Free shop proves popular in Paris

Circular economy in action as shoppers bring second-hand goods to recycle and others take them away for free

by Ellie Burnage
A SHOP where everything is free may sound too good to be true but the real-life version is proving unsurprisingly popular in Paris – and is showing the circular economy in vibrant action.

The Boutique sans Argent is bringing in more than 100 people a day arriving with second-hand items to drop off or taking something away and some people just popping in to see how it all works.

Set up in the old Reuilly rail station in the 12th arrondissement at 181 Avenue Daumesnil, the recently opened Siga-siga shop relies entirely on donations of second-hand items - clothes, trinkets, books, CDs and toys – which are then taken away for free by others who need them.

Customers can browse the shelves and leave the shop with pockets full of new belongings without even having to pay a centime.

Manager Debora Fischkandl said the shop was based on a concept developed in Germany where there are more than 60 of them.

There is one shop already in France, at Mulhouse, Haut-Rhin, and Ms Fischkandl said: “We found these shops inspirational and decided to start one in Paris, which particularly has need of such an association. Flats in the city are often small, lacking the space to store old belongings. Now Parisians have somewhere to take their bits and pieces, instead of throwing them out.”

As well as reducing the amount of waste, the shop also serves as a community environment. Ms Fischkandl added: “There is a sense of solidarity that comes with giving and receiving. The boutique gives people the chance to meet people and create a wider social network, something that is sometimes quite difficult in Paris.”

Le Siga-Siga magasin gratuit à l'intérieur de l'ancienne gare de Reuilly à Paris 12e ☺
Apportez y vos inutiles. ☺— Smiley Trains (@SmileyTrains) September 19, 2015

Customers can take items away even if they do not donate and Ms Fischkandl said: “It is open to absolutely everyone, no matter what their financial situation.
“People come from all over Paris to visit the shop. Holidaymakers have often heard about us and also drop by to see how it works. I have had people from Spain, Italy and South Africa tell me that they wish that had something similar in their own country!”

The shop is run as a non-profit association with aid from the Ile-de-France region and in premises owned by the Mairie de Paris. It is open morning and afternoon six days a week. Donations of any items are welcome, as long as they are transportable (up to the size of a microwave) and in a reasonable state.

However, potential donors should check the shop’s webpage at as it can quickly become overwhelmed with some items such as clothing and may need a temporary halt.

In addition to the shop, the association La Boutique sans Argent also hosts free zones de gratuité events all over Paris where people can take second-hand items so they can be given a second life. The next is on September 27 at the Alternatiba event in Paris at Place de la République and you can find out more at
La Boutique sans Argent