Allbirds launches shoe resale platform as part of circular economy efforts

Other show brands to have launched resale in recent months include Timberland and Vivobarefoot. Image: Allbirds

The California-based brand, which is certified as a B Corp, launched the ‘ReRun’ resale platform to consumers in the US this week.

Under the scheme, customers will be able to return their gently used shoes to Allbirds’ stores in Los Angeles, Chicago and New York City and receive a $20 store credit voucher in return. The shoes will then be sold to customers at a lower price point than Allbirds’ new shoes, with prices starting at $59.

Allbirds is working with Trove, a scale-up that provides brands with the technology platform and the logistics systems they need to operate resale offerings, on ReRun. Other businesses working with Trove include Levi’s, Patagonia and Lululemon.

Allbirds has stated that it plans to launch the offering to additional stores in the US in the coming months.

“By launching our trade-in program, we will enable our customers to play an integral role in extending the life of our shoes,” said Allbirds’ head of sustainability Hana Kajimura.

The brand is notably working to double the lifespan of its shows and other products by 2025, against a 2020 baseline. That commitment forms part of an updated sustainability strategy which is called ‘The Allbirds Flight Plan’ and launched in 2021. Other targets include halving the carbon footprint of products by 2025 and bringing it to near-zero by 2030, building on the brand’s existing carbon-neutral status, which is achieved using offsetting.

As good as shoe

The fashion industry is regarded as one of the world’s most wasteful. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimates that a bin lorry of textiles is wasted globally every second, largely due to a massive increase in production in recent decades and a lack of commercially available recycling processes. According to the foundation, just 2% of the fashion produced each year will be recycled in a closed-loop manner that avoids downcycling.

Regarding shoes specifically, more than 21 billion pairs are manufactured each year, and the majority are hard-to-recycle. The typical mass-produced shoe includes components made using different materials, including some plastic and one or more kinds of glue.

As Allbirds states on the ReRun website: “Every now and then, our shoes need a refresh. So they leave our closets, but then what? Unfortunately, most end up in a landfill, where they emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere while they decompose over the next, oh, thirty or forty years. It’s a far from perfect option, and we’ve been working on finding a better one.”

The good news is that the global fashion resale market is set to grow to $64bn by 2024, expanding 1.5 times quicker than the fast fashion sector. Shoes lend themselves well to resale. Other than Allbirds, brand to have launched or scaled take-back schemes for shoes in recent times include Timberland, Nike and Vivobarefoot.

Sarah George

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