Will retail stores all become libraries for products in the new rental economy?

Retailers from Home Depot to Urban Outfitters are doubling down on rentals, but renting isn’t always a great deal.


May 23, 2019

Earlier this week, Home Depot announced plans to double down on tool rentals to cater to pro builders and boost sales.

And on Tuesday, Urban Outfitters launched an online subscription service that will allow customers to rent up to 6 items per month before swapping them out for new threads.

As traditional sellers embrace rentals, they raise the question: Is rent-ail the future of retail?

Like libraries… but for popular products

Improved inventory management systems have enabled new industries to rent, leading to the explosion of new rent-ailers.

The equipment rental market is expected to grow to $60B by 2021, and the online clothing rental market, virtually nonexistent before Rent the Runway, is expected to grow from $1B in 2018 to $2.5B by 2023.

These growing markets are great opportunities for rent-ailers to build giant catalogs of popular products and revamp sluggish sales. But they’re not necessarily good deals for renters.

Why buy when you can rent?… wait a minute… 

Renting provides value to some consumers — namely, the ones looking for specific, expensive products they won’t use much, like power tools or stylish dresses.

But, while no-strings-attached access to bikes, cars, and even dogs may seem attractive, renting everything — including commonly used items like furniture — often ends up being wildly expensive.

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