Does the sharing economy have staying power? Or is it just a fad?

The sharing economy has been Identified by TIME Magazine as ‘one of the 10 Ideas that will change the world’; hailed by the Economist as a big trend with ‘immense potential’ and cited by Forbes as a new ‘disruptive economic force’. Week on week it’s making headlines all over the world, on screens and in publications on every continent...

You are reading an article from the Understanding the sharing economy series, to read more about this you can visit the series homepage.

There’s no doubt that everyone wants their share: Avis (purchased Zipcar), Virgin Atlantic (partnered with Taxi2), Marriott Hotels (joined up with LiquidSpace ), Ikea (have promoted ridesharing). M&S are Shwopping, B&Q have Streetclub and Amazon have just announced their move into the sharing economy with plans to open a peer-to-peer local services marketplace.

Right now, the sharing economy is big business with estimates on the value of the market ranging from $110 billion to $533 billion. The question is, does the sharing economy have staying power or is it just the latest start-up fad?

Let’s look at the evidence…

The business-to-consumer (or people, as I prefer to call people) relationship has forever changed. Now that people can trade with other people, peer-to-peer, reliance on corporations is becoming a thing of the past.

We can all become makers and suppliers of goods and services. We can open restaurants in our front rooms and sell our favourite dishes to those interested in buying them; we can swap houses for our summer holidays or find a new job via a task sharing website.

Once empowered, why would we give this up?

Then there are the businesses who didn’t embrace sharing. Take Kodak for starters. Or gaming giant Atari who viewed gaming as a solo experience and didn’t live to tell the tale. And let’s not forget Our Price, the original record store who didn’t see music sharing in their future and ultimately didn’t have a future.

But aside from business survival, there’s something even more fundamental. We live on a planet of finite resources, with a growing population. If we were to continue consuming at the rate we have been, we’d need seven planets to sustain us. It doesn’t take a maths genius to realise then that in the future, we’ll need to share to survive. 

What’s more, we’re witnessing a culture shift, a Millennial generation – or Generation Share as I call them, who are choosing to access rather than own. To these 25 - 34 year olds, the idea that you’d pay to own a car that sits unused in the driveway for 23 hours a day is absurd. Why pay for what you don’t need?

This smart, savvy, on-demand generation are choosing to access what they need when they need it. They recognise that they can have the lifestyle they choose by just paying for what they use.

Fancy a summer holiday? Head to compareandshare.com and pick from over one million properties rented directly from the owner. Need a designer dress for a party? There’s renttherunway.com Looking for a new job? Try taskrabbit.com. 

Or you could take your pick of over 7,400 sharing economy sites in the Global Sharing Economy Directory.

The fact is, like it or not, the sharing economy isn’t going anywhere, it’s here for the long term precisely because it’s about the long term. The actual definition of a sharing economy says it all – a socio-economic ecosystem built around the sharing of human and physical resources. Or put it another way, if we don’t share, we won’t survive.

-This is a guest blog and may not represent the views of Virgin.com. Please see virgin.com/terms for more details.

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