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Lease-To-Own Option Is Integral For E-Commerce Growth Strategy

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Lease-to-own has become a key trend in the retail and e-commerce world. More and more brands are finding it to be a cost-effective way of attracting buyers who couldn’t otherwise afford their products. Making it a win-win on both sides. 

Brands address their customers’ needs while appealing to a broader clientele. And for those consumers who don’t like relying on credit cards or may even have bad credit, lease-to-own finally gives them access to the products they wish to purchase. From electronics and furniture to household appliances, mattresses, and even jewelry, it’s all paid for in a convenient way over a period of time.   

Overstock, for example, partnered with Progressive Leasing, a lease-to-own provider, to offer customers millions of items that can be paid for over 12 months.

“A third of the population is credit challenged,” said Blake Wakefield, President and Chief Revenue Officer of Progressive Leasing. “They don’t have options. They’ve been told ‘no’ time in and time out.”

With an initial payment of less than $50 and lease agreements that can go up to 12 and even 15 months, consumers can access products they wouldn’t otherwise be able to purchase.

By integrating this option in their e-commerce strategy, businesses can become more affordable, while exponentially growing their sales. 

An Alternative To Traditional Financing Options 

In 2018, around 30% of Americans with a valid FICO credit score had poor or bad credit. Another 13% had a “fair” credit score, which is still not considered good. On top of that, around one-fifth (22%) of adults had no credit score at all. This carries similar disadvantages as having bad credit when you’re looking for financing solutions. 

Working with these numbers, more than 100 million Americans currently find it hard to purchase from retailers and e-commerce by swiping their credit cards. 

Moreover, in this uncertain economic climate, people are starting to think twice before signing up for a credit card. According to the United States Census Bureau, more than 40% of Americans have an annual income below the median earnings of $48,328. This is a market largely overlooked by existing payment options. 

The reality is that many people need credit but can’t access it. Or, if they do, they’re unwilling to put their credit scores at risk. This represents a significant segment of customers who are all-too-often ignored by retailers – people who want to make a purchase but don’t have a reasonable way of paying. People who can’t afford to pay for quality furniture or new appliances in one lump sum. If e-commerce platforms want to connect with these people and gain their trust, they need to build a convenient shopping experience that reasonably caters to their financial needs. 

“Ensuring financing options for all types of customers including customers with good credit, evolving credit, and even no credit history is key to making sure you are serving everyone and not missing a potential sale,” said Orlando Zayas, CEO of Katapult, a lease-to-own platform. “Consumers will need financing now more than ever to get the products they need.”

Lease-to-own allows retailers to provide a no-credit-required alternative to customers who don’t qualify for traditional financing options. In return, businesses gain access to consumers that have largely been ignored by many market players for years.

Lease-To-Own Can Boost Online Sales   

These types of buyers can have a significant impact on your sales. According to Acima, provider of lease-to-own solutions, one of the company’s clients tripled its sales after introducing no-credit-needed financing in its brick-and-mortar location.

This flexible payment option creates growth opportunities for retailers, as it connects companies with an untapped consumer base – people who may be currently opting to buy secondhand items or simply not buying them at all. 

To be clear, lease-to-own isn’t an option for everyone. You’re not looking to target people who don’t earn any money at all. You’re aiming for potential buyers on lower incomes that can’t afford big-ticket items in a single purchase. Most lease-to-own solutions are available only for people who can prove their work history and earnings. These consumers have jobs, but the only way they can afford to buy goods over a certain amount is if they can pay in affordable installments. 

Ignoring a consumer base of over 100 million means leaving many business opportunities off the table. That’s why implementing a lease-to-own financial option can be beneficial to businesses in many ways.

Not only that, but businesses can also increase their brand awareness and build a reputation among a new audience, one that hasn’t been given many options until now. 

Showing The Human Side Of Your Brand

Lease-to-own can also help you highlight the human side of brands. Not only does it create an opportunity for people to get what they need, but brands are also showing they care about their consumers’ finances. Having an alternative that allows people to pay at their own pace improves their self-esteem and gives them hope. 

Studies have shown that consumers feel better about themselves when they buy status products. If you’re the brand that can help them get a new TV or beautiful furniture instead of secondhand items, they’ll remember you and come back for more. 

Offering more flexible payment options allows retailers to build and consolidate new customer relationships and increase brand loyalty and customer retention, which leads to more sales and greater revenue in the long run.

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Is There a Difference Between No Credit and Bad Credit?

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The short answer is yes, and understanding the difference could be instrumental in getting better credit.

No credit and bad credit often get grouped together. It’s understandable why, as they both sound similar enough. And if you have either, the next step forward is to focus on improving your credit.

