The world of consumption has stopped consuming.

That’s according to the Osservatorio Second Hand Economy by Doxa, which identified significant growth in the second-hand market in 2016.

It is evidence of the gradual establishment of the circular economy, the virtuous business model oriented towards sustainability and responsibility, which promotes informed consumption and aims to increase the lifecycle of products.

This new influence is now being felt in Italy too. In 2016, the second-hand market grew in importance, reaching overall turnover of €19bn, equal to 1.1% of the country’s GDP.

This was an increase of €1bn on 2015, pointing to a gradual change in the way we buy, consume and throw away.

All this is fuelled by the internet (which accounts for 15% of second-hand consumers and 37% of overall turnover). The internet is perfect for the industry, allowing consumers to find what they’re looking for and snap up great deals simply and quickly.

Nowadays, the lifecycles of products are increasing and – sometimes – products even transform, regenerate (just look at the Worn Wear project by fashion brand Patagonia, winner of the Circular Economy Multinational Award) or get passed on.

Take the case of World of Books, a highly innovative start-up founded ten years ago when three young professionals from the UK – tired of their corporate jobs – decided to embark on a new professional adventure.

Their idea was, on the face of it, somewhat vague and lacking in structure: move into the second-hand market by buying and selling used books.

Starting with local sales and markets, the perfect places to buy books at low prices and then resell them on eBay in the hope of making a profit, the three young entrepreneurs quickly found the idea was a hit with the public and began to broaden their entrepreneurial horizons.

In no time at all, World of Books has:

  • widened its sales reach from local to global (it now has a presence in 90 countries around the world);
  • diversified its offering, adding other second-hand goods such as videogames and DVDs;
  • taken action to engage directly with consumers through a special app named Ziffit, which allows British clients wishing to sell a used item to receive a quote and have the item picked up for free;
  • increased its stock, which has grown from 1000 to around 2 million books;
  • increased sales, with around 9 million products sold so far;
  • sealed important partnerships with the leading online shopping platforms, such as Amazon, which is one of the leading e-commerce giants to have got behind World of Books.

Without doubt, this is a success story that should inspire us all to look at the second-hand market with new eyes.

Forget the dusty image that the sector once had. It’s time we recognise the true value of products. Time we extend their lifecycles. Time we transform the sustainable approach into a profitable one, adding value for our companies in the process.