December 23, 2009 / 3:00 PM / 9 years ago

Shop to swap unloved gifts for practical presents

LJUBLJANA (Reuters) - If your drawers are packed with the ghosts of Christmases past in the shape of unwanted gifts, a new Slovenian shop may be just the thing for you this year.

A woman checks gifts under a Christmas tree in the newly opened Darilnica (the Gift Shop) in Ljubljana December 22, 2009. REUTERS/Srdjan Zivulovic

On a narrow cobbled street winding up to a mediaeval castle overlooking the Slovenian capital, Darilnica (the Gift Shop) opened this month as a place where Christmas, birthday, anniversary, indeed gifts of any kind, can be exchanged for something you do want.

Four young women - three architects and a public relations expert - decided to open the shop to make people think before giving presents, particularly at Christmas.

“People get and give too many presents nowadays so we believe there is a need for a shop where you can exchange gifts, so that every present gets an owner who will find good use for it,” one of the four women, Masa Cvetko, told Reuters.

She was wrapping up an ornament, a crystal cross that one of the customers got at her wedding a few years ago. She never liked it and eventually brought it to the shop, where it was exchanged for a piece of soap someone else brought in.

“We set no price on the presents, one can take anything we have in exchange for any present they bring and there is no money involved,” Cvetko said.

“We hope to make people think before giving a gift and make them give presents that mean something, that have a symbolic, personal value,” she added.

Each present is put in a box, wrapped up neatly and placed under a large Christmas tree while its photo is put on the wall so people can choose presents from the photos.

In the first week since opening some 200 presents have been exchanged but more are expected to come in after Christmas and New Year, so the shop will stay open until January 8.

The women running the shop are not paid for their work and the premises were made available to them by the local community free of charge.

The photos, hung above an artificial fire shown on a TV screen and a table where customers can get a cup of tea, show knitted napkins, plush toys, key chains, vases, glasses, perfumes, candles, socks, bags, hats, watches and even a CD tower.

Each present is displayed with a piece of paper explaining why it was brought to the shop, but no names are mentioned to avoid possibly embarrassing situations.

“This is a great idea as a lot of things that we do not need pile up over the years and I am glad to give them away so that those who want them may have them,” said a retired nurse Marija Gajsek who came to the shop with her 8-year-old granddaughter.

Gajsek, 56, brought three candles, a clay cup and a glass tray, most of which were given to her by friends last Christmas, while her granddaughter chose a toy and a T-shirt in return.

Reporting by Marja Novak; Editing by Paul Casciato

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