The Clothes Swapping Phenomenon: When Consumers become Suppliers

Claudia Henninger, Nina Bürklin, Kirsi Niinimäki

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This paper explores 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 6 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 further more indicates that consumption cycles can move from monetary (e.g. selling) to non-monetary transactions (e.g. swapping) and vice-versa.
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. Originality
We 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 article to focus solely on swapping within a three country context.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)327-344
JournalJournal of Fashion Marketing and Management: An International Journal
Issue number3
Early online date8 Jul 2019
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 Jul 2019


  • Swapping, collaborative consumption, fashion industry, supply chain, consumers, suppliers


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