Retail

People Aren’t Sold on Furniture Renting – But It Has Potential

Image Credit: Photo by Matthew Henry from Burst

Retail is evolving with the times, and the furniture industry is no exception. While we’ve witnessed a trend towards buying furniture online, a new market innovation is vying to compete with the likes of Wayfair and Amazon: subscription-based furniture renting.

A few companies are experimenting with the “Furniture as a Service” model, and the most well-known is IKEA, the Swedish ready-to-assemble furniture giant. IKEA’s service will let customers rent furniture for a period of time and then return it if they want to try out something else.

Driven by the growing trend toward all things becoming subscription-based services, IKEA is tapping into the notion that people want new, upgraded products these days, but also want those products to be sustainable and environmentally-friendly.

Does this kind of subscription-based furniture rental model resonate with the American public? And if so, who does it appeal to? In a CivicScience poll of 1,447 U.S. adults, a total of just 10% of respondents were open to the idea of renting furniture and housewares, with only 3% stating they were “very likely” to rent.

Here’s a run-down of who that 10% is most likely to be:

Young Adults

As with many nascent tech or retail developments, young adults are the early would-be adopters, with nearly 20% of 25-29-year-olds interested in furniture renting. However, the idea still appeals to a small percentage of the 35-54-year-old crowd, while finding close to zero interest with anyone older.

Women

Gender-wise, women are about twice as likely as men to be interested in renting furniture:

People who make less than $100k per year

Most open to furniture renting are those who earn $50k or less per year, with $50-100k earners following close behind. However, anyone who earns more than $100k per year shows negligible interest.

Furniture can definitely be a pricey investment, so it makes sense that lower earners would be most interested in renting it.

Students and Renters

College students and IKEA furniture are basically synonymous with one another. The affordability and the ability to disassemble the furniture and move it from place to place make it ideal for students.

Being able to rent IKEA furniture could potentially make frequent moving less stressful for students and renters alike. In fact, IKEA hopes to reach its large transient customer base with its new subscription service.

The study shows that students are more likely to be interested in renting furniture than non-students, with a total of 16% of students open to the idea:

Perhaps one of the most significant findings of the study is the difference in interest between renters and homeowners.

Only 2% of homeowners say they are at all likely to rent furniture, compared to 21% of renters, making renters over 10 times more likely to rent furniture compared to homeowners.

IKEA shoppers

The good news for IKEA is that it looks like there is potential within their U.S. customer base for a rental service. Those who are favorable to shopping for IKEA furniture are the most interested in renting furniture or housewares. A total of 10% of IKEA shoppers say they are likely to rent furniture, compared to just 3% of people who don’t like to shop at IKEA.

People concerned about the environment

Last but certainly not least, the study shows that renting furniture has some grounding with people who prioritize buying environmentally friendly products and services. They are more than twice as likely to rent furniture or housewares compared to those who don’t put environmental concerns first when it comes to their purchases.

Of course, the large majority of people who prioritize environmental purchases aren’t interested in furniture renting.

All in all, the study shows that the potential for furniture rental adoption spans multiple swaths of the population, with the greatest being renters, lower income earners, young adults ages 18-29, environmentally-conscious buyers, and IKEA shoppers.

In this light, IKEA may be onto something. However, with just 10% overall interest, the concept of renting furniture, versus buying new affordable or discounted pieces online, still has a ways to go before it finds its place within the growing subscription-based economy.

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