|This article relies too much on references to primary sources. (October 2014)|
|Traded as||NASDAQ: RCII|
|Founded||Wichita, Kansas, USA (1973)|
|Headquarters||Plano, Texas, USA|
|Key people||Robert D. Davis, CEO
Mitch Fadel, President and COO
Christopher Korst, Chief Administrative Officer, Executive Vice President and General Counsel
Guy Constant, CFO and Executive Vice President
Jeff White, Executive Vice President
Joel Mussat, Executive Vice President, Strategic Planning and Business Development
Ricardo Cordon, Executive Vice President, Mexico
Fred Herman, Executive Vice President Accounting/Global Controller
|Products||Provides furniture, electronics, computers and household appliances available under rent-to-own agreements|
|Revenue||3.104 Billion USD (2013)|
Rent-A-Center (commonly referred to as RAC, Rent-A-Centre in Canada) is an American public furniture and electronics rent-to-own company based in Plano, Texas. The company was incorporated in 1986 and as of 2014 operates approximately 2,972 company-owned stores in the United States, Canada, Puerto Rico and Mexico, accounting for approximately 35% of the rent-to-own market in the United States based on store count.
Rent-A-Center's operations include 28 retail installment stores called Get It Now (based in Wisconsin); 17 Home Choice stores in Minnesota; 15 rent-to-own stores in Canada that go by Rent-A-Centre and Better Living; and approximately 1,359 Acceptance Now kiosks housed within retail partner stores throughout the United States. Its subsidiary, Rent-A-Center Franchising International Inc. (RACFI), formerly known as ColorTyme Inc., is America's first franchisor of independently owned-and-operated rent-to-own stores. Its franchisees operate 162 rent-to-own stores in 31 states under the Rent-A-Center and ColorTyme brand names, and the company's wheels-and-tires franchise brand, RimTyme, operates 31 stores in 13 states.
In 2014, Fortune Magazine listed Rent-A-Center at number 711 on the Fortune 1000 list of the largest U.S. corporations, based on revenues alone. Competitors include Aaron’s, Inc., easyhome, Best Buy Co. Inc., and Wal-Mart Stores.
The rent-to-own business was started by J. Ernest Talley in Wichita, Kansas during the 1960s when he told customers of his store, Mr. T’s Rental, that they had rented a washer and dryer for a long enough duration that they had paid for it in full and now owned it. Thomas Devlin, a former employee of Mr. T’s rental, recognized the potential of renting name-brand products and partnered with W. Frank Barton and founded the Rent-A-Center brand in Wichita, Kansas in 1973.
Mark Speese joined Rent-A-Center in 1979. In 1986, Mr. Speese and a colleague left Rent-A-Center and started a competing business known as Vista Rent-To-Own. Ernest Talley then joined Vista Rent-To-Own as Chairman of the Board of Directors in 1989 and remained Chairman through Vista’s transition to Rent-A-Center. In 2001, Talley retired and Speese was appointed as Rent-A-Center’s Chairman and CEO. Vista Rent-To-Own changed its name to Renters Choice, Inc. in December 1993, in connection with the acquisition from DEF Investments, Inc. and certain related entities of an 84 store rent-to-own chain operating in 12 states. Mark Speese retired as Rent-A-Center CEO at the end of January 2014. He continues to hold his position as Chairman of the Board, and Rent-A-Center CFO Robert Davis now serves as CEO. Michael S. Wilding, Rent-A-Center’s current Senior Vice President – Accounting and Global Controller, will serve as Interim Chief Financial Officer, effective February 1, 2014.
Renters Choice went public on the NASDAQ stock exchange in 1995 under the symbol “RCII.” In August 1998, Renters Choice acquired Thorn Americas, Inc., which operated 1,474 stores in 49 states and the District of Columbia under the name “Rent-A-Center.” On 31 December 1998, Renters Choice changed its name to Rent-A-Center, Inc. and began operating all of its stores under the “Rent-A-Center” brand name.
In February 2003, Rent-A-Center acquired 295 stores from Rent-Way, Inc. In March 2004, Rent-A-Center commenced operating in Canada with the acquisition of five stores located in Edmonton and Calgary, Alberta. Later that year in May 2004, Rent-A-Center completed the acquisitions of Rainbow Rentals, Inc. and Rent Rite, Inc. Rent-A-Center completed its acquisition of competitor Rent-Way, Inc. on 15 November 2006, for a price of approximately $600.3 million. At the time of the acquisition, Rent-Way was ranked number three in the rent-to-own industry with 782 stores in 34 states. The Rent-Way store acquisition program brought the store total to 3,535 stores. Given that the acquisition resulted in over-penetration in some markets, Rent-A-Center carried out the closing or merging of 282 stores between 2007 and 2009. With 176 Mexico stores as of September 2014, Rent-A-Center is continuing its expansion in Mexico.
RAC provides new and used brand-named furniture, appliances, computers and electronics from brands, such as Ashley Furniture, Sony, Toshiba, Whirlpool Corporation, Dell and HP. As part of their rent-to-own business model, Rent-A-Center generally makes its items available with no down payments or long term obligations. Customers can return an item at any time, for any reason, without penalty and also have the option to re-rent the same item and pick up the payments where they left off. Delivery, pick-up, service and repair are also included in the stated rental price. Customers can also upgrade items while they are renting—the payments will change accordingly.
