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A hire purpose: the opportunities in rental fashion

Press this week: Girl Meets Dress in Drapers

Olivia Pinnock writes about the benefits of rental fashion for both customers and the brands. 

Read the article in full below or click the link to read the article on the Drapers website: https://www.drapersonline.com/business-operations/a-hire-purpose-the-opportunities-in-rental-fashion/7033812.article

 

Clothing rental has the potential to make fashion retail more sustainable and provide benefits to both consumers and brands.

Hiring suits for that all-important special occasion has been part of shoppers’ habits for decades. However, changes in consumer behaviour have led renting all kinds of clothing – from dresses to childrenswear – to grow in appeal for shoppers and retailers alike.

Clothing rental is a sustainable alternative to the disposable fashion cycle of “buy, wear, replace”. It lets shoppers discover new pieces, and get brands in front of customers who may not otherwise wear them. Although it is not a one-size-fits-all approach, its applications are growing.  

The so-called sharing economy – exemplified by  short-term let service Airbnb and music-streaming platform Spotify – has made ownership less of a necessity for millennials and Generation Z, who value experiences over possessions. As consumers spend more on events and holidays, and less on the outfits they wear to them, renting becomes an affordable way to still have a fresh look for all occasions.

A study by shopping centre owner Westfield in 2017 found that the UK clothing rental market has a potential value of £923m. The survey showed that 25% of Londoners said they would like to rent clothing. The idea was most popular among 25-to-34-year olds, 50% of whom said they would be willing to spend £200 or more each month on hiring clothes.

Going green

The rental fashion market is also being propelled by an increased interest in sustainability. Many clothing rental sites are proudly branding themselves as a greener option to the piles of unworn clothing sitting in consumers’ wardrobes.

Sustainability-focused brands and retailers are exploring the possibilities of rental clothing in bid to create circular business models. VF Corporation,  owner of labels including The North Face, Timberland and Vans, is considering introducing a rental clothing scheme as part of a new focus on sustainability, EMEA president Martino Scabbia Guerrini told Drapers last year.

Swedish womenswear brand Filippa K, which prides itself on its sustainable credentials, has leased clothes to customers through 11 of its stores since 2015, charging 20% of the total retail price for four days of use. Rental currently represents a small percentage of sales but grew 123% in 2017.

There is also more than a moral benefit to renting clothing for consumers. It makes aspirational brands more accessibly priced, it saves wardrobe space, offers a low-risk way to try new brands, and allows for a never-ending rotation of outfits that can be shown off on social media.

Those businesses that crack rental fashion also stand to benefit. In the US, designer rental platform Rent the Runway, which was launched in 2009 by founders Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fliss, now has 9 million subscribers. Its revenue surpassed $100m (£79.6 m) for the first time in 2016.

European start-ups are now vying to become market leaders in rental fashion on this side of the Atlantic. One such business is Front Row, which offers customers the opportunity to rent clothing and accessories from brands such as Dolce & Gabbana, Chanel, Fendi and Stella McCartney.

Thirst for newness

Shika Bodani, who founded Front Row in 2016, tells Drapers that UK consumer’s attitude to renting fashion is changing quickly: “Renting clothing was definitely considerably harder when I first started it. Sustainable fashion was the buzzword of 2018 and customers now have a new level of openness towards renting. It isn’t being stigmatised as being the cheap option, which I think it was before 2018.”

One of the longest-standing UK players in luxury occasionwear rental is Girl Meets Dress. About to enter its 10th year in business, it has an inventory of more than 4,000 dresses. Outfits can be rented “pay as you go” or through an “unlimited” subscription package of £99 per month. The latter allows shoppers to borrow up to three outfits at a time, and they can be swapped within the month.

As in any ecommerce business, convenience is key. Girl Meets Dress offers free delivery and returns, and the rental cost includes of dry cleaning and minor repairs after return. Although the operations and logistics may be slightly more complex than a traditional one-way sales transaction, potential profit margins on each item are bigger. Traditional models have a fixed margin once the cost price and retail price are agreed, but rentals can continue to make profits if they are loaned out more times once they hit their target.

It’s all about being more sustainable and not being wasteful

Anna Bunce, Girls Meets Dress

New styles arrive each season to maintain customer interest, but particularly popular items can have a long life and continue to be profitable beyond a single season, Girl Meets Dress founder Anna Bance explains: “A good dress is a good dress, especially if people are going to classic events. It’s all about being more sustainable and not being wasteful.”

Although most businesses operating in this area are focused on high-end fashion, there is a case to be made for affordable brands, too.

