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The Future of Furniture Rental

Harth / Anders Gramer

At WGSN we’ve been discussing the growing rental markets for fashion as well as furniture and interiors for a number of years now. This form of retail is accelerating due to the increasing consumer demand for sustainable and flexible lifestyles. Major retailers such as John Lewis in the UK and Ikea have recently announced furniture rental, refurbishment and resale schemes as part of a move towards a circular economy.

We invited Henrietta Thompson, co-founder of Harth, which launched in 2018, and a UK pioneer in this space, on to our Create Tomorrow podcast to discuss this growing marketplace. In the last six months Harth has seen a 50% increase in rental requests and a 60% increase in stock listed by private lenders. Thompson explores the challenges Harth faced as an e-commerce startup pioneering a new retail model, why the consumer mindset around ownership vs rental is shifting and how the rental sector is evolving. Here’s a few highlights from the podcast.

On Tablescaping

“One thing that’s been quite interesting is this trend for tablescaping and despite the fact we’re not entertaining, people are still laying their tables, they’re still creating these environments to show off the dining experience. So these moments of joy are really, really important. We’re finding people are reconnecting with their homes in new ways and actually learning to love their homes in different ways because they’re spending so much time in them.”

harth founders

Harth co-founders Ed Padmore and Henrietta Thompson in their Harth pop-up / photography Anders Gramer

Rental Goes Mainstream

“There’s been a lot of big business really looking at this area, and we knew that was going to happen and we wanted to get in there first. Every time somebody else comes into the picture, instead of feeling threatened by it, we’re very much encouraged by it. The fact that these guys are doing it means it’s really moving into the mainstream. A lot of people starting up a business probably wouldn’t want to be the first to market, there is this kind of duality to it;  it’s brilliant to be first to market, but at the same time you have to make all the mistakes before anybody else does.”

Harth / Paul Thurlby

Ownership vs Sustainability

“Consumer attitudes are really shifting from ownership towards the environment. People are recognising that they are not what they own anymore. They are the way they live and I love that. The idea that our possessions define us is such an ancient one, it goes back to the ancient Egyptians, but actually we are evolving out of that. We’re acknowledging now that having so much stuff does weigh us down and affect our mental health in some ways, and we’re finding new ways to express our identities. The more that that happens, the more that this new economy – be that rental, be that sharing, whatever – can thrive.”
– Henrietta Thompson, co-founder of Harth

Tune in to Episode 19 of our Create Tomorrow: The Future of Furniture Rental on Apple and Spotify.

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