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L.K. Bennett, Moss Bros Bounce Back From Insolvency With Clothing Rentals

The technology company behind the subscription-based rental services at fashion retailers from Express, Banana Republic, Vince, and Destination Maternity to Eloquii, Rebecca Taylor and most recently Ralph Lauren unveiled two new clients across the pond.

CaaStle has partnered with U.K.-based men’s wear retailer Moss Bros and luxury women’s fashion retailer L.K. Bennett to launch their subscription rental services, with the former debuting this month.

The B2B technology platform enables retailers and fashion brands to provide what CaaStle refers to as Clothing as a Service (CaaS), a subscription-based unlimited rental model with an option to buy, as a complement to an existing retail and e-commerce business.

The goal of the service is to provide retailers with a predictable and recurring revenue stream, reduced inventory risk, improved yield optimization and stronger customer engagement than in traditional retail alone.

These are all characteristics that would benefit retailers like Moss Bros and L.K. Bennett, both of which have had struggles of their own that were accelerated by the pandemic and reflected the dismal circumstances fashion retailers have endured across the U.K. Both retailers launched company voluntary agreements (CVAs) to close 2020, and received approval from their creditors to restructure.

“In today’s challenging retail landscape, subscription rental offers accretive operating income through better return on assets and a powerful new digital acquisition tool for brands that previously relied heavily on their physical stores to grow their customer base,” CaaStle founder and CEO Christine Hunsicker said in a statement. “We have seen strong results from subscription rental in the U.S. and look forward to bringing those benefits to the broader market and fueling a deeper connection between U.K. retailers and their consumers.”

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The Moss Box from Moss Bros will launch on April 20, offering customers unlimited access to rent styles from their favorite menswear brands, including Moss Bros, Hugo by Hugo Boss, Barberis and Ted Baker. For a flat monthly fee of 65 pounds ($90), members can create a waste-free wardrobe by selecting two styles to rent with unlimited exchanges and the option to keep and purchase any items at a discount.

The service enables shoppers to swap one or two items when ready and as many times as they want, and includes free unlimited shipping and returns, and complimentary eco-friendly laundering services.

“We launched our hire service in 1897 and we’ve outfitted people for the biggest moments in their lives ever since,” Moss Bros CEO Brian Brick said in a statement. “With such a long heritage we’re well-known for our formalwear, but over the last several seasons we’ve evolved with shifts in mindsets and shopping patterns to suit the more casual way men dress now. We’re excited to partner with CaaStle to offer our diversified product lineup on a new channel in the U.K. menswear market with Moss Box. The subscription model will drive awareness of the Moss Bros. brand, engaging our current customers as well as reaching new ones by offering them to try our product before buying.”

Although CaaStle indicated that women’s wear is its predominant market, it is no stranger to men’s wear. The company entered the market in the U.S. in 2019 through its partnership with Scotch & Soda for the launch of Scotch Select and most recently with Express for its Men’s Style Trial service.

L.K. Bennett’s new rental service will launch in late summer. Further rental services in the U.K. market are planned for 2021.

“We’re thrilled to partner with CaaStle to bring a new way of shopping to customers,” Darren Top, CEO at L.K. Bennett Fashion Ltd., said in a statement. “We believe this new rental offering will attract a new customer base to LKB, as it will satisfy those seeking a more sustainable way of shopping. We don’t see this replacing core e-commerce, but rather complementing it and adding choice. Rental will allow customers who can’t afford or don’t want to spend the amount required to own an LKB item to wear an LKB outfit for a special occasion. If they’re already an LKB fan, this service enables them to rotate their wardrobe regularly and get fresh items for their everyday wardrobe.”

CaaStle has partnered with sustainable garment solutions provider ACS Clothing Ltd. to fortify the U.K. launch. The company operates a Scottish facility in Glasgow that will handle all cleaning and fulfillment operations for its international platform.

The company first launched its subscription rental capabilities in 2011 when it operated as fashion retailer Gwynnie Bee before making its proprietary technology, reverse logistics systems and infrastructure available as an end-to-end solution to others. As part of its focus on the CaaS infrastructure, the company officially changed its name to CaaStle in 2018, with Gwynnie Bee now operating as a subsidiary.

The fashion-rental program gained popularity with programs for two distressed retailers: New York & Co’s NY&C Closet and Infinite Style by Ann Taylor, though the latter service is no longer in operation. Notably, Ann Taylor’s sister brand, Loft, is also discontinuing its plus-size range.

Customers subscribe with a chosen brand for a set monthly fee, select items to stock their “online closet” and receive an ongoing rotation of garments shipped to their homes. CaaStle algorithms help customers select proper sizing and find style inspiration based on previous purchases.

The company’s white-label approach allows brands to focus on the customer-facing front end, while CaaStle manages all operations and logistics on their behalf.

“The pandemic has shifted shopping behaviors and accelerated the need for retailers to provide a cost-effective solution that enables customers to introduce variety in their wardrobes and to experiment with fashion from home,” said Hunsicker. “By leveraging our CaaS platform, innovative retailers like Moss Bros. and L.K. Bennett can quickly streamline inventory and focus on strengthening their core while giving consumers access to engage with their brand in an exciting new and meaningful way.”