High Unemployment Pushes European Consumers to Rent Consumer Goods


The combination of high unemployment and high retail costs in Europe has resulted in a number of consumers choosing to rent products instead of buying them.

The Eurozone crisis (or Euro crisis) and the shallow recovery have led to people getting creative about accessing products and services, such as sharing, renting or bartering.

Alternatives to buying. Several companies, including clothing retailer Hennes & Mauritz AB, are offering alternatives to buying the product outright. Instead of paying the equivalent of $135 for a pair of jeans, they can lease a pair from the designer for 12 months instead for much less. Once the one-year term expires, the consumer can choose to buy the jeans, return them or exchange them for a new pair.

Sharing or renting goods and services is certainly not a new, but it has become much more popular in the years since the financial crisis of 2008. A number of startup companies focusing on sharing goods have sprung up, and several are located in Silicon Valley.

Looking for ways to save money. European consumers have been drawn to the idea of unconventional ways of buying and selling (or not) as uncertain economic conditions have driven them to think about long-term ways to save money. People continue to have less money to spend, and they are increasingly careful about their choices. Some consumer goods companies are even getting into the act by offering leases on household appliances and electronic products costing more than $480.

IKEA has been organizing rummage sales in a number of countries, including Sweden and Portugal, since 2010. It also lets customers sell used IKEA brand furniture through its website. In some countries, customers can save themselves the trouble of selling the furniture themselves by returning it in exchange for a voucher. The store then takes care of reselling the items.

French sporting goods retailer Decalthlon holds twice-yearly sales where it sells used equipment on its customers’ behalf. Customers who sell their used gear in this way receive vouchers that they can use toward new merchandise worth the same amount as the goods sold. In France alone, the retailer expects that sales of these second-hand goods will grow by approximately 10 percent.

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