March 21, 2006 in Business

Luxury for rent

Associated Press The Spokesman-Review
 
Associated Press photo

Ever want to drive around in a bright yellow Lamborghini for a day? New York-based Gotham Dream Cars LLC will deliver exotic cars like a Lamborghini Gollardo to customers’ doorsteps for a rental fee ranging from $595 to $1,950 per day.
(Full-size photo)

NEW YORK — Ever want to borrow the latest Fendi bag for a month or drive around in a bright yellow Lamborghini for a day?

A number of companies are tapping into consumers’ penchant for leasing luxury. They’re targeting both the affluent who don’t want to hold on to anything for long and those less monied folks who want to get a taste of the lifestyles of the rich.

Seattle-based online service Bag Borrow or Steal allows customers to borrow designer handbags through a monthly membership fee. New York-based Gotham Dream Cars LLC will deliver exotic cars like a Lamborghini Gollardo to customers’ doorsteps for a rental fee ranging from $595 to $1,950 per day.

Golf manufacturer Callaway Golf Co. is making it easier for customers to trade in old golf clubs and get discounts on new ones at 4,000 golf stores and pro shops nationwide. The retailers get reimbursed for the price difference, and Callaway resells the old clubs on a Web site called callawaygolfpreowned.com.

Then there’s Portero, a two-year-old online luxury exchange site that sells secondhand high-end electronics, fashion, jewelry, art, cars and home items. It now has 8,000 buyers and 6,000 sellers registered.

“The whole mindset is changing. Customers are no longer buying things to hold on to,” said Daniel Nissanoff, president of Portero. “The brands need to embrace this, and the retailers need to embrace this.” Nissanoff is also the author of FutureShop, a book about the new auction culture.

Portero struck a deal with watch merchant Tourneau last year in which the watch company will authenticate any watches resold on the Portero site. It has signed similar deals with other designer brands that Nissanoff declined to name and is in negotiations with various luxury brands to promote Portero to customers as a place to sell goods they no longer want.

Executives say they’ve been pleased with results.

Brian Hemley, senior vice president of Callaway Golf Interactive, which oversees the program, noted that he now sees consumers trading in their golf clubs every three to four years, instead of every four to five years.

Nissanoff said Portero’s sales are beating expectations but it has had to do some tweaking in recent months. It’s further limiting its fashion assortments to focus on the most popular categories: watches and jewelry.

Portero has also turned to apparel brands and other companies to supply it with inventory. About 60 percent of the merchandise is now from companies; the remainder is from consumers.

Trend expert Syl Tang, who is CEO of Hipguide.com, believes that this idea of temporary ownership is limited to items with depreciating value like golf clubs and cars. Fashion, she says, is a different story.

“There is a limited audience honestly,” Tang said. “Women I know who buy designer handbags covet them. They love, cherish, show them off. Then they wait for that Fendi baguette to become retro.”


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