Luxury on lease: Exploring the bags-for-hire business

Luxury on lease: Exploring the bags-for-hire business
Madam Shirley Chan (inset), owner of Bags No Enough.

SINGAPORE - Women cough up $50 a week to carry the coveted Louis Vuitton Monogram Eva Clutch.

For $200, they can tote around the Chanel classic flap bag for a week. It has a retail price of more than $7,500.

Bags No Enough, one of at least six bag rental outfits in Singapore, leases out such luxury bags.

Madam Shirley Chan, 47, owner of Bags No Enough, says that she is seeing more demand these days.

She and owners of bag rental companies thatbagiwant and bagkingdom.com say that they have seen between 10 to 15 per cent growth in their business over the last two years.

Madam Chan sees 300 to 500 transactions a month, renting out the 200 bags from Chanel, Prada and Louis Vuitton in her collection.

"Branded bags are very expensive. Some people also prefer to have a few bags for different occasions and one bag is not enough for them. So renting is a better alternative to buying," she explains.

Bag rental website thatbagiwant.com, launched in 2008 by Mr Tan Ho Ching, sees about 200 new rentals a month from his collection of 500 bags from high-end brands like Chanel and Hermes to lower-end ones like Longchamp.

His website has 23,000 members, of whom 2,000 are actively renting bags.

There are some who have been renting his bags almost every week for the past five years.

Mr Tan, who used to be in the police force, has seen about a 15 per cent growth in membership in the last two years.

Madam Serene Lee, 49, who owns bagkingdom.com, is also expecting her business to grow and plans to expand her current collection of 50 bags.

So who are the renters?

They are from a wide demographic, aged from 20 and up, according to the service providers. They range from office executives to teachers and housewives.

"Often, it is our new customers who rent bags for special occasions like dinner and dance events, weddings or vacations. The majority of our customers, especially the regular ones, rent bags for daily use," Madam Chan explains.

There are also women who just love luxury, but may not have the means to put down the money for multiple bags, says Mr Tan, 43.

"We always carry the bags in season. People want to try out these new bags and be seen as trendy, without having to buy the bag which will soon be out of season," he says.

"People like to complete a well-dressed appearance with a luxury bag. They think they will look odd if they are smartly dressed but are carrying a non-branded or low-end brand of bag.

"There is also peer pressure when their colleagues are carrying high-end brands and they feel a need to keep up with them," he explains.

The rent-a-bag trend caught on in the US after website Bag, Borrow or Steal was referenced in Sex in the City in 2008.

And it was the financial crisis of 2008, which shrank the spending power of many executives, that made Madam Chan think it was a perfect business opportunity to explore. Mr Tan was also similarly inspired.

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