Re-Commerce – an old idea tackling a critical 21st century challenge

Steve Oliver

“Re-commerce is not an entirely new concept, people have been buying and reselling used cars for decades”, so began a session chaired by’s North West editor Shelina Begum.

The panel discussion, sponsored by musicMagpie, which formed part of the In The Circle sustainability conference looked at the success of Stockport-headquartered musicMagpie and explored how the growing re-commerce sector is supported by a change in consumer behaviour.

Steve Oliver, founder and CEO of musicMagpie started the session explaining that while recycling and sustainability has always been in its DNA.

“We started musicMagie 13 years ago with CDs, DVDs, games and books and now into consumer technology. But it was only a few years ago really that we started to realise that our message resonated [with people] about doing something smart for the planet.”

However it’s clearly not just consumers which the brand as resonated with but investors too, with the business floating in April.

“I guess it’s no surprise that investors have followed consumer trends and especially young consumers, millennials etc.”

Explaining how the London Stock Exchange has the Green Economy Mark an accreditation for businesses that have more than 50% of their turnover from sustainable sources, Oliver noted that investors liked the ESG sustainability quality that the business has.

However the founder also shared that for him it’s crucial not to be complacent and that “good business practice is to constantly look to disrupt yourself and move forward”.

He went on to note how internationally the UK is ahead of other countries like the USA where the consumers are “less savvy” and “slightly behind in terms of market dynamics”.

Helen Lord, founder of Used Kitchen Exchange said her journey was similar to Oliver’s and explained that the business is the first kitchen business to receive a B Corp certification.

Noting that the certification was valuable she stressed to the audience that it’s probably easier to do when you’re smaller and highlighted it’s a “long process”. But being certified means the business balances purpose and profit. With Lord noting that customers were responding to it and that following the announcement she saw ” a big upturn in business”.

She did note though that the challenge for any recommerce brand is always in giving the consumer the confidence “whether it’s a CD or a kitchen” in what they’re buying, and highlighted that it takes time.

Dr Marie Grifitths, reader and director of the Centre for Digital Business at the University of Salford, picked up on the challenges mentioned by Lord stating that many businesses might not know where to start when considering re-commerce and also that consumer opinion may be changing but it’s still sector specific, noting that “85% of textiles that are bought go back into a landfill within a year”. A stat that clearly shows that while consumers may be conscious about their tech choices the challenges of “fast fashion” remain.

Alex Guslisty, founder, Big Atom, approached re-commerce with a different hat, rather than repairing and reselling the firm looks to take used tyres / part worn tyres – which are often resold and can pose a safety risk to road users – and actually break them down into their raw materials which can then be used to manufacture new goods.

Guslistly explained: “Talking about recommerce, that’s the perfect first step. We should try do that, but at somepoint the products will come to the end of their life or become outdated and no longer feasible. This is where we come, we’re the next stage and our mission is to end polymer waste [and] take end of life consumer products and bring it all the way back to its raw materials, that can then be reused in manufacturing.”

Big Atom has already successfully recycled over a million tyres and creates produces that can be used in children’s playgrounds, road surfaces, sound proofing and steel production.

Closing the session Begum asked where the circular economy is going and the uniform answer was to transform the concept of value, whether it be the end of life value of an item being recycled into its raw materials or through rising re-commerce.

Ultimately that the discussion – which can be watched in full below – highlighted both the importance of re-commerce in tackling the climate challenge, meeting consumer demand and through companies like Big Atom driving innovation.

Watch the session in full below

In the Circle is a free one day sustainability conference that brings together business leaders, policy makers and academics to set out how a sustainable approach can improve your business.

The event is in partnership with musicMagpie, Squire Patton Boggs and, and is being sponsored by the Northern Powerhouse Investment Fund, Orderly, Whitecap Consulting, and Curveblock.

Find out more here.