Danny and Meg Ziegler look more like homecoming King and Queen than the owners
of a fast growing Rent to Own business.
Meg and Danny Ziegler
The Zieglers, owners of Carolina Rent to Own have been on a rocket ride since
1995. Danny, like so many other owners, began his RTO career as an account manager with Rent a Center at
the tender age of 18. By 23 he founded
Carolina Rent to Own and opened his first store. Now 27 years old, he and his
wife Meg operate
three locations and plan at least one new store every 12 months for the next
decade. "I see myself with 15 stores in the next 10 years," Danny
enthusiastically told RTO Online. "This is the only business I know and I love
The Ziegler's opened their third Carolina Rent to Own location last week. The 8,000 square foot showroom is the largest in the area and Danny sees the
large footprint as the future of Rent to Own. "Rent to Own consumers have
evolved dramatically" said Ziegler. "They are much more savvy
and demand more choices. Larger showrooms satisfy that demand." Ziegler added
that a large showroom also requires less selling than a traditional RTO
location. "It sells itself," he said.
Purchasing has also evolved quickly to keep pace with consumer demands. "I
thought it would be a long time before we carried high definition 16:9 wide
screens," says Danny. Seemingly overnight, customers changed. "Consumers won't
rent analog. They see HDTV everywhere and expect it here. I haven't bought any
analog in over year."
The Zieglers believe LCD will be the "Next big thing" in rent to own. "At first I thought it would
be plasma," Danny said. "But LCD is much more durable and, as LCD prices
decline, I see it as the
next logical step after HD."
On competing with the majors
"I can compete with Rent a Center, Rent Way, and Bestway all day long," says
Danny. "I just out-service them or offer matching specials. Aarons is a
different story. Their 12 month plans and willingness to settle for fewer turns
are changing this business. Rent to Own customers are becoming more total-price
conscious. Plus, I have an Aaron's 200 yards from my front door, so they are my
most direct competition."
Fewer turns means lower margins and lower margins are hard for an owner to
swallow. Rent to Own has always been about maintaining a close relationship with
customers and offering levels of service unheard of in the retail universe.
Maintaining that world-class customer service can be very expensive. Ziegler explained, "If you're not careful, lower margins on higher volume could
mean less personal attention per customer. This very well may be the way of the
future. I hope it doesn't come to that, but if it does we'll just adapt." He
added that as long as Rent a Center, the dominant force in this industry,
continues to operate on a traditional weekly pay rental purchase model, things
won't change much. "If Rent a Center decides to change, then the rest of the
industry will have to follow," he said. On the upside; While lowering turns may
lower margins, it vastly increases Carolina Rent to Own's customer base. "Our
rental plans appeal to more people so volume increases."
For a person trained in the traditional 3,500 square foot 4 employee RTO
environment, running an 8000 square foot million dollar plus location can
sometimes seem like "Organized chaos," said Ziegler. "It takes very different
skill set to be successful as a manager in this environment."
The unbridled enthusiasm with which Danny and Meg approach the rent to own
business is contagious. An hour on the phone with Danny is like attending a
motivational seminar! Although the Zieglers say 15 stores is their goal, my
money is on more...many more.
RTO Online is the official channel for Rent-to-Own Industry News and the
only independent source of news for the rent-to-own, rental-purchase,
lease-purchase trade. RTO Online (Rent to Own Online) represents the choice
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