.

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