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Life for rent: retailers discarding the disposable economy.

How often do you buy something knowing you’re only going to use it a handful of times?

Then every time you open the cupboard and see it sitting there gathering dust, and you’re reminded of the cash you splashed and the frustrating lack of utility. Thankfully, big retailers are now coming up with big ideas to help lay waste to wastefulness.

Spurred on by competition from online rental services (Rent the Runway, Armoire, Fernish and Joymode to name a few) some big retailers in categories that didn’t traditionally offer rentals are now starting to make the option available.

Of course, the concept of short-term rental isn’t new in some categories – think camping gear hire, ski hire and surfboard hire to name a few – but the expansion in these new categories (below) certainly seems to be.

Home Depot

Like Bunnings in Australia, Home Depot in the US has for years offered short-term rentals on large tools and vehicles. But they’re now offering customers the opportunity to lease small tools as well. Need to put a few flat-packs together? No problem. Hire a cordless drill and bring it back when you’re done. And why not pick up whatever else you need while you’re in store? Traditional equipment hire companies must be shaking in their Blundstones.

Urban Outfitters

Formal wear has always been hireable. But a pair of jeans, not so much – until companies like Armoire and Glam Corner came along. Now they’re here it looks like they’re here to stay, so Urban Outfitters is set to launch an online subscription service called Nuuly that allows for up to six items per month to be rented before swapping them out for new threads. That’s fast fashion – minus the guilt.

West Elm

In partnership with Rent the Runway, West Elm has announced it will soon offer customers the opportunity to lease home décor and soft furnishings. Think throws, pillowcases, bedside clocks…everything but the kitchen sink (almost).

It’s a subtle but important move for these three traditional retailers, and we’re sure there are others who won’t be far behind. For example, how long until you can hire a TV from Tesco? Probably not too long, we’d bet.

Do these examples point to a new trend set to continue in coming years as retailers fight for market share? We think so, and customers can only benefit from the extra options. With apologies to Ariana Grande: I see it. I like it. I want it. I rent it.


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