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New article: Understanding and overcoming barriers to home furnishings rental

Bed with pillows and a lamp next to it. Photo.

Offering consumers the option to rent rather than buy furniture and home accessories holds promise for reducing the large volumes of waste associated with home furnishings consumption. However, home furnishings companies face many barriers to implementing rental business models. A new article by IIIEE researchers Heather Schoonover, Oksana Mont, and Matthias Lehner explores these barriers and discusses opportunities to overcome them.

Through interviews with company representatives, the study finds that home furnishings present some unique barriers compared to other products that have seen an increase in rental. For example, furniture’s bulky nature makes takeback, storage and transport more difficult and costly than for products such as clothing. Compared to office furniture rental, home furnishings rental faces higher barriers to trial, greater marketing needs, and lower economies of scale. These barriers are in addition to those that hinder rental models generally, including long payback times, products that are not designed for repair or refurbishment, need for new capabilities and relationships, consumer uncertainties, and lack of supportive policy.

At the same time, home furnishings rental companies can provide lessons regarding strategies to overcome these barriers. Emphasising added benefits, streamlining the choice of products available, and partnering with other actors to acquire capabilities are some of the ways the interviewed companies have addressed the barriers they have encountered.

The study is part of the Mistra-funded project Sustainable Consumption: From Niche to Mainstream, which explores how business models, policy, and civil society can facilitate more sustainable consumption practices in Sweden and beyond.

The article, entitled Exploring barriers to implementing product-service systems for home furnishings, can be read here