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The growing trend of rental services is explored in the latest episode of SubX’s Subscription Podcast, in association with Avalara. James Symes, founder & CEO, Bike Club, joined the team in the studio to discuss the sustainability, reverse logistics and flexibility of rental offerings.

The founder of the kids bike subscription service, which allows customers to exchange as children grow, stressed that the rental model is not simply a sustainability box ticking exercise.

“It’s moving away from a linear lock in – standard big retailers are locked into a linear model. It’s how their supply chains work. It’s how their balance sheet functions.

“It’s [now] working to move towards a circular economy. And it’s going to take a long time for the incumbents to get there. That’s why there’s this wonderful green space for startups to move in and have a go at trying to build this circular economy in consumer goods.”

Symes added that is not only in the fashion sector where a more circular approach is an option.

“There’s also consumer electronics, which is another area where you see some of the bigger scale players. You’ve got certain business B2B types too.”

And in their case a range of kids, and adults, bikes are available for rent. The B-Corp certified company has an impressive 75,000 bikes available across the UK and Germany. They are also sticking with the circular approach as many of these are secondhand. This brings its own challenges, however.

“If you were to go online today and you were to look for kids bikes, you’d probably find about 2,000 for sale,” Symes explained.

“The problem with every one of those is they won’t have been serviced and looked after properly. Now we as a business through lockdown bought about 3,000 secondhand bikes to service our business because there was no bike supply. Going through that, we saw just the quality of the bikes that you could buy on secondhand marketplaces.

“There really are greater problems in those bikes than people ever realised. That’s why when you get a refurbished bike from Bike Club, it has been properly looked at by a mechanic and it is signed off through a quality control process.

“It’s also better value. So, unsurprisingly, it is our most popular selling category.”

The value of such an offering could become increasingly important during the current cost-of-living crisis. Symes concluded this latest episode by explaining that Bike Club are a company that “wants to make an impact” to its 50,000 members, and they simply want to “make lots of families super happy”.

Listen to the full episode here, and discover:

Future episodes in the series will look at building a community of loyal customers and refillable offerings. Find out more here.

Also listen to the special LIVE launch episode to hear from sustainable cleaning product producer SMOL, or the Product Subscription episode which discusses how critical communication and personalisation are to a successful offering.