UK’s first ‘share shop’ opens for business

Lucy Purdy

A new kind of shop is aiming to transform the future of retail by lending rather than selling items and fostering more meaningful connections with the things we use

SHARE, in Frome, Somerset may be the first shop in the UK where lending, rather than selling, rules.

At this ‘borrowing hub’ items are loaned out rather than sold – and everything is personalised with the story of its previous owner. SHARE founders believe this nurtures trust and respect as well as providing a practical service.

The store also aims to reduce waste, save customers money and train young people with practical skills through workshops and social events.

People are asked to donate or lend useful, high quality items which the shop then lends out to others for several days at a time. Only a nominal fee is charged to borrow items: between £1 and £4.

At SHARE, all items are displayed with the object’s history and a photo of the person who donated it to encourage people to forge connections and introduce a richness of experience, arguably often missing from financial transactions.

“Enabling people to share resources not only saves money but reduces waste and carbon too.”

The shop opened its doors this spring after eight unemployed young people were given just two months to get it up and running. They were set the challenge by community enterprise Edventure: Frome as part of specialist training in community entrepreneurship, which sees participants ‘learning through doing’.

One of the people involved, Maija Helena Powell, 21, said: “Working on this project has been a huge eye-opener for me. I can’t think of anywhere else where I’d have the opportunity to create a sustainable business from scratch and get involved with every step of the process – from writing a business plan to actually building the shop interior.

“It has really changed how I think of work – now it actually seems possible that I could make a living at the same time as doing something good for society.”

Frome’s town council provided start-up funding and it is hoped that the shop will become a fully self-sustaining enterprise within six months.

“Enabling people to share resources not only saves money but reduces waste and carbon too,” said Anna Francis, Frome Town Council’s energy and recycling officer. “The average electric drill is used for just 15 minutes in its lifetime and with many households feeling the pinch SHARE means everyone will be able to access the items they need – from tools to cookery to camping equipment – without the expense, hassle and storage needed to buy their own,” she added.

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One man, Mark, donated a set of golf clubs to the shop accompanied by an interesting story of how he came to own them. He ended up with them after attending a conference at which delegates were asked to bring something of sentimental value. Mark brought his grandfather’s gold wedding ring but it was lost, so he took the golf clubs home instead.

“Years later,” explained Powell, “someone contacted him having cleared out their house and found his ring. They returned it with a note saying: ‘It’s about time you were reunited with this!’ Not knowing the true owner of the golf clubs he has now passed them on into the world through SHARE.”

SHARE joins a growing network of sharing services around the globe including Leila, the well- established ‘borrowing shop’ in Berlin. Library of Things in West Norwood, south London, recently surpassed a £12,000 Kickstarter funding target to build upon the “roaring success” of its pilot project. The team behind Library of Things is keen to open source the model and see a network of sharing shops growing across the UK.

Photo title: The recently opened SHARE shop in Frome

Photo credit: © James Bartholomew

  • Julie ordung

    What a wonderful idea! I would love to have the ability to try this here in the USA!

  • Αnna

    This is wonderful, a dream come true. It can truly revolutionize our relationship to things.
    Well done. I have a list of things I would like to donate

  • Roxy

    A friend of mine has often wanted to just borrow something for an hour or two, but there has been nowhere to turn. He often says “Why can’t I just borrow something from the store?” Rental companies have raised their rates lately (at least in this small town in the Colorado mountains, USA). I hope that this idea explodes globally along with all the other wonderful things that are happening, such as excess food from supermarkets being given to food banks and so on…Congratulations, I wish you much success…Roxy Whalley ~ Tranquil Light Photography & Woman With Pen…

  • Andy

    I love this idea and i would use it all the time because i have no power tools and have need them and then projects around the house has to be stopped or get someone in to do the thing i could of done if i had the tools.
    But won’t it impact on the retail business that sell and rent these things which is a good thing sometimes as they can charge a fortune to buy or even rent. which might change their way of thinking.

  • dorothy davie

    What an excellent idea – the beginning of saving the planet by making currency a non-issue and helping the poorer people in our communities. More ideas like this please. Good luck and great success with this. Bartering and sharing , geeting food in exchange for services rendered. GREAT !!!!

  • Bee Warren

    I’ve often thought how pointless it is for everyone in a community to buy and store the same thing that only gets used on rare occasions, particularly things like power tools, which would be perfectly adequate to have one per street, for example. In small, tight knit communities this probably happens to some degree but these days many neighbours barely know each other. This is an excellent idea to help rebalance the people:possessions ratio and benefit this poor overstretched planet.

