Mar 14, 2016

    Yen in Japan to rent clothes, handbags for fixed monthly fee


    CONSUMERS in Japan are gravitating towards flat-rate membership services that allow for unlimited use of a service for a fixed monthly fee.

    New services offer access to sports lessons, fashion rentals and a variety of other things, and are popular among trend-sensitive women.

    A service called Lespas was launched last year by IT company Gree. For 9,800 yen (S$118) per month, users can attend sports and other classes at around 2,000 facilities located in Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya and other cities.

    Lessons range from common pastimes including social dancing and golf to more less-typical pursuits such as taiko drumming, kickboxing and iai (a martial art using Japanese swords).

    Roughly 80 per cent of users are women, most of them in their 20s to 40s.

    Flat-rate membership services that offer access to digital goods such as streaming music and videos are common but, lately, that business model has spread to more sectors.

    "As choices for products and services increase, there is a desire, particularly among young women, to make smarter choices," observes Yohei Yamamoto of Tokyo-based Hakuhodo Consulting.

    "Their way of thinking has moved away from possession of goods, which is also driving the trend."

    Flat-rate fashion rentals are also catching on. Last year, Tokyo-based company airCloset began a service for 6,800 yen a month that enables users to borrow women's jackets, pants and other items.

    Users register their size, favourite colours and other details and three items chosen by a professional stylist are delivered. After wearing the clothes and sending them back, another set is delivered.

    There is no limit to the number of rentals but most users swop items about three times per month.

    Women from their late 20s to 40s opt for not only professional clothing but also fashionable items on days-off.

    Sparklebox, based in Tokyo, offers users three accessories, such as rings, at a time for 2,500 yen a month. Laxus, a service offered by Hiroshima-based ES Corp, allows users to rent as many brand-name handbags as they want for 6,800 yen per month.

    All these services are offered through the Internet.