Star­tups see a mar­ket in rent­ing couches

Antelope Valley Press - - BUSINESS -

NEW YORK (AP) — Zachariah Mo­hammed’s liv­ing room is filled with stuff he doesn’t own.

He pays $200 a month for the sofa, side ta­ble, bar cart, din­ing ta­ble and four chairs in his liv­ing room. It’s worth it, the 27-year-old New Yorker says. If he needs to move, which he’s done twice in the last 12 months, he won’t need to lug a sofa across the city or worry if it will fit in a new place. The fur­ni­ture-rental startup, Feather, will swap out items for some­thing else.

“We don’t want to be stuck with a gi­ant couch,” says Mo­hammed, a so­cial me­dia man­ager at a soft­ware com­pany, who lives with his part­ner and their dog, Remy.

Feather, Fernish and other com­pa­nies aim to rent fur­ni­ture to mil­len­ni­als who don’t want to com­mit to big pur­chases or move heavy fur­ni­ture and are will­ing to pay for the con­ve­nience. It’s part of a wave of rental cul­ture that in­cludes Rent the Run­way, fo­cused on women’s de­signer cloth­ing, and even Net­flix and Spo­tify, which let you stream from a huge cat­a­log rather than buy in­di­vid­ual TV show episodes, movies or songs.

“They’re mov­ing a lot. They’re chang­ing jobs a lot,” says Thomas Robert­son, a mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sor at the Whar­ton School of the Univer­sity of Penn­syl­va­nia, de­scrib­ing the types of peo­ple who would use the ser­vices. “Why would you want to be sad­dled with fur­ni­ture?”

The fur­ni­ture-rental com­pa­nies tar­get high-in­come city dwellers who want a $1,100 or­ange love seat ($46 a month) or $980 leather bench ($41 a month) — but only tem­po­rar­ily. The fur­ni­ture it­self is a step up from Ikea.

“I’m 32 years old and have lived in 25 dif­fer­ent places, five dif­fer­ent coun­tries, 12 dif­fer­ent cities,” says Chan Park, who co-founded on­line fur­ni­ture rental com­pany Oliver Space last year. He con­stantly bought and dis­carded cheap fur­ni­ture. Then he moved to a fur­nished rental apart­ment in Sin­ga­pore.

“It was prob­a­bly the first time my adult life that I felt like I was truly at home,” Park says.

These star­tups are in just a hand­ful of coastal cities, with few users, but seek to grow. They of­fer fur­ni­ture from Crate & Bar­rel, West Elm and smaller brands.

Oth­ers are rent­ing out home goods, too. Rent the Run­way re­cently added West Elm pil­lows and quilts. Ikea is test­ing a rental ser­vice in sev­eral coun­tries out­side the U.S., in­clud­ing Switzer­land and Bel­gium.

Rent­ing may make sense for a gen­er­a­tion that sees “life as tran­sient,” says Hana Ben-Sha­bat, the founder of Gen Z Planet, a re­search and ad­vi­sory firm that fo­cuses on the gen­er­a­tion born be­tween the late 1990s and 2016.

AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

In this Nov. 25 photo, Zachariah Mo­hammed (left), Pete Man­cilla, and their dog Remy pose for a pic­ture in their apart­ment in New York. Most of the fur­ni­ture in their apart­ment are rented.

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