One of the core principles of the circular economy is circulating products and materials in a manner that preserves value in the form of energy, labour, and materials. Rental answers this to a tee. Rather than one person owning a product, using it intermittently and then discarding it, rental turns products into a shared resource allowing wider community access to them at a lower price, maximising usage.
The global clothing rental market—which has blossomed as the antithesis of synthetic, disposable fast fashion—is expected to grow by up to USD 3 billion between 2021 and 2026 and is estimated to represent 10% of luxury brand revenues by 2030. Of course, rental isn’t a novel concept, people have long rented products like suits and cars but a new era of rental, driven by both environmental and financial factors, is seeing the service spread to a host of new product categories from bikes to power banks.
A 2023 study commissioned by the IPA found that 5% of 34-55 year-olds and 11% of 18-34 year-olds intend to rent items ‘considerably more’ in 2023, so it’s still early days for uptake but the figures speak for themselves when it comes to the benefits. By providing outdoor gear rental, French sporting goods company Decathlon was able to increase its margins 2.4 times after just one season, and generate a 50% drop in CO2 emissions and a 10 times reduction in water, according to an internal analysis.
Here, we explore five companies at the helm of the rental revolution.