For many consumers who are unsure of their employment status, the prospect of buying a large item right now is daunting. But last month, Best Buy announced a program to help anxious consumers make big ticket purchases. The retailer has partnered with Rent-A-Center to test an in-store program where people can rent items in order to buy them.
Best Buy will sell items directly to Rent-A-Center, which will then offer the merchandise directly to consumers at select Best Buy locations. According to Rent-A-Center’s website, consumers can rent items by paying a fee every week, two weeks or once a month (depending on their preference). If they have paid for the total value of the item within 90 days—via a combination of rental fees and additional payments—they will own the item outright. If at any point the customer decides they don’t want the item—or can’t afford it anymore—they can cease rental payments and Rent-A-Center will collect the purchase free of charge. The total balance remains frozen, so consumers can pick the tab up again whenever they want. This program is aimed at anxious consumers for whom job security is a concern, or who have encountered financial difficulty in this economy. There are very few approval requirements (all participants need is a residence, a job and some references) and there is no credit check.
With continued recessionary spending patterns and a reluctance (or inability) to make big-ticket purchases, these kinds of schemes offer one solution for retailers to increase sales. Best Buy shoppers who are inclined to put off buying an appliance could feel more confident about a purchase when given the choice to rent before owning. By eliminating an element of risk, rent-to-own payment plans seem to assuage an anxious consumer and entice them to make purchases.