  • Alonys McClary

    Beautiful. This is absolutely glorious. I am going to search Utah for a shop like this.

  • Ibrahim

    I am with you.

  • Kenny Mac

    Nice idea – but aren’t these golf clubs stolen property?

  • Matt

    There is an online version of this called Borroclub

  • Marie

    Me too!! Fantastic idea.

  • Mike

    There is also another website in UK called which aims to build community by sharing things with your neighbours. Great to see more of these ideas growing.

  • Sandie Roach

    I would like to share with you a new inovation, which recently began in Whanganui, New Zealand and has already spread to Australia. The Koha Shed.

    Koha, is a Māori word for gift and that is just what the Koha Shed is – a Gift Shed. Folk give and take stuff and no questions are asked. It’s the only shop in Whanganui where you can’t get done for shoplifting! No money is involved.

    Whanganui suffered it’s worst floods, ever, a fortnight ago and volunteers at Koha Shed have been working night and day to get gifted aid to those displaced by the muddy waters.

    Here is the link to their face book page:

    Here are some links to newspaper articles written about the Koha Shed:

  • Chris Marsh

    What a brilliant idea! love it! We need positive news so much because it helps us cope with all the bad stuff.

  • Tara

    Hi Sharefolks! Well done!

    I have a community arts hub in Toronto Canada, with small “incubator” rooms to help businesses start up that focus on the community. I would love to offer space to Share for a Canada startup, if you have anyone willing to help operate it/set it up…

  • Blipette

    You soooo got it. Dumping capitalism is the road to true freedom. We’re working on a tiny housing project with this objective, ie. grow our own food, use natural energy sources, help each other, 1 car for 15 people and the manager will have a car to run folks to med appts, shopping etc, weekly. And the main focus is to return to ‘humanity’ consciousness over consumer consciousness.

    Im gonna see about getting a shop like yours going there, its SUCH A GREAT IDEA. Bless ya all.

  • Luke

    I would like to set this up in Bideford :-)

  • Blipette

    Go for it. Its amazing how the current is really flowing for helping people. You could contact Neighborhood House or churches for space, and then start with donations till you build capital for purchasing, ya just gotta put a new definition to being enterprising. Im in Oregon and working on it.

  • Sue

    Fantastic! Brilliant idea. Way to go! A friend told me she is looking to set one up in Ayreshire, Scotland and has lent me her draft business plan. I am going to talk to people I know in Nairnshire, Scotland about setting one up here.

  • Diana

    Another idea on these lines is the repair shop. So many things break down after a very short time and there is a guy in a neighbouring town with a shop advertising that he can repair anything. Maybe he can’t repair everything but he can certainly help many people to save money.

    The idea of repairing broken articles rather than throwing them away must be taking off here as I saw a headline on a local newspaper a while back saying that these repairers are the bane of the manufacturers who endeavour to ensure that their goods are produced with built-in obsolescence.

  • Laura

    That guy who stole someone’s sentimental golf clubs because he couldn’t find his ring sounds like a dick.
    The Share Shop is a great idea I hope it’s successful and reaches London!!


  • John Rasiej

    This sounds like a wonderful idea and I am sure it has the potential to help many. Yet I can’t help but think of the LAW OF UNINTENDED CONSEQUENCES. The world economies are built on a model of a certain number of people making a certain number of things for consumption. By creating systems that reduce the number of products will that eliminate jobs for some of those producers (many of them lower-paid wage workers who seem to bear the brunt of technological advances).

    We have a history of creating advances that seem positive yet create negative effects — and often there are many people who never recover from those negative consequences. When technology created automated attendants for phone calls, phone operators were eliminated. When big retailers came in for more convenience they crushed many small businesses in local communities. When online retailers like Amazon came in, they crushed even more of local shopping businesses. Soon they are predicting automated cars, meaning taxi drivers will lose jobs… If there aren’t enough jobs for people, what are they expected to do?

    Again, this isn’t necessarily what happens from an idea like this, but shouldn’t we look at all consequences before jumping on bandwagons?

  • rose

    This is a fantastic idea ~ for so many reasons!
    Love it!

  • Veronica

    i think if the products were lent out for free with a deposit paid that would suit the name better. If they are charging it’s simply not sharing. I do not like the misapropriation of this valuable word and deed. I’m sure the people who use it will appreciate it…..but it leaves a bad taste to call it something it obviously isn’t.

  • Eric Doriean

    It and variations of it are the future. I’m part of a team that is working on software platforms to help run hubs like this. You can make a free hub @ and then contact us, so we can help you get the most out of the software.

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