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Fashion rental services and their effect on the industry

03 Jul 2018



Renting clothes and accessories has become more and more popular in the past years. Especially millennials are big supporters of this trend. In fact, millennials are 3 times more likely to use a rental service for clothes than non-millennials. There are many reasons for this behavior. 

First, college debts and the financial crisis make it impossible for young people to afford to buy designer clothes. This is how the clothing rental trend began. Instead of buying a trench coat, why not just rent it for a month or two? And what about a gown for a wedding or an important event? Also, rentable!

The practicality behind this reason slowly developed into a trend. Millennials are seeing renting and secondhand buying as sustainable and economically beneficial. Problems, such as reducing landfill waste, are getting reduced. Many renters also shop in second-hand shops. Buying used clothes makes it easier to resell them instead of throwing them out when they are not liked anymore. There is a constant trading happening.

There are two different kinds of renters. Those who happen to have an event and just don’t have a fitting outfit or those, who are taking full advantage of the rental trend. Many renters are using the rental service multiple times a month to get dressed for work or events. Most of the times the events stay in the same circle and it’s noticed if someone is wearing the same outfit every time. Dressing up for work meetings is another reason to rent instead of buying. Women and men want to present themselves and their company in the best light Wearing a well-fitting suit or dress can help.

It's not unspoken for any more to arrive at a prestigious luxury event in a gown or a tux that are rented and not owned. A hectic social life coupled with the onslaught of social media has made re-wearing clothing or bags almost unforgivable and unacceptable. So, in such circumstances, it makes little sense to invest thousands of dollars in clothes that will be worn once. Unless one is a blogger that gets new clothing gifted for every event, renting is exactly what to do.

The allure of 'no ownership' is now moving beyond housing and cars. Fashion and accessories are now two of the biggest rental industries on the rise. It makes perfect sense for people who can't afford luxury brands but rely on being dressed well often. The new generation raves multiple experiences and desires to be fashionable and trendy, without the pressure of permanent ownership.

Le Tote President Brett Northart said clothing rental has taken off because consumers want flexibility in their wardrobe. In addition, the recession made people less enamored with owning things, he said.


Even if we’re seeing many benefits for consumers, there is a backside to it. Small retailers and even bigger ones had to struggle with the rental business in the past. Now they need to adjust to being able to compete. Many retailers already started a renting and wearing branch for their business. A new industry based on sharing or renting clothing, electronics and small appliances are springing up from nothing about five years ago, posing a disruptive force to traditional retailers.


Benefits and downsides for involved parties:

Retailers: “Apparel will struggle to remain a priority spend,” Marshal Cohen, chief industry analyst at The NPD Group, told Retail Dive. “It’s competing for its share of wallet, as younger consumers seek and spend on services and experiences more than ever.”

Retailers must start taking actions and hop on the train of renting clothes to customers. If your brand is not innovative or a popular Instagram/ Social Media brand, sales will drop soon. Many big companies had to downsize and clothes stores already because of this shift in customer behavior.

Consumers: This new industry based on sharing or renting clothing, electronics and small appliances is rising, threatening retailer. But what about the consumer?

Student loan debts and the Great Recession almost force young people in our society to find a different way to dress well in quality clothes.  Sharing becomes a great alternative to owning. These behaviors have led to businesses such as Zipcar, taxi service Uber and home rental site Airbnb. Not only financially the renting trend is beneficial. Many Millennials are considering this option for the environmental and economic benefits. Less waste means a smaller burden on mother earth.

Despite all the renting, there is one thing Millennials still buy and don’t share. Their smartphones. About 85 percent of people aged 18 to 34 own them, according to Nielsen research, and the devices are the doorway to the sharing economy. Online apps are the most important gate to renting and online shopping sites.

Not only for non-owners, these arrangements are beneficial. Renting your car or using it to transport people that don’t own a car, means making the best use of your investment. Making money with it is even better.