The two situations aren’t the same, though. It’s important to know the difference, because the right way to build your credit often depends on whether you have no credit history or bad credit.

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The difference between no credit and bad credit

Having no credit means that there’s not enough information on your credit file to calculate a credit score for you. It’s also known as being credit invisible. Sadly, this is an issue that affects millions of Americans.

There aren’t any problems on your credit file; the credit bureaus just don’t have enough data on you. That means when a lender or any other third party checks your credit, there’s nothing to go on.

Meanwhile, “bad credit” is a common term used to describe a low credit score. That low score is because of negative items on your credit file, such as not paying your credit card bill.

When you have no credit, the solution is to build your credit. When you have a low credit score, the solution is to rebuild your credit. Now, let’s look at how you can do each one.

How to build credit for the first time

Here’s the simplest way to build credit:

  • Open a credit card.
  • Use the credit card for at least one purchase per month.
  • Always pay your credit card bill on time and in full.

It’s that easy; that’s all you need to do to get a good credit score. When you use a credit card and pay the bill on time, you establish a positive payment history. That’s the biggest credit scoring criteria.

The tricky part when you have no credit is finding a credit card you can qualify for. Secured credit cards are one of the most common options for consumers in this situation. You pay a security deposit for this type of card, so it’s possible to open a secured card even if you have no credit.

If you’re in college, credit cards for students are available. These are often an option for applicants without any credit history.

How to rebuild a low credit score

It’s a little more complicated to rebuild your credit. First, you need to find out what negative items are affecting your credit score. Here’s how to start:

  • Use an online credit score tool to check your score and learn about any items damaging your credit. If you have a credit card, there may be a credit score tool in your online account. If not, there are plenty of free ways to get your credit score.
  • Request your credit report from the three consumer credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion). You can pull a free annual credit report from each bureau, and through April 2022, you can get free weekly credit reports. Your credit report will show you exactly what’s affecting your credit.

Once you know what’s affecting your credit, you can work on correcting it. Below are a few of the most common issues and how to fix them.

Problems with your payment history

This includes anything related to not paying a bill on time, from late payments to having accounts go to collections.

The first step is catching up on your payments. If you can’t pay in full, contact your creditors and see if you can set up a payment plan with them. They may be willing to work with you if that means you’ll be making regular payments.

Next is rebuilding your payment history. The easiest option is to use a credit card at least once per month and pay in full by the due date. Why do you need to use a credit card? Credit card companies report on-time payments to the credit bureaus, which helps your credit score. With other types of bills, your on-time payments typically don’t get reported to the credit bureaus. That means you may not be able to improve your payment history with rent, utilities, or other monthly bills.

If you already have credit cards, you can continue using them to rebuild your payment history. If you don’t, look for secured credit cards and apply for one you like.

Using too much of your credit

A big factor in your credit score is your credit utilization ratio — your credit card balances divided by your credit limits. If this number gets too high, it can lower your credit score. The standard recommendation is a credit utilization ratio of under 30%.

Let’s say you have one credit card with a $4,000 balance and a $5,000 credit limit. That would put your credit utilization at 80% ($4,000 divided by $5,000 is 80%), a very high number that would decrease your credit score.

Fortunately, only your current credit utilization matters. Once you pay down your credit card balance, your credit score will bounce back.

Errors on your credit history

A low credit score may be due to an error and not any action on your part. This is why it’s so important to pull your credit reports from each credit bureau. By reviewing those, you can see if there are any mistakes.

If there are errors on your credit report, you can go to the credit bureau’s website to dispute them online and get them removed.

A low credit score and a nonexistent credit score are both things you can change. After you determine exactly what the issue is, you’ll be able to choose the best solution to fix it.

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‘There is no new normal’: Worcester small business owner pivoted during COVID-19 and expects only more change after pandemic

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It took about eight minutes for the bank to reject Natalie Rodriguez’s application for a loan through the Small Business Administration.

Rodriguez opened Nuestra, a Puerto Rican inspired restaurant in Worcester, in January of 2020. When COVID-19 arrived months later she discovered Nuestra wasn’t eligible for the federal or state funding that thousands of other establishments received.

To qualify, restaurants were required to show payroll and salary for years before 2020. Those figures didn’t exist for a restaurant that weren’t open in 2019.

“[I was] determined and knew that ‘no’ is not an OK answer,” Rodriguez said. “A door may close but you may need to kick down another door.”

Rodriguez then applied for conventional loans only to be led to more closed doors. Less than 10 minutes after applying for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan, she received notice that her poor credit score resulted in her application being denied.

