Rent to Own, Retail or Both?

February 15, 2022

Over two years ago, long before the impact Covid had on the shopping experience I wrote an article about rent to own dealers looking and acting more like retail. Today, navigating past the initial Covid effects and working to get back to the new normal I believe that idea is even more important to the success of the rent to own dealer. 

So many traditional retailers now have at least one lease-to-own (LTO) or lease purchase option in store, but most retailers now have multiple choices and now combined with the Buy Now Pay Later (BNPL) craze trying to capture that customer who cannot qualify for or does not want additional credit. It is more important than ever for traditional brick and mortar rent-to-own (RTO) dealers to continue improving not only their relationship driven, rent-to-own foundational strength but their retail game as well.    

The traditional RTO dealer has always had the ability to offer a cash or credit card transaction with every item they have in their store. But, for the most part, customers who walked into the RTO store in the past weren’t shopping with cash or credit cards or even looking to purchase retail. 

The pandemic has forced rental dealers to change their image, the one that says an RTO store only rents products. 

You may or may not remember the Rent to Own industry was deemed an essential business in the original Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency or CISA list, dated March 19, 2020. The language that clearly included RTO as an essential business was, “Workers in hardware and building materials stores, consumer electronics, technology and appliances retail, and related merchant wholesalers and distributors – with reduced staff to ensure continued operations.” Rent to Own stores were able to remain open for business!

Covid has changed the way most people do things, including shopping. During the more than year-long lockdown, most people got used to ordering nearly everything online, having it delivered, or picking it up at the store, if the store was open. As the pandemic closed restaurants, service industry and many retail businesses it also forced many companies to implement a work from home model. The longer people were at home the more they wanted to replace or upgrade their furniture, electronics, and appliances creating a buying trend leading customers to any store that was open for business. 

The point is that as the country slowly gets back to normal, some of those shopping habits are likely to continue and rent to own dealers must be ready to fill that need. 

Two things remain very important to me as the RTO dealer stays competitive in the retail space: overall store image and the digital footprint. 

First, a positive store image is key for any retailer. Two years ago, I used Target for my store image example, which jumped into store refurbishment by committing to refresh more than 1,000 locations by the end of 2020. Store remodels aren’t the only driving factor, but Target called the refurbishments a vital component for their comp sales growing approximately 10% during that period. The Target stock price was around $125 in December of 2019 and now around $250 in December of 2021. This growth certainly isn’t all about store remodels, but I know customer loyalty is driven by the shopping experience. 

I think you would agree that store image is an important piece to driving both repeat business and new customers into your store. And that means creating and maintaining a great-looking, well-merchandised retail like location! 

The second influencer is your digital footprint. Rent to own dealers today must pay attention to their website presence, does your website let shoppers know you can sell living room furniture, appliances, and electronics as well as rent products? 

These answers in my opinion, define the expectations of the consumer in the rent-to-own marketplace today! In small town or urban America there is no reason that your local rent to own dealer isn’t also the retailer of choice, we just need to make sure our image tells customers that. 

The Nationwide Marketing Group has delivered impressive digital solutions for the rent to own community. Now is the time to take a hard look at your business’s digital footprint and make changes to meet customers and potential customers where they’re at in their buying journey. 

I said this over two years ago but by looking and acting a little more like retail today, you’ll position your RTO store for greater business success tomorrow.


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