Isabella West, founder of Hire Street, is one of the first to offer occasionwear rentals from the high street. She felt that, even at rental prices, designer clothing was prohibitive to the average young woman: “Was I ever going to rent a dress for £100 that I was only going to wear for four days? Absolutely not!”

Brands on Hire Street include Topshop, Asos, French Connection and PrettyLittleThing. Average rental prices are £10-£20 for 10 days.  A year after launch, West is concluding her first round of fundraising, and says the business has grown through embracing a social media-loving audience who is enthusiastic about the concept.

“Customers are so grateful that we have saved them money and they love the experience so much that they’re actively talking about us [on social media] and they’re actively tagging us in their content. They are proud that they’re renting,” she tells Drapers.

People aren’t going to rent very basic clothes – it’s not really possible to rent the whole range of clothes

Sandra Coy, Tchibo

In Germany last year, one of the country’s largest retailers, Tchibo, launched Tchibo Share, a website offering children’s clothing hire. A coffee brand that is also known for selling other goods including value clothing, Tchibo has partnered with Kilenda, a children’s clothing rental start-up, to run the operational side of the scheme. The site offers clothes from Tchibo’s own-brand line, which is also sold in stores.

Prices can be as little as €0.60 (54p) per month for a babygrow, and average rental times are around four months. The lifespan of rental childrenswear is shorter, because of excessive wear and soiling, but Tchibo Share aims to rent out each garment a minimum of four or five times. Repeat customer rates are high – around 70% of renters came back to rent more during the initiative’s first year.

However, Sandra Coy, spokeswoman for corporate responsibility at Tchibo, warns that renting will not work for all sectors of the clothing market: “People aren’t going to rent very basic clothes. Maybe if it’s something special like a coat or winter ski outfits, but it’s not really possible to rent the whole range of clothes.”

Hoping to tackle this issue, Netherlands-based denim label Mud Jeans has adopted a different approach in line with its circular business model.

Alongside traditional selling, customers can pay a flat rate of €29 (£26.04) and then €7.50 (£6.74) per month, per pair of jeans, for a year. This works out at the same cost as buying upfront. At the end of the year, consumers can choose to keep their jeans or – the most popular option – exchange them for a brand-new pair and continue leasing. Around 3,000 members across Europe use the service. The returned jeans are sold as vintage or recycled to make new pairs.

Danique Gunning, marketing manager at Mud Jeans, explains that it is important for brands to know what they will do with garments at the end of their life.

“You have to make sure your products can be recycled after use – otherwise there’s no use getting back your old jeans to make new ones out of them. It starts with the design phase. And then there’s logistics. Our company knows we get back jeans and we know what to do with them, but if you’re not used to having this system then every pair of jeans [that comes back] is costly. Bigger companies, I feel, don’t see the advantages of (a circular system).”

The UK clothing rental market remains fragmented. A range of business models operate within it, and large multiples have not even begun to play catch-up with the start-ups – possibly as a result of huge change in infrastructure it would require. Appetite for rental fashion from price-savvy, sustainably conscious customers is increasing though.

Fashion rental is an option that allows shoppers to take positive step towards sustainability that can also improve margins. But it is unlikely that consumers will ever hire their entire wardrobe, and a market for fashion purchases will, of course, remain.


Will 2019 Be The Year Clothing Subscription Takes Over?

IN THE NEWS: Girl Meets Dress in Forbes.
Thanks to Cally Russell who wrote about the rise of clothing subscription services for Forbes this week.

We have seen an amazing response to our ‘Infinite’ subscription hire option. Which for £99 a month, enables members to borrow unlimited dresses, 3 at a time, all month!

Here is the article in full below and the link to click and read it on the Forbes website:

“Uber and AIRBNB have reshaped their respective industries in the UK through their use of sharing and have driven the explosion we’ve seen in the sharing economy. For the majority of us, until very recently, the thought of staying in someone’s spare room instead of a hotel whilst on holiday, or getting into a strangers car was an alien concept and not something we would consider but today many of us do both without a second thought.

When it comes to clothes, the idea of wearing something owned by someone else is a line many of us still won’t cross but with an explosion in options, 2019 might be the year this all changes.

Gen Y has been at the forefront of the growth in re-sale and second-hand clothing apps such as Depop over the past couple of years but it’s clothing subscription models that might finally encourage the mainstream retail market to embrace the sharing economy in regards to clothing in the UK.

