Muji, the brand known for minimalist home goods and furniture, has launched a monthly furniture subscription program that is perfectly suited to life in quarantine.
Around the world, people have been forced to transform their homes into offices. And for those who don’t have a dedicated workspace, this means sprawling out on the dining table or sofa or bedroom. It’s not ideal for productivity, nor is it particularly comfortable. But with Muji’s monthly subscription, which is available in Japan, customers can rent simple pieces, such as oak desk and chair sets, for as little as $7 (800 yen) a month. And when their offices reopen, they can ship all the furniture back.
Muji has also launched two design consultation services to help customers arrange their furniture at home. Customers can buy a Petit Renovation plan, where designers will create two layouts of their home, rearranging the existing furniture to make space for a home office. Alternatively, they can connect with an adviser online who will offer personalized recommendations.
There’s no word yet about whether Muji will bring these services to America. Muji’s U.S division took a hit from the coronavirus pandemic and declared bankruptcy in early July. The company announced that it would reduce its brick-and-mortar footprint in the United States to focus on e-commerce.
Furniture subscription services have existed for decades in the U.S. through companies like Rent-A-Center, but in recent years, a wave of brands has entered the space catering to millennials who move frequently and would prefer to rent rather than own furniture. Startups such as Feather and Fernish have created their entire business model around renting furniture from hip furniture brands such as Crate & Barrel and West Elm. Meanwhile, Ikea announced that it would be testing a rental model in 30 markets in 2020.
Some health policy experts believe we won’t be able to return to normal office conditions until November 2021 so it makes sense to redesign our homes so we can work more comfortably and productively. Furniture rentals solve that problem. They’re also a savvy business move, creating additional revenue for brands at a time when many consumers are not comfortable shopping in stores; in some cases, renters may even fall in love with the furniture and purchase it outright.
At the same time, consumers are hyper-conscious about germs and may feel squeamish about renting furniture that has lived in someone else’s home. And given the turbulent economy, other consumers may not want to spend any money at all on furniture, even if it is rented.