The clothing rental businesses is exploding. Between already existing retailers taking it on as a strategy to new brands launching with a focus solely on rental, it’s an opportunity in fashion many are taking advantage of. That’s for good reason, too – according to Allied Market Research, the global online rental clothing market will reach $1,856 million by 2023.
The rental model is a great response to consumer’s demand for sustainability, too, and it can be an excellent way to adopt a more circular economy. That said, it can be a logistical challenge, from building an inventory to managing returns. We spoke with Jane Shepherdson, chair of My Wardrobe HQ (MWHQ), a UK-based clothing rental startup, to figure out what it takes to make it in this growing industry.
After working at massive retailers like Topshop and Whistles, Jane decided to apply her experience and skills to a more sustainable part of the fashion industry. When she joined MWHQ in November of last year, the founders, Sacha Newell and Tina Lake, had already overcome many of the difficult challenges, but she felt she could expedite their success. “Getting the back of house sorted out, and making MWHQ a managed process has been crucial to its success, as our customers now trust us to deliver,” she said. “It is a challenge getting brands to join us, although they are now starting to see the benefits. Rental in this country is still a relatively new concept, so spreading the word, and getting people to try it takes time and money.”
Through her time with MWHQ, Jane has noticed that several brands are interested in sustainability and rental, more specifically, but they are often reluctant to try it. A solution to that can be partnering with a platform that can help guide you through the process by hosting your operation. “We have spent months getting the photography, cleaning, fulfilment and delivery right, and can now do this for third party brands,” says Jane. If you are concerned that partnering with a platform to host your rental business might confuse consumers or perhaps cannibalise your sales, there’s a solid chance it will do the opposite.
According to the Business of Fashion, who spoke with the CEO of The Collected Group that owns Equipment, Joie and Current/Elliott, the demographic who shops their brands is totally different from the ones who rent. They are able to access an entirely new customer base through their rental model.
If you are keen to take on the model yourself, Jane advises ensuring you have the bandwidth to handle the additional workload before making an attempt. “Many retail businesses are failing because they thought e-commerce was cheap and easy, and it has turned out to be the opposite,” she says. “It has taken their attention away from the product, at a time when that was fundamental to their survival.”
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