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OPINION: Could a sharing economy boost Leicester city centre?

Creating a ‘sharing economy’ in Leicester could help the city to rebuild after the UK’s longest lockdown and kick-start recovery, says a De Montfort University Leicester (DMU) academic.

Professor Rachel Granger says new thinking and bold new approach is needed to help the city recover and believes lessons could be taken from the radical sharing model, which sees assets and services shared between businesses, communities and organisations.

Leicester city

Although rentals and re-use is not a new concept, the sharing economy takes this a step further, using technology and connections to increase accessibility. It also gets more use out of goods such as cars, offices, clothes as more people use them.

“Radical change is needed,” said Professor Granger. “As a sharing city, Leicester could not only level up but lead the way.

“Our vehicles are idle for 90% of the time, our offices are idle for 35% of the time. There has got to be a much better way we can organise this to support each other and answer the need.

“The sharing economy has been promoted as a way of reducing fossil fuel and supporting environmental sustainability through sharing products. Here we argue that further expansion of the sharing economy model would support economic sustainability through new business models, and social sustainability through community cohesion.

“There has to be a more imaginative way of doing things. Imagine a food manufacturer has a by-product of water. They could then arrange to share that with a textiles company. A group of companies getting together as a sector to share resources or equipment. If we want to be truly innovative, let’s look at something like a sharing economy and scale it up, make it our economic strategy.”

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The sharing economy builds on companies such as Air BnB which has been able to succeed because of a change in consumer habits has driven the rise of companies such as Air BnB, ride-share firms, Just Park and TaskRabbit. Just last month, UK supermarket chain Asda announced plans to sell second hand clothes in stores to cut textile waste.

Professor Granger was speaking at an online event which looked at the challenges and opportunities for Leicester post-pandemic. Leicester has been in lockdown for longer than anywhere else in the UK.

“It might be a controversial idea, but the way people buy and they way they consume products has changed. Companies that have been able to exploit this have been part of some of the most important global trends.”

Posted on Monday 7th June 2021

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