Photo: Daniel Goodman / Business Insider
In a little alley off a street in Beijing sits the Swap Shop, a small store that sells everything but buys nothing. How does it work…it swaps!
Check out the Swap Shop >
When Robin Liao and his wife Judy, started the shop, they weren’t sure what exactly it would become. But a little over a year after it began they settled on the idea of a shop where customers trade in old products for store credit. Basically, a return to the old barter and trade system with a twist.
Robin and Judy used to run a popular bar called Together Bar, which introduced them to an eclectic group of patrons and friends who later filled their new store with an array of goods from around the world.
The swap idea is part business and part ideals. From a business perspective, Robin has seriously reduced his overhead. All items are given to the store in exchange for credit, NOT cash (even the price tags were a swap). So aside from rent and electricity (there is no heat in the tiny shop) no cash is spent.
Beyond the cash savings, Robin likes the idea of preserving and reusing as opposed to wasting old items. As he likes to say, “One person’s trash is another person’s treasure.” And yes, he knows that the line comes from someone else.
The store stands for more than just sales and Robin hopes customers don't just change their old things for new but also their old ideas and perspectives.
One of the many signs Robin uses to explain the store to customers. Almost all signs are in English and Chinese.
Instead they decided to find a business model that would also contribute to their own personal belief in sustainable living. The Diggers refers to those intrepid shoppers willing to hunt for the unique.
Before Swap Shop, Robin and Judy ran a place called Together Bar. Many of the bar's customers were foreigners and they are the source of many of the new shop's items.
The sign alerts visitors to check out the Swap Shop on Sina Weibo, a Chinese micro-blogging service similar to Twitter.
But not everything in the store is for sale. Like this coffee maker. However, there is a still a communal deal involved...if you bring a bag of coffee to donate you can get a free cup any time you shop.
The front display gives a good example of the range of products you might find on a given day at the Swap Shop.
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