With their Re:Think store in Bonn, Globetrotter has found an upcycling concept in store design with numbers to back it. Around 97 percent less CO2e emissions and 94 percent re-used materials are just some of the results.

“One of the most sustainable approaches is to use things that are already there. It takes courage and a pioneering spirit to go down this path. But the results of the scientific study by our partner EPEA show that it’s worth it.”

Andreas Vogler, CEO of Germany’s largest outdoor retailer, Globetrotter, explains the idea behind the “Re:Think Store” in Bonn. It was opened in May 2023, and features a very special concept: Almost the entire furnishings of the previous tenant Conrad Electronic were taken over and reused in the new store in creative ways. A pioneering approach in the retail sector, whereby store interiors are usually built completely from scratch. For example, here vacuum cleaner holders were converted into backpack carriers, and old OSB boards and discarded metal sheets were transformed into a test track for hiking boots. An absolute eye-catcher and visual highlight of the store is a large bear sculpture, a nod to the retailer’s own logo. It was created from scrap metal and electronic waste by an artist and features old CCTV cameras as eyes.

The Re:Think concept is complemented by sustainability offerings such as an in-house repair workshop and the largest second hand sales area in a Globetrotter store to date. With the “Clubhütte” – the Club Hut – there is also a community space offering regular talks and workshops about sustainability and outdoor topics. Here, the results and learnings of the store concept are prepared to be presented at branch events in the fall.

Cradle-to-Cradle perspectives

“Sustainability needs transparency and participation. We want to be an enabler and create a value-driven community with our customers,” says Vogler, which is why the retailer also stepped up its communication to the customer in an effort to encourage more sustainable consumption.

Throughout the store, pointers and signs highlight the former purpose of a shelve or where it came from. New gear in-store also aims to be high-value and long-lasting to support circular economy efforts.

One of the invited experts is Prof. Michael Braungart, chemist, process engineer, and co-inventor of the Cradle-to-Cradle principle. According to Braungart, there is still a great deal of scope for design in the sustainability sector and a lot of potential for creative thinking.

“The sustainability principles reduce, reuse, recycle actually start with rethink, redesign and reinvent.”

The Re:Think Store aims to follow these rules not only in name but in principle. Cupboard handles and interior decoration were made of discarded climbing ropes, branded spaces were repurposed from trade shows or other stores as well as the cash desk counter, which was previously used in another Globetrotter branch.

(Photo: Nadine Albrecht)

Collecting store data

EPEA is an independent innovation partner for environmentally compatible products, processes, buildings, and urban quarters. At the event, EPEA presents a study about Globetrotter’s Re:Think store. According EPEA’s calculations, a conventional store construction project of comparable size would have generated around 105 tons of CO2e. By contrast, the Re:Think store’s reuse concept emitted only 3.12 tons. The reuse of existing materials therefore contributed to a CO2e avoidance of around 97 percent. This is roughly equivalent to the amount of CO2 that would be emitted if one were to circumnavigate the globe by car about a dozen times.

Overall, the store has a reuse rate of 94 percent that is to say, most of the materials and pieces of furniture used were already in use before, for example at the previous tenant Conrad Electronic or a Globetrotter store. The six “new” percentage points include wall paint or light fittings equipped with new energy-saving LEDs. Around 88% of the materials used in the store can also be reused in the future, as they can be dismantled or repaired without damage or considerable effort.

From vacuum cleaner holders to backpack carriers (Photo: Nadine Albrecht)

A circular benchmark for others?

EPEA had before developed a planning and documentation tool for enabling the circulation of a building in collaboration with architects, planning disciplines as well as the construction firms, their Circularity Passport Building. In the course of the collaboration between EPEA and Globetrotter, the idea of also developing a “Circularity Passport Interiors” was born. This tool can be used to evaluate the implementation of the cradle-to-cradle design principle in relation to interior design. In this way, raw materials for products, processes, and buildings are used in a manner where they are either retained in a technical cycle with the same quality or can be returned to a biological cycle and completely degraded.

So, just like on the label of an outdoor jacket, the materials used in the Re:Think Store in Bonn were meticulously recorded. Likewise, fittings, shelving, and all interior furnishings were also designed to be easily dismantled and reused after they have served their purpose in the store.

The Re:Think Store is not a ready-made sustainable blueprint for every new retail outlet to come, explains Globetrotter CEO Andreas Vogler. That’s because the conditions would depend on the premises being taken over. Some of the lessons learned, however, are currently being brought to good use. Such as in the construction of a new repair workshop in Cologne:

“Bonn can’t be replicated; you just learn from it and take it with you into the future. We will look at what we have and how we can re-use it, and we’re thinking more about craftsmanship.”

Still, the Re:Think store in Bonn can serve as a benchmark not only for outdoor retailers, but also for other industries with many retailers: Upcycling in-store construction is possible – and can lead to substantial impact reductions.


Lead Photo: The large bear sculpture was created from scrap metal and electronic waste (Credit: Globetrotter)

Martina Wengenmeir
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