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ThisIsRetail #27

posted: 11 October, 2019

Welcome to ThisIsRetail, your weekly* look at some of the more diverse and unexpected stuff influencing the way we buy, sell, and consume in the 21st century.

My uncle Trevor, an inveterate tinkerer, shares his small Greenwich flat with four washing machines, two dishwashers, seven televisions, and a couple of microwaves.

Each item is earmarked for imminent repair, refurbishment, and possible return to friends and neighbours who, I cynically suspect, simply find it easier (and cheaper) to offload their careworn household appliances on to my dear old, well-meaning, mad-professor of an uncle than to call the council for a special collection.

His flat is, in a very real sense, a dump.

It was with uncle Trevor in mind that I hazarded a few desultory attempts to fix the family dishwasher last weekend.

And what I found is that this machine, like so much of the technology we share our lives with, is simply unknowable; definitely built by some higher intelligence, and probably powered by spells.

Unsure whether to call a plumber, an electrician, or a witch-doctor, I admitted defeat and did what everyone else (but Trevor) would do – I went online and bought a new one.

So this week I’ve been thinking about the near-impossibility of successful bodging, tinkering, making-do-and-mending in the modern era – how wasteful this is, and the challenges it presents to consumers and retailers.

In honour of uncle Trevor, this edition brings you articles on ripping up warranties, the problematic concept of circular fashion, and the return of craftsmanship.

Bish bosh.


*occasional, when we have time (we do our best)

  • Built to Last
    By terminating warranties, consumers are empowered not only to repair products but also to hack and customise them.
    [Works That Work]
  • Good as New
    The second-hand clothing market totalled $5 billion in 2018 and is projected to increase to $23 billion by 2023.
  • What a Waste
    What’s the future for Circular Fashion when six out of ten garments produced every year are being discarded to landfill or incinerated within the first year of their production?
    [The Current Daily]
  • Make-do and Mend
    The EU’s Ecodesign Directive is a game-changer that will make many household goods easier to repair than to replace.
  • Breaking the Spell
    Designed to be easily taken apart for repairs, the Fairphone 3 improves the lifecycle of smartphones by putting the consumer in charge.
  • Craftsmanship
    The Repair Shop is a gorgeous ornament of a thing. It luxuriates in its own sleepy pace. It rewards patience and care, and it may very well be the most moving thing on British television.

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