Flea markets: the Finnish experienc

    04 Jan 2022

    A wide variety of Finnish flea markets are collectively referred to as Kirpputori. It is by no means possible to call them localized places where people come to buy something or sell their goods. Kirputoria can be either small shops or grow to entire markets, often occupying entire squares.

    Let’s get to know more thanks to Sher.media review.

    Finnish flea markets are divided into three types:

    1. Organized markets where sellers come to set prices for their goods. Often they gather in tourist cities, and people who come to trade, first of all, are not aimed at selling things as expensive as possible, but at simply selling everything – therefore, the diversity and uniqueness of goods may be questioned.
    2. There are second-hand shops, the owner of which buys things himself or accepts them as a gift, and then sets the price on his own. All profits go to the store and / or go to charities.
    3. The most interesting type of flea market in Finland is called not less interesting – “Itsepalvelukirpputori” (transcript: self-service flea market). To put things there, you need to rent a place for yourself, which costs about 25 euros per week. However, it is absolutely unnecessary for a tenant to appear in a store to sell everything. Each item is assigned a barcode, with the help of which all the money earned is sent to the owners.


    Where does this tradition come from in Finland?

    Brickworks in Helsinki appeared in the 18th century, and from the very beginning they were perceived very ambiguously: the locals, not understanding why to resell used things, even called the people selling in the markets “fools”. In the 20s and 80s of the last century, flea markets in Finland mainly operated on a charitable basis: people took out unnecessary things for free and gave them to the poor. The brickutoria took its current form in the 1980s, when the Hietalahti flea market opened – the most beloved by the locals, open all year round.

    Statistics Finland, based on a study of Finnish peer-to-peer and distribution economies (these are systems of economic self-organization that ensure the production, exchange and distribution of products without involving centralized management), gives figures that speak quite eloquently about the involvement of local residents in trading on flea markets in 2019: more than 70% of Finns bought goods at flea markets during the year, 53% came to trade at them. In total: 4/5 of local residents were doing business in the markets. The average daily purchase/sale in brickworks was €168.

    Some residents say that it is actually not entirely correct to call kirputoria second-hand or flea markets. These are rather modern “museums of Finnish life”, where you can buy your favorite exhibits. This is because the inhabitants of Finland are not only reselling old things, but also actively selling a variety of new things. Clothing often sold in flea markets is in line with current trends, and some items can be found there at the same time as they appear in regular stores. Needless to say, all clothes handed over to kirputoria undergo hygienic treatment and washing, or they can be sold completely new.

    Despite the widespread use throughout the country, and – as mentioned above – is far from a new format for reselling things, disputes about this have not subsided to this day. The Finns even comically argued about this in a specific and previously popular format of mediated communication on the pages of newspapers under the headings of readers’ letters.

    Of course, Kirpputori fans cite their economic benefits first. Obviously, in flea markets you can often get something you need in an acceptable condition and for little money. However, it should be noted that in places where the pricing policy is controlled by the people themselves, you can find absolutely any prices: new things are sometimes sold for a few euros, and used ones can be unexpectedly expensive – they blame it on the human factor.


    Sustainability of  Kirpputori

    Instead of bringing new tenants from the store to their closets, Finns boldly – without prejudice and neglect – go to the nearest flea market for new clothes, thereby significantly reducing the amount of recyclable materials and giving new life to things. Young people are especially active in this – often only for ideological reasons.

    “By shopping in such markets, people save money and at the same time take care of the environment,” say the organizers of the Sunday market in Hakaniemi Square, Päivi Toivonen and Orvokki Hyutinen. They dream of turning this market into more than just a place to trade. According to their idea, artists can also gather on the territory of the market, and the chefs’ hallways can treat all visitors to traditional Finnish cuisine.

    With the current increase in the impact of negative trends of fleeting fashion on the environment, Finland is one of the world leaders in protecting the environment thanks to such simple solutions. Today 19% of Finnish products are resold domestically and also exported for sale abroad. It seems that the people of the country have really managed to create a culture that, passing from house to house, becomes a tradition and makes a huge contribution to the protection of the environment. The glokality of this tradition cannot go unnoticed – for example, just buying a pair of jeans from the previous owner instead of production can save up to 37,000 liters of clean water.

    It should be noted that civic recycling and resale initiatives are highly supported and rhymed by the country’s government. For example, in 2016, Finland introduced a state ban on the disposal of textiles in landfills. In the same year, Finland took first place in the ranking of countries in the world in terms of the environmental performance index (with an index of 90.68), surpassing Iceland and Sweden.

    In addition, Finland is constantly developing technologies to modernize the processing of various types of raw materials. For example, using technology developed by VTT Technical Research Center and Ethica, even the smallest and most worn cotton products can be turned into cellulose solution and then into new materials. Thus, a new thing can be born from cellulose of almost any composition and condition. And this is far from the only step towards ecology taken in the country. Although Finland, as well as the rest of the world, still faces many ecologically unsolved problems, it is obvious that the traditions of recycling and recycling, with which the inhabitants of the country are vaccinated, help to make the world a better place.

    Where to look for brickworks in Finland?

    The most beloved by Finns – and already familiar to us – the eternally open coastal market “Hietalahti” is located in the south of Helsinki. People come there in large friendly or neighboring companies and sell, it seems, everything that has a prospect for resale that comes to their hand at home.

    Some – more introverted – Finns come to trade in the Lapinlahti market. There are almost no tourists there due to the fact that the shopping area is located on the territory of a former hospital complex, hidden from unaware eyes. In addition, there are many specific products that are often interesting only for their specificity.

    Kaivarin Kanuuna is more like a thrift store. This is a covered space where sellers rent individual shelves and rails. The local assortment is distinguished by a more or less careful selection of things – a lot of branded clothing from well-known brands like Adidas, Nike, Kenzo, Gucci and even Tiger of Sweden.

    By the way, the Finns Päivi and Orvokki we already know are organizing a cool annual four-day flea market at Kaapelitehdas, which opens in Helsinki twice a year and is dedicated to Cleaning Day (Siivouspäivä). On these days, residents put their stalls on any streets of the city and take part in activities aimed at protecting the environment.

    The two largest second-hand stores in Finland, Fida and UFF, have been operating since the 1970s. “Fida” is a religious organization that is guided by global missions in its activities and acts, according to the owners, with humanitarian goals. There you can find designer tableware and furniture at reasonable prices. Most of the clothes here are modern, but sometimes you can find vintage items as well. The UFF network, like Fida, directs the funds received from the sale of clothing to support various charitable projects. However, this company is especially responsible for the assortment offered to customers. The choice of items is large: endless rows of hangers with clothes sorted by color and season.

    Obviously, the story about rationality and environmental friendliness in the case of Finland is a story about civic conscience, which is very much in line with the country’s ideological agenda and general political potential. The example of Finland clearly shows that such interaction is a purely bidirectional and interpenetrating process. In addition, it is interesting to judge Finnish rationality in the context of not a new, but infinitely all impressive concept of a uniquely self-sufficient Scandinavian transition to a socialist system through the development of a capitalist one. The examples of the spread of Finnish civic philosophy once again show that such a concept is not unfounded.


    Why vintage, second-hand, and upcycling are popular again? Read the conclusions of the first pandemic year here.

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