The idea of renting clothes has caught on in a big way in the US with Rent The Runway raising $210m since 2009 enabling female consumers to rent up to 4 pieces at a time for $159 a month whereas here in the UK, the market is still developing, despite services such as Girl Meets Dress having been around for the same length of time.

New entrants such as WearTheWalk and FrontRow are betting on this changing in 2019 and are focusing on very specific customer groups to begin challenging Girl Meets Dress and securing UK market share before Rent The Runway makes an inevitable push into the UK market.

FrontRow focuses on renting high-end designer pieces for short periods of time, for example, a pair of Lambskin Chanel gloves for 5 days will cost you £150 if they’re being delivered in Central London. This process is clearly designed to appeal to the Instagram generation and the desire to be seen in the latest trends.

WearTheWalk, on the other hand, is more in line with the Rent The Runway model, with it’s monthly subscription offering it gives members access to a number of pieces from emerging designers throughout the month, having 5 pieces at any one time costs £120 a month. This approach focusing on the volume of products is clearly designed to capture the active young professional market.

Both of these companies and their respective focus is underpinned on the emergence of a new type of consumer – the sustainably focused millennial who has now been conditioned by other sharing services to value access over ownership – and believe this evolution of consumer behaviors will ultimately take their offerings mainstream.

‘Amongst millennials, we are seeing an emphasis on “access over ownership”, which is what makes the market conditions so ripe for a rental model. Secondly, and most importantly is the sustainable fashion movement, which has gained significant momentum over the past year and now dictates one of the primary buying motivation of Gen Y and millennials.’ Outlines the CEO and Founder of WearTheWalk, Zoe Partridge.

‘The sharing economy facilitates the growth of smaller brands through the access it provides to consumers, it’s our belief that the sharing economy democratizes a once heavily elitist industry and enables the everyday girl, and the next generation of luxury consumers to consume brands that were once the preserve of the catwalks, photo shoots and those with big enough bank balances.’

She also highlights that despite the uncertainty facing the economy their customer research tells them that 73% of millennials are willing to pay more fashion with a sustainability slant to it.

One barrier that all clothing rental companies need to overcome though is the idea that you’re wearing a piece of clothing that has been worn by others before you, the idea of cleanliness in this sector is clearly a higher priority than with ordering a taxi.

With this in mind, it’s no surprise that such companies are creating promotional videos to show behind the scenes of their clothing rental businesses, especially highlighting how the clothes are cleaned to the highest of standards. The most recent example of this being the video campaign undertaken in China by YCloset with a leading Chinese influencer Jiang Chacha. The video ends with her being offered a glass of water to drink from one of the steaming machines used, clearly implying the cleanliness of the whole process.

The increased spending power of Gen Y and Millennials in the retail market and the desire for experience over ownership mean that the stars may just have aligned for the clothing rental market to move mainstream in 2019 in the UK, although it might need a bigger retail name to enter the space to really help shape consumer conscience around the trend and overcome the mental challenges still clearly facing the emerging sector.”


The Fashion Renting Revolution is Here | Dress Hire UK

At Girl Meets Dress, our aim has always been to build you a Closetless Future — More than ever now, in this world, you don’t need a physical closet to house hundreds of items you don’t wear most of the time, and most items you’ve worn once.
Renting makes members more environmentally-responsible. Cutting down on fast fashion, an closing the loop on over consumption!
This is just at the beginning and we can’t wait to tell you what’s next. Thank you to all our customers – we can’t do it without you!

Women regularly wear only 20% of their closets, so by hiring your dresses, with Girl Meets Dress you can access a dream closet in ‘the cloud’ and return them when they’re no longer needed.

Our hire fans get addicted to our ‘INFINITE’ subscription service and 70% report spending less money on clothing. Members are wearing rented outfits all month, for both evening occations; dinners / drinks / dates etc and also work and casual weekend activities.

With GMD INFINITE, women can refresh their wardrobe on a monthly basis, renting dresses they can keep for a few weeks and wear to 1 event or 5! At £99/month, we believe that renting the latest dresses is environmentally-sustainable alternative to the wasteful, throwaway culture which has grown tremendously over the past 20 years.

Our customers don’t have to become a member. We still have the PAY AS YOU GO hire option for all items. Simply order the dresses you want, for your individual event dates. Perfect for the special occasions in your life – weddings, dinners, black tie festive events. Prom time, University balls and Weddings! Hire dresses and reserve a few to try on for tonight or a few months from now. FREE DELIVERY AND RETURN, AND FULL REFUNDS FOR ANYTHING YOU DON’T WEAR.

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