Oxfam has developed a mobile phone app to link objects for sale in its charity shops with their history and the human stories behind them. The Oxfam Shelflife app uses QR codes to help the public discover the stories behind Oxfam’s donated, ethical and Unwrapped products, and even share their own stories for the items they donate.
The free app, available for iPhone, is currently being trialled in 10 Oxfam shops in Manchester. The scheme allows donors to ‘tag’ a QR code to their donated object, using the free Oxfam Shelflife app on their iPhone and share the story behind the item for the next owner to discover.
It is both an educational and marketing initiative: Oxfam is aware that the stories behind vintage and second-hand items can be part of their desirability. It is also designed to promote sustainability. Oxfam’s Emma Joy told BBC News: “We hope the pilot will prove that items with stories are more valuable and establish the monetary value of a story”.
Oxfam’s Sarah Farquhar, Head of Retail Brand, said: “Every item has a story to tell and Oxfam Shelflife enables people to share these stories. We’ve found that items with an interesting story behind them are instantly more appealing to our customers so we hope Oxfam Shelflife will encourage people to love items for longer. This commitment to sustainability is an important part of what Oxfam shops bring to the high street.”
Oxfam Shelflife is based on an original idea developed by the Tales of Things initiative (TOTeM: Tales of Things and Electronic Memory), a collaboration between five British universities.
Dr Chris Speed from the Edinburgh College of Art and part of the TOTeM team said: “Oxfam Shelflife has the potential to transform shops from places of consumption into places of stories and reflection. Shopping is no longer about buying things from unknown people in unknown places, instead the Oxfam Shelflife app will allow people to ‘write’ their stories on to products and help prevent them heading for the landfill.”
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