June 9, 2020 – After an economic lockdown put many retail businesses across the U.S. on hold for nearly three months, there is considerable evidence that rent-to-own transactions remained steady throughout the period. Most – if not all – state rental dealer association presidents are confident RTO dealers in their part of the country will continue to thrive in the immediate future.
Some state association leaders who responded to an APRO survey on these topics included Vice President of Corporate Strategy and Culture at SKC Enterprises, dba Rent One, Kelly Martin in Illinois; Vice-President of Operations of Impact RTO Holdings, dba Rent-A-Center, Paul Metivier in Florida; President and CEO of Lebakkens Inc. of Wisconsin, Jeffrey Lebakken in Wisconsin; Owner of Mike Strong Inc., dba Mike’s TV-Furniture & Appliance, Angela Strong-McCool in Kansas; and Director of Operations at Rental Concepts LLC, dba RNR Tire Express, Candice Hill in Arkansas.
Feedback from these individuals showed RTO dealers as a group experienced little business disruption during the lockdown. RTO was never closed in Wisconsin; dealers remained open in Florida, Kansas, and Arkansas; and business closings in Illinois were entirely dependent on local governments’ interpretation and enforcement of the governor’s lockdown orders. The Illinois Rental Dealers Association’s lobbyist played a key role in sorting through voluminous data to keep members informed about retail store regulations and enforcement activities in each community.
State RTO dealer associations employed several strategies during the lockdown period to continue engaging, informing and serving their members. In Illinois, they used an active lobbyist while in Florida, they used an email chain to elicit members’ concerns and share best practices. For Kansas to maintain constant communication between the state association and members, they communicated through all media. In Arkansas, they used an open forum for members to post store closing news and discuss other COVID-19 related issues.
By and large, the RTO state dealer association presidents were enthusiastic and optimistic about the next stage of economic recovery as the lockdown comes to an end in the US, with retail businesses nationwide expected to move quickly toward a “new normal” status.
According to Strong-McCool, “Most of our dealers have been very fortunate to be allowed to remain open during this pandemic. We are now in Phase 3 of the process and our Kansas dealers are doing as well as can be expected.”
“As far as the reopening, I am optimistic, but cautious,” says Metivier. “Our industry is performing well through these difficult times. . . We’ve learned a lot about ourselves and how to operate in these crazy and scary times.”
“The overwhelming majority of our coworkers have voiced excitement, happiness, and relief that our state is finally opening back up,” says Martin. “We have all taken precautions to keep our coworkers safe and will continue to do so.”
Hill concurs. “It is time to get people out and working again. We hope to thrive after this difficult situation as we have always done in the past,” she says.