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Friday
Dec162016

The Set List: Something Borrowed...

Image © SebastianWood

Editor’s note: this blog is the fourth in a series discussing trends and insights into the world around us.

I recently bought my first home, a pretty amazing achievement considering London’s current housing crisis! It’s a beautiful period property, and I want to restore its wooden floors. It's a one-off activity so do I; 1) Hire a specialist to do the job? 2) Buy a sander and do it myself? 3) Hire a sander and get going? Or, option number 4) Borrow a sander for free?

The latter is the cheapest option, and if it’s in my local area it could be convenient too. The trend of ‘borrowing’ has grown in recent years, due to consumers having a less disposable income and lack of storage space—the tumbling effect of real wages, which are forecast by the Institute of Fiscal Studies (IFS) to be lower in 2021 than they were in 2008.

We question our purchases more now than ever before and we often ask ourselves: do I really need it? Will I use it forever? Luckily, our hesitation has been resolved by a rise in forward-thinking businesses who have pushed the boundaries of ‘borrowing.’ From a designer handbag to a pet dog, there’s someone out there that's willing to share it with you. Sometimes for a small fee, but if you’re lucky it could be free!

Who’s Lending?

The worldwide web has made it easier for sharing businesses to operate and ‘lend.’ Hosting through digital platforms that offer real-time availability, connecting their capacity with those who need it the most. Here are a few examples:

  • Bag It!: Owning a bag for every outfit is a luxury, but in reality it’s not cost or space effective. The Handbag Rental meets the needs of fashion conscious women by allowing them to hire their favourite designer handbag at a price for any occasion. Founder Pauline Wellington has developed a forum for willing designer handbag owners to loan their expensive accessories at a fraction of the price. Sellers receive a small commission for renting them and renters feel fabulous wearing them!

  • Rent A Dog: Dogs, they’re not just for Christmas, but a lifetime commitment. They’re expensive too once you factor in food, vet bills and pet insurance. In 2012 Dane Rikke Rosenlund came up with the idea for Borrow My Doggy, where for a fee you can walk a local dog, spend the weekend with it or take it to the local park. This scheme helps out the owners as well, giving them assurance that their dog is well looked after by another dog-lover. The process is managed online by setting up a profile, being vetted and then being 'pawfectly' matched.

  • Community Sharing: The Library Of Things is a community sharing hub in West Norwood, stocking everything from DIY equipment to golf clubs. It’s free to join, and up to five items can be borrowed per week for a small fee. Membership is free and you can join online or in person. As a not-for-profit organisation, all money earned goes towards staff and rent, and any profits goes back into the company. Their success has led to developing an explanatory toolkit and hosting “bootcamps” for other organisations looking to copy their model. Borrow through their site or in person!

Image © BorrowMyDoggy

What Does This Mean for Economy?

Some trends come and go, but the sharing economy has some established brands that are continuing to grow. For example, in over eight years AirBnB now has grown to have accommodations in over 192 countries and 34,000 cities. Whilst H&M have a ‘recycle your clothes’ program, where shoppers can drop off unwanted garments in any condition to any H&M store worldwide. And "clothing that can be worn again will be sold as second hand clothes."

Brands need to think about the longevity of their offering and the lifecycle of their products. More purchases are falling into the disposable category, from fashion to phones to cars. These items can be short lived as customers no longer need them, or have grown out of them. How great would it be if you could hire an iPhone for six months and then have the option to trade it in for the newest model or buy it outright? For Apple it means there are more users, so an increased chance to influence more people with their brand, plus the possibility that a borrower might turn into an eventual owner.

What Long-Term Impact Will Borrowing Have?

Could this be a ‘megatrend’? Predictions are that ‘borrowing’ will increase in value from $15bn today to $335bn within 10 years, according to PwC. It’s unlikely that this surge will replace owning goods or spaces or pets, but it means people who could not afford such luxuries before now can.

It’s a positive solution for a large population of consumers who financially cannot justify buying a product for a one off need, this increases accessibility for the individual and offers a method for using resources more efficiently.

Shuma Talbot has been practicing design since 2003. Her career has taken her from the UK to Dubai to Australia, and some incredible places along the way. She believes good design is a bright idea, beautifully crafted. Contact her at shuma_talbot@gensler.com.