National

Rent-a-shoe project aims to lighten financial load for parents with young children

Kyodo

Parents fed up with finding that their children quickly outgrow expensive shoes are now offered an alternative: rentals.

A shoe store in the city of Kumamoto lets parents rent pairs of children’s shoes up to three times a year for a fixed fee. The shoes are later donated to children in developing nations.

The concept is the work of independent consultancy Hodig & Co., headed by Tatsuya Koga, 39. He said his company came up with the idea when he heard of the difficulty footwear stores are having in attracting customers.

“I want children to wear suitable shoes to ensure their healthy growth,” said Koga. He plans to expand the service by the end of the year to other areas in Kyushu, including Fukuoka and Miyazaki.

Parents with children up to grade school age can choose shoes priced between ¥2,000 and ¥3,000 at the store in Kita Ward, Kumamoto Prefecture, paying only an annual fee of ¥6,264 and a registration fee of ¥500. The shoes are 12 cm to 25 cm in size.

When a new pair are needed, parents can either return the old shoes or buy them for ¥500. If returned, the old ones are sent to developing countries for further use.

Since its launch in March, the service has drawn about 120 users, including some living outside Kumamoto. Some of the returned footwear has now been sent to northern Thailand, where many children wear only flip-flops.

The project has been praised for its social contribution and won this year’s Good Design Award from the Japan Chamber of Commerce and Industry.