Retail Observer

August 2020

The Retail Observer is an industry leading magazine for INDEPENDENT RETAILERS in Major Appliances, Consumer Electronics and Home Furnishings

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Page 47 of 67

RETAILOBSERVER.COM AUGUST 2020 48 T he COVID pandemic has made social distancing and stay-at- home the new norm throughout the country and has changed the way people shop. In these tough times, people are increasingly conducting RTO and retail transactions online for essentials such as computers and appliances. Which brings me to the question – "How essential is rent to own?" One thing that has come into focus during the COVID-19 era is that the rent to own industry is an essential business. And in my experience it's always been an essential business for consumers. That's especially true for consumers who need reliable household durable goods but can't afford to buy them outright or using a credit transaction. In March, as the U.S. moved quickly to curb the spread of the coronavirus, the question of which retailers could stay open, and where, depended largely on which businesses government officials deemed to be "essential." Of course, grocery stores, gas stations, pet stores and pharmacies were universally allowed to stay open, while clothing retailers and department store chains were labeled "non-essential" and had no choice but to close their doors. Stuck in the grey zone were appliance, electronics, and furniture and bedding retailers. If you sold furniture and bedding, you had no choice but to close your locations, while an appliance retailer could continue operating under new restrictions. Brick-and-mortar rent to own dealers typically sell appliances, electronics, furniture and bedding. The Rent to Own industry was deemed an essential business per the original Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) list dated March 19, although it required some interpretation of the categories. In my opinion, RTO fit within three of them, although not everyone agreed with that interpretation. The CISA then issued an updated list of essential businesses effective March 28, and the revised list removed all doubt about whether rent to own stores were essential – they were (and are). The new language clearly included RTO as an essential business: "Workers in hardware and building materials stores, consumer electronics, technology and appliances retail, and related merchant wholesalers and distributors – with reduced staff to ensure continued operations." For those who don't know or haven't experienced what a brick and mortar rent-to-own transaction is like, try to put your preconceived ideas aside. RTO regularly received negative press, sometimes even referred to as a "scam" that took advantage of cash-constrained or low-credit customers. Having worked in the industry for years, I can provide facts or logic that would explain each and every one of those perceptions. But as in any purchase, it's ultimately up to the consumer to determine how and where they are going to spend their money. Being a veteran of the rent to own industry I have experienced the "essential" part of what RTO stands for. I've delivered a bunk bed to a family home without bedding or furniture for the kids to sleep on, and I've seen the smiles. I've delivered a washer and dryer to a single mom with a family of four children who was making trips to the laundromat or doing without. Delivering and providing quality durable goods at an affordable price to consumers without credit is a great service industry in itself. But that smile when a loyal customer takes delivery, or better yet, pays an account in full and now owns that merchandise is priceless. That is what I would consider an "essential business." Keven Dalke, Director of RentDirect, Nationwide Marketing Group RENT-TO-OWN IS ESSENTIAL IN TODAY'S RETAIL ENVIRONMENT RO Keven Dalke Rent-to-Own Trends

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