Rodriguez used the dead end with the SBA to create a new path for herself and Nuestra.

She not only learned how to improve her credit but wanted to ensure others didn’t have to follow her journey as an entrepreneur.

Rodriguez extended the “Nuestra” brand to include financial advising. She started Nuestra Financial in April of 2020.

“Now I’m helping others. I’ve been able to restore my credit,” Rodriguez said. “I’ve been able to help others restore their credit and be able to help them make a business themselves if they so choose. I’ve been able to survive.”

Without grants and other funding, Rodriguez managed to keep her restaurant open through funds generated from Nuestra Financial.

“I was very quiet about it in the beginning. I didn’t want people to be like, ‘Oh look at this girl, she just opened a restaurant in the middle of a pandemic,’ and talk smack,” Rodriguez said. “About a month or two later, a light bulb hit and I was like, nobody pays my bills but me. I needed to mind my own business and not worry about what other people thought.”

In creating Nuestra Financial, Rodriguez said she’s helped Worcester residents restore their credit and purchase new vehicles and homes.

Rodriguez said financial literacy is rarely taught to children in school and wasn’t something she learned. When a situation arises like a rejection notice for an economic disaster loan, many don’t know how to respond or where to find answers.

Rodriguez said she’s helped young and old people, along with those who have bad credit or no credit.

“We lack the confidence, including myself, because we weren’t taught,” Rodriguez said. “So if you don’t know something, you weren’t taught, you’re not going to be confident about it.”

Coming out of the pandemic, Rodriguez remains confident about both her businesses. Nuestra, the restaurant, while closed for daily service continues to provide catering services. Rodriguez is still preparing what the future holds for the restaurant but plans to announce an update soon.

As masks start to become less a part of daily routines, Rodriguez, as a small business owner, doesn’t envision many differences from this year to last.

So many aspects of life remain uncertain from rising food costs to a potential third booster for vaccines and whether the country will ever reach herd immunity for COVID-19.

The pandemic arrived with Rodriguez immediately pivoting. As it approaches its potential end, Rodriguez will continue to do what helped her to navigate it.

“I feel like there is no new normal just yet,” Rodriguez said. “I think we’re all just trying to adjust and pivot at the same time and getting creative. I think it’s where we all are.”

Related Content:

Owner of Worcester’s Nuestra restaurant, closing due to COVID impact, has something she’d like to say to Gov. Baker

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Columbus Mattress Wholesale moves to newer, larger Gahanna store

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More than four years back, Cathryn Clark’s boyfriend, Christopher Robbins, was on the hunt for a new mattress. He just couldn’t find one at an affordable  price. 

Clark, 29, and Robbins, 34, who are now engaged, were living in Franklinton, where they still live today.

They had no experience owning or operating a small business; Robbins worked as a retail assistant for SAS Retail Services while Clark worked as the communications director for two Methodist churches. 

But in 2017, Robbins, with Clark at his side, took the leap and opened Columbus Mattress Wholesale on the West Side, with the goal of  helping low-income consumers secure mattresses and other bedtime products.  

“We really wanted to bring a store to people that, you know, they weren’t paying an arm and leg, but they still could get a good night’s sleep,” Clark said.

Customers at Columbus Mattress Wholesale can pay cash or credit, for example, but the business also works with financing companies that serve people without credit scores, with bad credit or who are lower income. 

Last month, the business made a big move. It expanded from its original location on Harrisburg Pike to a store double the size at 435 Agler Road in Gahanna.

Clark said she and Robbins saw a need in the broader area, with many of their customers coming from outside the Hilltop, such as Linden.

Nestled between Dollar Tree and the Ohio BMV in Gahanna, the new storefront opened Memorial Day weekend and sells mattresses, bed bases, bed frames and pillows. Mattress prices range from under $100 to more than $1,000, depending on the size and brand, which includes some well-known names such as Serta, Beautyrest and Casper.

Clark said while she and Robbins originally sold solely Ohio-based brands, they’ve branched out to national brands as business has grown.

Columbus Mattress Wholesale also offers free same-day delivery on most orders from customers living in Columbus. 

Clark does a little bit of everything for the business, from running communications, to working on the sales floor, to managing the sales team, to ordering what they sell. 

She said a big mission for herself and Robbins, beyond doing business, is aiding the community.

“We’ve seen a lot of people struggle,” Clark said.

Clark said she and Robbins work to mentor other people who are hoping to open or currently own a small business. She added that the store starts employees at $17 per hour.

She and Robbins haven’t decided yet what they will do with the original location — which is currently closed — but said they might shift it into an accessory store.

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@SarahEDon

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