Rental is getting an increasing amount of attention in the fashion world, driven by some of the UK’s largest retailers recently launching collections or declaring their intention to in the near future. Marks & Spencer and Next (via Lipsy) have just launched exclusive ranges with Hirestreet, whilst John Lewis has made a commitment to expanding rental in the future, having already launched a furniture rental offer.
In boardrooms across the fashion industry, the idea of rental is shifting from being a high-level concept to a strategic necessity, driven by double-digit growth in consumer demand. A recent study by VoucherCodes indicated that the number of UK consumers that rent could almost double next year.
“While 38% of UK shoppers said they had rented an item of clothing in the past, a huge 69% said they would consider doing so for future events such as Christmas parties.”
VoucherCodes Report, Dec 2020
There is now a recognition that for some segments of the fashion market, rental will become the new norm and those that do not move early risk being wrong-footed by the step change in consumer behaviour. Where rental is the more suitable model, consumers will no longer opt to purchase – it wouldn’t make sense – and therefore retailers that do not evolve with this customer behaviour will lose market share to competitors that do. On top of that there is an increasing race to benefit from first mover advantage.
So amongst the back-drop of a nascent rental market, the question many brands are asking themselves is which rental model is most suitable for them. Some brands have opted for partnerships with D2C rental platforms (e.g. Nobody’s Child x Hirestreet), preferring to move slowly and test the concept, whilst others move directly to launching rental under their own brand (e.g. men’s formalwear brand Rathbones Tailor or skiwear brand Blanqo). Both models have their own benefits, with the suitability dependent on a number of factors, including strategic goals, available resources and how quickly brands want to take advantage of rental demand.
How do the two models compare?
Ultimately the choice of approach will depend on a number of factors, and there is no single right answer. What is clear however, is that launching rental as early as possible provides first mover advantages, including customer engagement, data & insight, and brand loyalty. Therefore as the question shifts away from whether to launch rental, to how to launch rental, experience and expertise becomes critical.
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