Photo/IllutrationRegistered members can try on and choose rental luxury watches at the offline outlet of Karitoke in Osaka’s Chuo Ward. (Junichi Kamiyama)

  • Photo/Illustraion

Strapped for cash, but want to look extra chic or super sharp? Help is at hand, whether it be a smart new outfit, luxury watch, brand-name handbag ... literally, whatever.

Rental services catering to those on a tight budget who want to cut extra dash are flourishing in Japan.

Companies are targeting Internet-savvy youngsters who keep a close eye on their purse strings but want to be seen in clothes or accessories that are beyond their means.

Rolex, Omega and Hublot. These were some of the names of luxury watches that Yohei Fujii, 34, was gloating over one weekend in January.

The company employee from Osaka frequents the outlet of Karitoke, an online luxury watch rental service, in the city's Minami-Senba district. As he is raising a family, such expensive accessories would normally be beyond his reach, but now he can rent them for a flat fee.

“I like the fact I can try out different watches without any hassle,” Fujii said.

Karitoke loans luxury watches to registered customers for fixed monthly fees ranging from 3,980 yen ($37) to 19,800 yen. Renters can keep items as long as they want, provided they pay the monthly fee.

The offline outlet was opened last autumn by Osaka-based service operator Clover Lab Inc., which is better known for producing smartphone apps.

The company plans to open more outlets this year as older people are now showing interest. Previously, about 70 percent of registered members were in their 20s and 30s, but the number of middle age customers increased after the company established a physical presence.

Noriaki Ogawa, Clover Lab’s executive director, said the traditional thinking that a watch was something that had to be owned has been overtaken by the notion it is just as acceptable to rent a stylish timepiece on a temporary basis.

Leeap is a men’s attire rental service also based in Osaka. Customers receive items via courier for two coordinated outfits, such as pants, sweater and shirt, for a monthly fee starting from 7,800 yen. There is a range of about 10,000 clothing items to choose from.

They register their physical data, such as height, at the time of membership registration, and can discuss their preferred styling with assigned stylists through LINE messaging on their smartphones.

Service operator Kiizan Kiizan, also in Osaka, is currently exploring plans to open a physical outlet in Tokyo.

Daisuke Inoue, president of the company, said, “We hope to attract people who don’t know what to wear to matchmaking events or dating.”

Laxus Technologies Inc. based in Hiroshima rents luxury high fashion brand bags, such as Louis Vuitton and Chanel, for a monthly fee of 6,800 yen.

Yusuke Shimoda, deputy chief researcher of the Japan Research Institute, observed that these rental services cater to aspirations among young and thrifty people to "overreach a little bit."

“Online business transactions are becoming increasingly popular, and I expect more businesses will enter the market," Shimoda said.