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Poles Turn to Sharing Economy Amid Rising Debt and Economic Challenges

FINANCEPoles Turn to Sharing Economy Amid Rising Debt and Economic Challenges

In the face of growing problems with repaying current liabilities and loan installments, Poles are increasingly turning to alternative forms of access to goods and services, according to the study “Poles and the Sharing Economy,” conducted for BIG InfoMonitor and Gleevery. Who is most interested in this solution? It turns out that 18-24-year-olds are the most frequent users, with one in three using rental services. This percentage decreases with the age of the respondents. However, when looking at overdue debt, the amount of debt increases with age. This is a good prognostic for the future. The hope lies in the youth and their innovative approach to buying, which is conscious consumption.

According to the latest forecasts from the European Commission and the World Bank, Poland’s economy is returning to a growth path. After last year’s sharp slowdown, the EC estimates that in 2024 Poland’s GDP will grow by 2.8%, and in 2025 by 3.4%. For comparison, the published forecasts indicate that the annual GDP growth for the entire European Union will be 1%, while in the eurozone it will be even less, at 0.8%.

These findings are confirmed by data published by the Central Statistical Office. According to the report from June 3rd, the economic growth in Poland is gaining momentum: Poland’s GDP grew by 0.5% quarter-to-quarter and 2% year-on-year in the first quarter. According to expert analyses, this can be attributed to the growing private consumption. However, BIG InfoMonitor warns that at the same time, the total debt of Poles is also increasing.

Economic boom and increasing debts

Both EC and GUS experts agree: the economic revival is due to growing private consumption. However, did Poles start taking advantage of the positive economic climate too early? According to BIG InfoMonitor, which runs one of the largest debtor databases in Poland, at the end of April 2024, the debt of adult individuals amounted to over PLN 86.3 billion, an increase of nearly PLN 6 billion (7%) year-on-year. The debt of Poles is growing, but the number of people with financial problems decreased by 53,318 to 2,623,831 during this period. This means that existing financial problems of Poles are deepening.

“The economic revival is due to growing private consumption. However, it is worth noting that this luxury is still afforded by only a few; most of us continue to calculate expenditures to optimize their use and achieve the desired results. Thoughtful purchasing decisions, meaning responsible consumer behavior, also have positive consequences, primarily by helping to reduce the effects of excessive consumerism and contributing to the decrease in the number of people with financial problems, as seen in our data,” notes Sławomir Grzelczak, President of BIG InfoMonitor. “In this case, new market opportunities, such as rental and sharing of often expensive products or equipment, can certainly help,” he adds.

Among the six age groups, the most indebted are those aged 45-54 and 35-44. Their combined debt accounts for over half (56%) of the debt of Polish citizens. The fewest debtors are among the younger generation aged 18-24, with debts slightly over PLN 1 billion, representing 1.2% of the total debt of Poles. Although the number of debtors decreased in each age group, the outstanding debts increased significantly.

To have, you don’t need to buy

In the local market, a number of solutions have emerged that allow the use of products without having to purchase them with cash, such as BNPL (Buy Now, Pay Later), installment purchases, or rentals. All these forms allow for flexible household budget management. However, in the context of reducing debt, the most effective tool is rental, as it operates on a subscription basis. Unlike installment purchases or loans, rental does not increase the renter’s obligations.

“Debts undoubtedly limit our freedom because they directly affect our purchasing power, including creditworthiness,” emphasizes Jakub Buga, founder and CEO of the Gleevery platform, which enables the rental of products from various categories. “Therefore, when considering the purchase of any product, it is worth thinking about renting it. This way, we only bear the cost of using the product during the period when we need it. Additionally, renting allows us to test the product before deciding to buy it, thus avoiding unnecessary expenses,” explains Jakub Buga.

As shown by the research conducted by BIG InfoMonitor and Gleevery, one in four Poles declared using product rental services in the past year, indicating the growing popularity of alternative forms of consumption. Poles are most familiar with the idea of renting cars (75%) and medical equipment (64%). They are less convinced about renting electronic equipment (20%) or small household appliances (17%). In the youngest age group (18-24 years), 34% of consumers regularly use rental services, and this percentage decreases with the age of the respondents, amounting to approximately 23% for the 25-44 age group, 19% for the 45-54 age group, and 6% for those over 55. “The popularity of renting indicates growing awareness of the benefits of this form of consumption, both ecological and economic. The hope lies with the younger generation, which is positively inclined towards this type of solution. This is also a good prognostic for the future, as we expect generational changes in the approach to sharing,” concludes Jakub Buga.

The study “Poles and the Sharing Economy” was conducted by Quality Watch using the CAWI method on a sample of 1065 people, from September 15 to 18, 2023. The report prepared for BIG InfoMonitor in cooperation with Gleevery covers product rentals, installment purchases, and attitudes towards environmental protection.

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