PALM BEACH, Fla. - Andrea Poggioli is obsessed with handbags.
Coach. Louis Vuitton. Gucci. The 26-year-old Royal Palm Beach resident loves them all.
Until recently, she would buy herself a new name-brand bag - often for about $1,500 - every few months.
Then the economy put a dent in her wallet.
Now, rather than buying bags to feed her habit, Poggioli rents.
"With this economy, I don't have the cash to buy a $2,000 bag," she said. "With renting, it hurts less when you see a small bill than a huge one." Leasing luxury goods was growing in popularity, even before the economy slipped into a downward spiral. As times have gotten tough, recessionistas are fighting tooth and manicured claw to remain stylish.
"As the economy tightens, people have to make tough choices, but they still want to look good," said Jodi Watson, chief marketing officer of Bag, Borrow or Steal, which recently changed its name to Avelle because it leases more merchandise than handbags.
"Maybe once you would have bought a purse, but now you rent it," Watson said. "The economy is affecting all of us … from the super-rich to those who aren't." Kalu Emole, president and chief executive officer of Rent Me a Handbag, points out: "People who use our services, especially in locales like Palm Beach, don't want to be shown to be having a hard time or having to rent their clothes or bags." Emole has seen a 25 percent to 35 percent increase in rentals at Rent Me a Handbag, mostly from middle to higher-income customers.
Renting bags, while considerably cheaper than buying them, still adds up.
At All That Bags, $59 gets you a yearlong membership, but it will take another $175 to rent a Gucci bag in the "Fashionista" category for a month.
Other bags are more affordable: A Calvin Klein python clutch from the Palm Beach collection at From Bags to Riches costs $34.95 a month. A BE & D St. Germain portfolio clutch from Avelle runs members $70 a month. At Rent Me a Handbag, you can lease up to two items at a time from the Silver collection for $69.99 a month.
According to the Luxury Institute, which researches high-end consumption, 20 and 30-somethings are driving the trend.
"Younger people especially want to have the luxury now but obviously can't afford it in these financial times," said Milton Pedraza, chief executive of the institute.
Also, attitudes are changing, he said.
"People are more open these days to carving out the luxury experience without having to have ownership," Pedraza said.
One trend that has surprised Kara Richter, co-founder and chief executive of From Bags to Riches, is mothers buying their daughters gift certificates to her online store as back-to-school gifts.
"It's unusual for us to have a really strong August to September," Richter said, surmising that this was the parents' way of compromising between the economy and their daughters' tastes.