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Re-tail: exploratory design for the marketplace of a circular economy

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conference contribution
posted on 2020-08-07, 08:26 authored by Talia HussainTalia Hussain, Ksenija KuzminaKsenija Kuzmina, Laura SantamariaLaura Santamaria
This research explores how re-designing retail services and experiences might enable customer participation in a circular fashion system.
Design for new materials, products, manufacturing processes and business models to enable extended use, reuse and recycling at the end-of-life are all active areas of circular economy (CE) research. Information technology is emphasised as an enabler of on-demand manufacturing and product-service-systems. Yet, with a hazy conceptualisation of the “end-user” (Okorie et al, 2018), how customers will engage with these complex new flows of goods has received insufficient attention. Many CE concepts rest on the assumption of widespread customer acceptance and voluntary behaviour modification (Lofthouse & Prendeville, 2018; Kuzmina et al, 2018), while the design of concrete strategies for customer engagement and behaviour change (Piscicelli & Ludden, 2016) are unaddressed.
Retail environments are designed to guide production of customer knowledge, promoting the desirability of acquisition, consumption and waste-making (Crocker, 2016) behaviours which drive the linear economic model. Design interventions by retailers can create new norms and consumption contexts which can strategically re-shape the market itself. Yet, there is a paucity of research discussing the CE consumer marketplace, the role of the retailer, and how customers will acquire the knowledge and skills needed to participate in such an ecosystem.
In industry, substantial resources have been directed towards developing enticing retail services which ensure that the customer experience is ‘frictionless’, ‘delightful’ and delivers instant gratification. Complex new behaviours have emerged that see customers browsing online and buying in-store, and vice versa. Yet, these services are based on a linear consumption model, while little attention has been paid to how retail services might be re-designed to enable ongoing circulation of goods and materials.
This research uses interdisciplinary design provocations to explore retail as a platform for consumer meaningmaking, in the context of a service eco-system that enables circular flows of apparel goods. It endeavours to take an intellectually experimental approach that co-opts the tools of management to propose and faciliate alternative norms and lifestyles through the medium of retail. Rather than technological innovation, which often drives waste-making, the focus is on social innovation and co-creation that can enrich communities and drive cultural evolution.
The project proposes a human-centred, cultural approach to a circular fashion economy which engages people, not just as ‘users’, but as full participants in an expanded conception of value creation and sharing.



  • Loughborough University London


Inaugural Conference of the International Society for the Circular Economy (IS4CE2020)


  • AM (Accepted Manuscript)

Rights holder

© The Authors

Acceptance date



  • en



Event dates

6th July 2020 - 7th July 2020


Dr Ksenija Kuzmina. Deposit date: 5 August 2020

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