In many ways, Eskilstuna is a typical Swedish town. It’s close to water and flourished during the Industrial Revolution, becoming known as the “city of steel”.
But these days, Eskilstuna is on the cutting edge of a new sort of “revolution” when it comes to sustainability and shopping.
Because Eskilstuna is now home to ReTuna Återbruksgalleria, one of the first shopping malls dedicated entirely to repaired and “upcycled” goods.
“Eskilstuna has always been in front on the recycling business,” explains ReTuna Mall Manager Anna Bergström.
She credits the town’s “brave politicians” who saw the need for a recycling centre that offered something more than a place to drop off old newspapers and bottles. They envisioned a business centre with commercial activity as well.
“We call it a cycle park, where you can get rid of waste but also leave things that you don't want anymore, but can be useful for someone else,” she explains.
The idea developed further to invite organisations and businesses in to receive the goods and establish retail outlets to sell them back to shoppers.
“You're supposed to feel a bit smarter when you shop at ReTuna, and of course our products are different,” says Bergström.
On the one hand, shoppers can find an assortment of goods just like any other mall: clothes, sporting equipment, home furnishings, toys, electronics, etc.
The difference is that the items on sale are “pre-owned”, but still have plenty of life left in them. And there are plans to expand the offerings further.
“We want to expand and establish more stores within services, like an organic beauty salon, and also more handcrafts like a shoemaker, a watchmaker, maybe a bakery with only organic bread and cookies. And of course, a package-free grocery store,” says Bergström.
Hopefully, she adds, a visit to ReTuna will inspire shoppers to realize how much of what people currently own can be upcycled, repaired, and reused.
“You will also learn that you can make money in the ‘trash’ business,” she says. “Hopefully visitors will think again before they throw things away. If they don't want to sell it, or reuse it, they can give it to us instead of throwing it as waste.”
The entire concept serves as a way to send a message about ways people can live and consume more sustainably. ReTuna even offers guided tours that take visitors “behind the scenes” and learn more about sustainability, circular economy and the ReTuna concept.
The mall attracts shoppers of all types, says Bergström.
“Some are people with low incomes; some are environmentally aware; others are looking for a bargain; some are just curious; some just want to go against the mainstream,” she explains.
And shoppers aren’t the only visitors flocking to ReTuna these days. In the past few months, Bergström has welcomed delegations from more than a dozen countries ranging from Australia to Belgium to Canada, all of whom want to learn more about the concept.
“I think the most important thing to say when you want to make other people change the way they live, is to reduce all the ‘don'ts’ and talk about the chosen ‘dos’,” she explains.
“Our mission is to save the planet and that is why we exist. We will prove that it's possible to make money by running a sustainable business. And the rest of the world will follow.”