Next-door Commerce

type - trends
sector - retail
Having re-engaged with their local communities, neighbours are inspiring new retail models based on hyper-local trading and sharing of goods

Drivers: what’s happening

The pandemic may have reinstated the act of popping to a neighbour’s house for provisions, dog walks or friendly check-ins, but these casual transactions – which are typically based on kindness as opposed to financial gain – are now being formalised to reach the masses.

This shift comes as everyday people seek out Eco-venient Retail choices. Spending has become ever-more localised, and instead of contributing to the already heavy pockets of conglomerate chains, citizens are prioritising the livelihoods of their local suppliers, producers and stores. Post-pandemic, some 79% of consumers plan to continue shopping in neighbourhood stores and 84% want to buy more locally sourced products in the longer term, according to Accenture.

While these behaviours contribute to consumption, some communities are seeking ways to gain access to necessities without funding capitalism. This is where hyper-local platforms such as Nextdoor have thrived. The app, which uses geo-mapping to allow people to exchange local tips and goods with neighbours, is used by nearly one in five households in the UK and more than 66m worldwide (source: Nextdoor). With citizens leading this movement, new retail models and services will surely follow, in which shopping is not done in a store, but inside the houses of our neighbours.

Published by:

25 April 2022

Author: Holly Friend and Livvy Houghton

Image: Vrienden, The Netherlands


Xinfan Market by Naturalbuild. Photography by Hao Chen, China

Case studies: what’s new

Buy Nothing

New digital platforms are applying this localism on a grander scale, using sharing economy models to decouple consumption from capitalism. The reciprocal nature of Buy Nothing, which began as a series of Facebook groups for hacks on how to, literally, buy nothing, turned heads in the retail sector when it launched its own app in November 2021. Now, the app streamlines the process of requesting and collectively sharing objects with others for free, with the end goal of reducing consumption.

Xinfan Market

In China's Zhejiang Province, the Xinfan Market has been redesigned to take into account the ‘community group buying practices’ that replaced traditional market rituals during the country's lockdowns. During this time, community leaders would purchase items in bulk before distributing them directly to members of the community. As a result, design studio Naturalbuild chose to integrate the ‘chaos' and 'randomness' of these experiences into the architecture of the market.


Launched at Dutch Design Week in 2021, Vrienden is a furniture brand that operates as a social design network, positioning strangers’ living rooms as showrooms where people can buy furniture while making social connections. Those who help to build a national network by offering their homes as private viewing spaces are posited as Friends and customers must make an appointment with such hosts before they visit. If they buy an item from the homeware collection, the hospitable Friend earns a cut of the sale.

‘Linking the furniture directly to the end user, large stores are not necessary, and the design collection also remains affordable’
Eric Sloot, founder, Vrienden

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