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The clothes swapping phenomenon – when consumers become suppliers

Claudia Elisabeth Henninger (School of Materials, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK)
Nina Bürklin (Institute for Marketing, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München, Munich, Germany)
Kirsi Niinimäki (School of Arts, Design and Architecture, Aalto University, Espoo, Finland)

Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management

ISSN: 1361-2026

Article publication date: 12 June 2019

Issue publication date: 9 August 2019




The purpose of this paper is to explore swap-shops, which emerged as part of the collaborative consumption phenomenon, by investigating what the implications are of consumers acting as suppliers and how this affects supply chain management within the context of the fashion industry.


This study explores the collaborative consumption phenomenon through swap-shops in three countries: the UK, Finland and Germany. In-depth semi-structured interviews were conducted with swappers, non-swappers and organisers. To further enhance the data set six observations of swap-shop events were conducted. Data were transcribed and analysed using multiple coding cycles and using a grounded research approach.


Findings indicate that consumers were most concerned with availability/sizing and quality of garments, whilst organisers felt uncertainty was the biggest issue. Data allowed creating a framework that blueprints the swapping supply chain, in which consumers emerge as suppliers. It highlights possible activities in different cycles, whilst furthermore indicates that consumption cycles can move from monetary (e.g. selling) to non-monetary transactions (e.g. swapping) and vice versa.

Practical implications

Swapping as a relatively new fashion supply mode implies a fluidity of market roles. Disruptive business models can blur boundaries between the supply- and demand-side. This indicates that consumers can change “roles” multiple times as they go through the consumption cycle.


The authors extended the knowledge on swapping by describing how this phenomenon can activate consumers, and extend and intensify the use of garments and therefore swapping can slow the material throughput in the system. It is the first paper to focus solely on swapping within a three country context.



Henninger, C.E., Bürklin, N. and Niinimäki, K. (2019), "The clothes swapping phenomenon – when consumers become suppliers", Journal of Fashion Marketing and Management, Vol. 23 No. 3, pp. 327-344.



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Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited

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