Rentals, even for underwear, thrive

by Mayuko Matsumoto

Kyodo News

NAGOYA — Rental businesses dealing with such items as high-end undergarments for women, pets and motorcycles have grown popular among consumers keeping a tight hold on their purse strings in these trying economic times.

Kyoto undergarment maker Embelline Marketing Co. has long supplied beauty salons across the country with what it calls Body Make Inner underclothes and lingerie to go with bridal gowns. Now it is renting out its products over the Internet.

Dog lovers can rent an animal for a day or an overnight stay from Aishin Kennel in Okazaki, Aichi Prefecture.

Motorcycle dealer Kizuki in Machida, western Tokyo, manages four dozen Rental 819 shops across the nation. The number 819 is pronounced “ba-i-ku,” the same as the word for “bike.”

The rental system is popular among motorcycle hobbyists who can’t purchase a bike of their own because they lack a parking space.

Embelline’s undergarments, which help women maintain or improve their figures, have an image of high quality, but the maker said it is keeping the rental fee low by using the Internet and reining in labor costs.

A bra sells for ¥13,000, but the rental fee is ¥3,900 for the first month of the 15-month contract period and ¥500 for each of the remaining 14 months. The customer can keep the bra at the end of the 15 months if she so desires.

The garment is brand new when it is loaned out and customers are free to terminate the contract at the end of four months. They can also ask for a replacement if the one they have rented no longer fits.

Taiji Yamagishi, president of Aishin Kennel, says many of his customers are people who want to find out in advance whether they will be able to look after a dog. Others are condominium dwellers who can’t keep a dog at home.

Several people have ended up buying the dogs, he says, adding he is free from worry in these cases because the new owners already have hands-on experience with their particular animals.

He also said he doesn’t rent dogs out to potential customers who refuse to listen to his advice or to people whom he feels he can’t trust.

All the motorbikes that Kizuki keeps for rent are the latest models. They are sold as secondhand motorcycles once they clock more than 7,000 km.

There has been a shortage of used motorcycles in recent years because a large number have been exported. They fetch a high price, leaving Kizuki in a win-win situation because it gets income through the rental process and then sells the bikes for a pretty penny.

Kizuki has opened 20 new outlets in the last 12 months for a total of 48 across the nation. About 20 more are expected to open this year.

The Japan Association of Consumer Affairs Specialists said people renting motorcycles and other products must thoroughly check the details of the contracts. It is important to identify any damage to the products before and after rental in the presence of rental business employees.