Never knowingly under-leased – John Lewis moves to rent out its furniture

It’s typically been the preserve of landlords and property dressers trying to sell a home, but furniture rental could be about to go mainstream. From Monday, high street favourite John Lewis will be renting out sofas, sideboards and desks, as part of the plan to remodel its business announced last month.

Tenants who are in short-term lets, or shoppers who want to try before they buy, can choose between 50 different items from the retailer’s range. Prices start at £17 a month for a desk or chair rented for 12 months, and rise for larger goods on shorter contracts.

Johnathan Marsh, partner & director of Home at John Lewis, said the retailer was trying to appeal to “the next generation of customers” who are used to sharing items such as bikes and cars rather than owning them outright.

“Attitudes towards renting items and the sharing economy have dramatically shifted in recent years, and we know that renting, reselling items and recycling them is a growing priority for our customers,” he said.

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Marsh said the service was also a sustainable choice, with items collected and repaired at the end of each rental and sent to new customers.

A Soren office chair, which may see some people through the rest of their time working from home in style, retails at £399 and starts at £17 a month for hire. For a sofa costing £1,899 new, rental is £80 a month for 12 months, going up to £190 a month for a three-month deal. Six-month prices are also available. Delivery costs £9.99 and there is no charge for collection.

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The items will be rented via a third-party site, Fat Llama, with the service available initially just in London but set to roll out nationally soon if successful.

Chaz Englander, CEO of Fat Llama, expects the UK to follow the US, where “renting furniture instead of owning it is becoming the new normal for millennials; a generation that is moving house every 12 months.”

Returned items will be cleaned and then re-let to new customers.

The scheme means shoppers can use the service to try before they buy – payments stop if they reach the original purchase price before the end of the hire period, and they can keep the item or have it collected. After two 12-month rental periods the items will have been paid for outright.

However, the insurance provided covers only standard wear and tear, so renters should take care: the cost of covering household disasters such as red wine spillage will be passed straight on to the customer.

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