Fed up with flat-packs? Now Ikea will rent you furniture instead

Furnishing giant pilots scheme in response to younger buyers’ environmental concerns

Ikea: the furniture giant wants to encourage as much reuse of its products as possible. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

Ikea: the furniture giant wants to encourage as much reuse of its products as possible. Photograph: Dara Mac Dónaill

 

Put down that box cutter. Step away from the Allen key. News just in from Ikea: it is about to expand tests to allow its customers to rent desks and sofas rather than buy them. Just think of all those precious weekend hours reclaimed from the clutches of frustrating furniture assembly.

The world’s biggest furniture group has read the tea leaves and figured that low-cost disposable furniture is not going to be such a good look in the face of growing environmental concerns.

At an event at its first “sustainable” store, in Kaarst in Germany, Jesper Brodin, chief executive of Ingka Group, which owns most Ikea stores, said: “Testing out opportunities for leasing offers is one of the ways we are challenging ourselves to deliver on our transformation strategy. Climate change and unsustainable consumption are among the biggest challenges we face in society.”

Ikea has already started testing furniture-rental projects in the Netherlands, Sweden, Switzerland and Poland. It has no “specific information to share in relation to Ireland”, although the company has said it aims to expand the tests to all of its 30 markets next year.

The move comes in response to a trend among younger buyers who want to minimise their impact on the environment by renting items ranging from clothing to cars.

The furniture giant has said it is already under pressure from the competition of online retail and a growing reluctance among younger shoppers to travel to its vast stores on city outskirts, bring the flat-pack furniture home and assemble it themselves.

Rent the Runway, an online business that rents out designer clothes and accessories, last month revealed plans to partner with Williams-Sonoma’s West Elm brand to allow subscribers to rent home decor.

Ikea, which had global sales of €39 billion last year, said it wants to develop subscription-based leasing offers to encourage products to be reused as many times as possible before being recycled.

The company has committed to make all its products from renewable and recycled materials by 2030 and to design all its products to be reused, repaired and recycled. In 2018 it handled a million orders for spare parts to repair products.

In Sweden and Switzerland it is looking into providing furniture to companies on a subscription model, while in the Netherlands it is testing a rental package for students in co-operation with a housing association.