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The long overdue rise of rental is good for the retail industry - if we can get past a few glaring hurdles

The long overdue rise of rental is good for the retail industry - if we can get past a few glaring hurdles

Ben Crudo

Courtesy of Ben Crudo

Ben Crudo.

  • Ben Crudo is the CEO of Diff, a tech company that designs and builds e-commerce solutions for major retailers.
  • In this opinion piece, he writes that he recently decided to get a fancy new watch, but he balked at the price tag - then saw an opportunity to rent one and switch it out for a few months for a fraction of that cost.
  • In the rental market, Crudo sees a new opportunity for retail to still give customers the satisfaction of buying goods, all while becoming more environmentally conscious and democratizing luxury goods.
  • To do that, companies will need to destigmatize the concept of 'used' - and get older people on board.
  • Visit Business Insider's homepage for more stories.

I recently decided I wanted a new watch. Not just any old watch, mind you; I had my heart set on a fancy one. That is until I looked into it. At $10,000 to $30,000 a pop, I just couldn't justify spending so much on a single item, no matter how cool it was. So I did some sleuthing and quickly discovered that luxury watches are now available to rent. For a fraction of the cost of buying one, I could use one for a few months and then switch it up.

Do a quick Google search and you'll find the same goes for a growing selection of clothes, furniture and even designer accessories in the emerging rental market. And it's not just enterprising startups that are expanding the boundaries of borrowing, even big-name retailers like IKEA and Urban Outfitters have hopped on the trend. It's an exciting shift for the retail industry - one that, quite frankly, is long overdue.

Don't get me wrong: I love retail. My first job was working in my dad's denim shops and today I run an ecommerce agency. But I'm also acutely aware of the damage the industry does. Our need to constantly sell - and buy - new stuff is not only harmful to the planet (the fashion industry alone accounts for nearly 10% of global emissions), it's bad for our mental health.

The emerging rental market offers a promising solution. There's potential to reduce our environmental footprint while continuing to provide jobs and stimulate the economy, not to mention satisfy our desire to get the goods we want and need. Of course, this nascent industry is a long way away from overhauling retail on a large scale - and I'm not under any illusions that renting will completely replace buying new things. But if we can get it over a few glaring hurdles, this approach to commerce can certainly make a dent in the dark side of consumer culture. Here are a few ideas on how to fast-track this trend.

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