TV sets have reduced in price now to such an extent that most people can easily afford to buy several. Indeed, these days most households, especially those with children, probably have two, three or even more TV sets. Back in the 1980’s this trend was only just beginning, as TV sets went from being comparable in price to a new car to becoming a more affordable luxury item. This was the start of the end for companies such as Radio Rentals.
Radio Rentals was formed in 1932 to allow people to rent radios, funnily enough. The cost of a new “wireless” as they were often called back then was too steep for most normal people, so it was more affordable to rent a radio set on a monthly basis. As the years went by and television sets became the medium of choice for people to entertain themselves, Radio Rentals moved into renting out both television sets and video recorders. I believe they may also have rented out things like washing machines too.
Renting a TV did make a certain amount of sense, as it meant you could keep up with new technology by changing the set you rented at certain intervals to a newer model, and thus be the envy of all your friends and neighbours. TV sets weren’t always the longest lived of devices either, so this was another good reason to rent a set.
Unfortunately, by the mid 1980’s TV sets had become too affordable and too reliable, and people realised that it generally worked out less expensive to buy a brand new set rather than keep paying rental fees, and before long Radio Rentals was struggling to find a place in the market. They dabbled with renting satellite TV receivers and selling and renting computers, but before long they ended up merging with Granada’s rental side to form boxclever, who still rent out sets to this day. The brand name still lives on in Australia however.
I do remember Radio Rentals having a advertising campaign based around the slogan “Should have gone to Radio Rentals”, although I don’t remember much more than that. I did manage to track down another interesting advert though, this one featuring 1980’s pop culture icon Max Headroom, propounding how good FST (Flatter Squarer Tube) televisions were and that renting made more sense than buying from the keeping up with technology point of view. Check it out below.