In March 2007, the corporate office moved to a new location at 5501 Headquarters Drive, Plano, Texas, in the Legacy Business Park. Construction began on the 175,000-square-foot (16,300 m2) building in January 2006. Employees moved into the building on 16 March 2007. The current headquarters measures three stories and includes structured parking for 400 vehicles, a fitness center, and lunchroom.
Beginning in 2003, the company has made donations to Big Brothers Big Sisters of America, collected by means of fund raisers held on an annual basis in Rent-A-Center stores. Between 2005 and 2010, Rent-A-Center donated and set up 116 “RAC Rooms” at Boys and Girls Clubs of America locations, in which each club selects $5,000 worth of new furniture, electronics and computers for their room. Rent-A-Center also contributed to Boys and Girls Clubs of America with four tech centers in 2014. Rent-A-Center has annually allocated $60,000 worth of scholarships to customers and the children of customers and coworkers. Through the Random Acts of Caring initiative, which was launched in 2008, RAC has donated merchandise and funding to charitable organizations located in communities where Rent-A-Center maintains retail locations. 98 Random Acts of Caring have taken place since 2008, totaling $531,300 in contributions. Since 2007, the company has contributed over $600,000 in grants to Junior Achievement and, in addition, Rent-A-Center employees volunteer annually to teach financial literacy. Rent-A-Center has provided monetary and product contributions totaling nearly $600,000 to date to the North Texas Food Bank. Since 2009, Rent-A-Center has donated more than 1.25 million dollars to 11 food banks across the country. This is in addition to the grassroots hunger-relief campaign staged across Rent-A-Center’s 3,000-plus U.S. stores throughout the month of September. Dubbed “Soup to Nuts” and in support of Hunger Action Month, this virtual food drive leverages Rent-A-Center’s stores as collection points for cash donations. The donated funds are distributed to food banks across the country at the conclusion of the month-long campaign. An initiative begun in 2010 is Rent-A-Center’s "Operation: Just Like Home," in which merchandise with a wholesale value of $175,000 is delivered to select installations across four military service branches, including the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps. Contributions have been allocated to Family & Morale Welfare and Recreation operations that provide community and family services, such as the Soldier and Family Assistance Centers that in turn serve wounded, ill and injured soldiers and their families. In 2014, Rent-A-Center shifted its support of the military through the backing of important military-related nonprofit organizations, including Blue Star Families, Air Force Aid Society, Army Emergency Relief, and the Navy $ Marine Corps Relief Society.
Reception and litigation
A number of consumer protection concerns have been raised about the rent-to-own industry, including accusations of predatory lending. Consumer advocates believe that rent-to-own transactions such as those offered by Rent-A-Center should be treated as credit sales, and point out that the price of a product can be two or three times the retail price. However, some[who?] are quick to note that 73% of those who use rent-to-own services have a high school diploma or higher and all prices are shown on the customer contract. In an April 2000, Federal Trade Commission study on the industry, 75% of respondents stated that they were satisfied with their rent-to-own experience. The rent-to-own industry also received an “A” or excellent regarding customer service in a 2009 study conducted by America’s Research Group.
In 2000, Rent-A-Center was sued for sexual bias in the hiring of women. The 2002 settlement agreement resulted in a $47 million cash payment by Rent-A-Center and mandated that Rent-A-Center offer 10% of future vacancies over the following 15-month period to women who were found to be past victims of discrimination. The settlement also led Rent-A-Center to seek qualified women to serve on its Board of Directors, develop equal employment training programs, and hire a new human resources vice president to implement hiring policies that ensured equal employment opportunity for female job applicants and current employees.
In 2006, Rent-A-Center settled for $7 million in restitution and $750,000 in civil penalties for deceptive business practices in California. The State of California claimed RAC, in violation of state law, engaged in unfair competition and illegally misrepresented the price of certain merchandise. As a result of the settlement, RAC also deposited more than $7 million into a special consumer protection fund that is used to enforce consumer protection laws.
In 2010, seven months after the Washington Attorney General’s Office sued Rent-a-Center and accused the national lease-to-own chain of unfair and deceptive collection practices under Washington’s Consumer Protection Act, Rent-A-Center agreed to settle.
Another prominent case in 2010 included Rent-A-Center vs. Jackson which arose out of an employment discrimination claim brought on by former RAC employee Antonio Jackson. The case went all the way to the Supreme Court, which sided with RAC in a 5-4 decision. The court held that if a company's arbitration agreement includes a clause delegating fairness challenges to the arbitrator, a court must enforce that agreement and send the matter to arbitration. When Jackson first sued, Rent-A-Center cited its arbitration agreement and claimed that any challenges to the agreement had to be decided by the arbitrator.
The Rent-A-Center company converted its Wisconsin stores to Get-It-Now! credit sale outlets after a judicial decision held that the state’s consumer protection laws defining credit sales included rent-to-own businesses. Rent-A-Center is also known as Acceptance Now within its partner stores in the US in which it has kiosks. Rent-A-Center also goes by Home Choice in Minnesota, by Rent-A-Centre in Canada and by Rent-A-Center in Mexico.
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