Hard times bring barter back into vogue in Britain

Wed Oct 15, 2008 1:54am EDT
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By Kate Kelland

LONDON (Reuters) - When it comes to being in vogue in Britain, barter is -- as they say -- the new black.

Rising inflation, a credit squeeze, crumbling stock markets and a slowing economy with job losses looming have prompted an explosion of cyber markets where consumers can get what they want without spending any of their precious and dwindling cash.

Swap shops for everything from clothes to books to toys and games are springing up all over the world wide web -- and some have developed their own virtual currencies.

"Our business is going up and up," Jonathan Attwood, director of the SwapitShop.com barter Website for young people, told Reuters. "Last month alone we had more than 40,000 new subscribers, and our members are now trading more than a quarter of a million of pounds worth of goods every month."

Attwood reckons some 5.9 billion pounds ($10.35 billion) are tied up in unused games, music and toys lying around in kids' bedrooms, and through barter sites like his, "savvy kids are unlocking one of Britain's biggest hidden resources."

Adults too, with an estimated 2.4 billion unworn items hanging in wardrobes across Britain, are getting wise to cyber bartering.

As food and fuel price inflation takes ever larger chunks out of tightening family budgets, bartering has swiftly turned from an idea prompted by a desire to be environmentally aware or join the vintage fashion trend, into a basic necessity.

IT'S COOL TO SWAP, NOT SHOP   Continued...