Economy: To understand the dimensions of the trading and renting business, let’s look at the numbers of one of the biggest clothing rental websites on the market. Right now, subscriptions account for about a third of Rent the Runway’s revenue, said Hyman, the CEO and co-founder of Rent the runway. Furthermore, she says, the company hit $100 million in revenue in mid-2016 and has raised more than $190 million in venture capital over six rounds. The latest, a $60 million injection last year led by Fidelity Investments, pegged the company’s valuation at a “significant step up” from the $520 million mark it set in 2014, Hyman told Recode at the time.


Renting clothes and accessories has created a new market that is rapidly growing. While most of the websites that offer these services are startups, more and more large companies are starting to tap into the market. Amazon for example, not yet in the market, might strike soon. Ann Taylor, the go-to work-wear brand launched a $95 subscription service earlier last year, threatening smaller startup.


Environment: The fashion industry weighs heavy on our environment. Especially fast fashion that produces billions of dollars with of clothing every year and gets thrown away, usually without recycling, leaves a heavy carbon footprint on the environment. Many clothing rental companies are trying to work against that waste. They get together with designers that want to make clothing more sustainable and rent out garments instead of overproducing them. By renting for occasions instead of buying and disposing of, fashion waste that gets burned can be reduced. Reduced waste leads to a cleaner planet and more sustainability.

Many founders of clothing rental companies hope to put fast fashion companies like H&M out of business. This environmental thinking is one of the biggest reasons next to money, why young people are so interested in the rental trend.


Fashion Rental Services:

renting clothes online

Rent the Runway:

The online rental service offers designer clothing for rent. Being the first rental store for gowns and evening attire, Rent the Runways has set a huge milestone in shopping. The store does not operate on monthly subscription but on the worth of the rented piece. Usually, it is 10 – 15 % of the retail price.

Having made more than $100m in sales last year, Rent the Runway now aims to “put Zara and H&M out of business” co-founder Jennifer Hyman said in October. For $159 a month, RTR members can now borrow unlimited clothes and accessories, from blouses and dresses to coats and purses, and up to four items at the same time. The aim is to become a customer’s full-time wardrobe.

Rent the Runway has opened several physical outposts in locations including Woodland Hills and San Francisco.

These stores are far from traditional shops, instead of acting more like showrooms that are an extension of subscribers’ closets.


Le Tote:

This online rental service operates on a monthly subscription base. Instead of paying for every piece that is rented, subscribers pay $59 a month and get 3 garments and 2 accessories delivered, unlimited times a month. This service is ideal if you are in constant need of buying new clothes like for example if you are pregnant. Le Tote has a great selection of maternity clothes. You can choose the clothes you want to be delivered.


Gwynnie Bee:

Gwynnie Bee is another monthly subscription service. For $49 a month, the store offers an amazing plus size selection from which you can choose up to 10 items per month. Not only is that a great offer, but the page has created their own community where members can share stories of their outfits and support body positivity. Everyday wear stands in focus at Gwynnie Bee, but they also offer gowns and evening attire.


Glam Corner:

Glam Corner is the plus size equivalent to Rent the Runway. Here subscribers can rent designer dresses and gowns for a monthly fee. A special treat from this company is to offer inclusive sizing for all body types, including bump-friendly dresses.


Style Lend:

Here is a fast pace rental store! Style Lend promises the customer a 2-day shipping nationwide and same day shipping in New York. If the dress isn’t what you were looking for or doesn’t fit, Style Lend promises to exchange the dress before your event or you get a refund. The price which changes around $25 per rental isn’t too bad either.


For owners, the sharing economy transforms possessions into revenue streams, by enabling items to be useful all of the time: someone who only uses their car to drive to and from work each day can rent the vehicle to other drivers in the interim. For customers, the sharing economy provides convenience, value (it’s cheaper to pay to use something for a short time rather than buy it outright) and a greater choice of products and services. It also offers access without ownership — something that has resonated with millennial consumers, who came of age in the recession and are economically-minded, and who increasingly value experiences over material goods.

While other areas in the rental market are already booming and rapidly growing, the fashion rental industry is growing slower because of logistical problems. Companies are working on solutions for these problems to make the process of renting clothes and giving them back even easier and convenient for the consumer. In the next few years, clothing and accessory rental will hopefully defeat fast fashion and toxic waste by the disposal of clothes.




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