- The Washington Times - Monday, May 2, 2005

Gwyneth Paltrow has one. So does Courtney Cox. Now, expectant mothers nationwide can have the same crib the stars’ babies do for a quarter of the cost. RockabyeBaby Leasing, the first online baby-furniture-leasing company, opened last week with name-brand cribs, changing tables and dressers available for long-term lease.

Much like leasing a car, parents can lease baby furniture monthly through the company’s Web site, www.rockabyebabyleasing.com. Depending on the length of the lease, payments can be 5 to 25 percent below retail cost.

“Parents can spend anywhere from [$8,000] to $11,000 on their first child. I lease my car and thought, why wouldn’t it work on baby furniture,” said Chantelle Ebben, president of RockabyeBaby Leasing.

The amount of a payment is determined by how much the furniture retails for and how long parents need the item. For example, leasing the Parisian Canopy Crib by Corsican costs $154.95 a month instead of buying it for $4,675.

Mrs. Ebben said the company’s mission is to provide parents with an alternative to buying used baby furniture and make “high-end baby furniture accessible to everyone.”

The company, which buys onlynew furniture, operates much like an online store. Parents can go onto the company’s Web site, view the items they want and order them online or by phone.

At the end of the lease, parents can extend the lease, buy the furniture at a discounted rate, or return it. Most discounted rates are 5 to 15 percent below the suggested retail value.

“We are able to soften the blow to their wallets,” Mrs. Ebben said.

She said the company leases only new furniture, but she is hoping to be able to sell the used furniture or donate it to charity.

“Newer cribs are guaranteed to meet safety standards set by the [Consumer Product Safety Commission]. We don’t want to lease something that is 10 years old because safety standards change,” she said.

The Consumer Product Safety Commission advises new parents toavoid antiques or heirlooms because older cribs may be weak with age or covered with lead-based paint.

Dana Dubinsky, a spokeswomen for Babycenter.com,an online resource for new and expectant mothers, said leasing a crib is an option that some parents might think about if they want a higher-end model.

“Some parents may look at these cribs and see their fantasy nursery. It’s a chance for parents to give their babies nice things without having to save for months to afford it. If you have your heart set on a canopy crib, this is a way to get it,” Ms. Dubinsky said.

Mrs. Ebben said shegot the idea for the company after seeing her friends and family swap cribs and baby clothes.

“I started talking about the idea 2 months ago with my husband, Jay, and we just took something that was done on a local level to a national level,” she said.

After doing some research, Mr. and Mrs. Ebben began to contact crib manufacturers such as Sweet Beginnings and Alta Baby to determine their interest.

“I spoke to Jay [Ebben] and he had this new concept to lease out baby furniture. At first I didn’t want to do it, but my thought is if you don’t change and grow you become stale,” said Joseph Giannini, president of Alta Baby. “I think it gives people who normally haven’t heard of us an introduction to our product.”

Currently,the company leases out only furniture but is hoping to add strollers and other supplies later this month.

“I understand buying furniture for your child is more of an emotional purchase, but this gives parents another option,” Mrs. Ebben said.

The company has plans to list itself on online search engines, be accessible on Yahoo Stores and attend infant manufacturer and furniture conventions.

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