Skip to main content

Unlike Americans, UK Consumers Aren’t Keen on Renting Fashion

Not everything translates well across borders. Clothing rental, it seems, is one of them.

While borrowing duds may be the future of “no ownership” fashion in the United States—where even hallowed institutions like Bloomingdales have leaped into the fray—the willingness to rent remains low among British consumers, 55.7 percent of whom prefer to own the contents of their closets, according to GlobalData, a data-analytics consultancy.

“Over the last five years, we have seen the arrival of new fashion rental players and established clothing brands testing the rental market but opportunities remain limited to key product categories and narrow target customer groups,” the London-based firm said Wednesday.

According to surveys, nearly 84 percent of U.K. shoppers dub themselves “unlikely” to rent clothing or accessories. Even almost two-thirds of 25- to 34-year-olds—the “best demographic to target,” GlobalData noted—demur on the option. One exception? The wedding market. More than 20 percent of pro-rental consumers would go down that route for occasion wear, trailed by handbags at a mere 6.7 percent.

“Higher price points and fewer opportunities to wear occasion and formal clothing are deterrents for consumers to buy into this category, so renting is an attractive alternative for price-sensitive shoppers, aspirational consumers wanting to wear brands they couldn’t normally buy into and those demanding fresh looks for each event they attend,” GlobalData said.

Unlike in the United States, where the likes of Urban Outfitters have climbed aboard the clothing-rental bandwagon, GlobalData does not expect similar moves from mass-market fashion brands in Britain for at least the next five years. But there is an opportunity for those targeting 16-to-24-year-old women, a.k.a. “the selfie generation,” since rental services can satisfy both this demographic’s appetite for novel and changing looks and its much-ballyhooed social conscience. Indeed, 35.3 percent of those likely to lease clothing do so because it’s more environmentally sustainable than buying them, GlobalData said, which means rental platforms must “leverage and promote this benefit to draw in new customers.”

Related Stories

While domestic companies in the mold of Hirestreet and Girl Meets Dress have the “right propositions” and are therefore gaining market share, potential revenue growth will almost certainly be stymied by factors such as low consumer awareness and concerns over hygiene and garment quality.

“Therefore, players must ensure consumers are educated about the rental process, utilize the strength of customer reviews and ensure items are as good as new to dispel any apprehensions and ensure repeat custom,” GlobalData said.

The United Kingdom buys more new clothing per person than any other European country, according to the Environmental Audit Committee of the House of Commons. A recent poll by Censuswide on behalf of children’s charity Barnardo’s found that Britons will spend 2.7 billion pounds ($3.4 billion) on clothing they’ll wear only once this summer, with single-use items purchased “purely for the holidays” by far the biggest indulgence.

Rental accounts for just 0.3 percent of all clothing spend today, GlobalData has previously said. Its share is growing by over 20 percent annually, however, and is projected to reach a value of more than $2.5 billion by 2023.