The “Clothing as a Service” provider—responsible for the launches of Ralph Lauren’s rental program, The Lauren Look, in March—concurrently announced the launch of Borrow, a new button that allows fashion retailers to integrate the rental experience directly into the checkout process on their e-commerce sites.
While perusing a product page, shoppers can choose to add an item to their cart as they normally would—or, they can click a button marked “Borrow,” and rent it for 25 percent of its MSRP. Rebecca Minkoff will act as the widget’s guinea pig, with other brands slated to climb on board the Borrow bandwagon this summer.
“Integrating Borrow directly into brands’ e-commerce sites enables consumers—especially aspirational consumers—to easily discover and wear their clothing,” CaaStle founder and CEO Christine Hunsicker said in a statement. The new feature stands to help brands “acquire new customers, monetize inventory, and increase the profitability of their e-commerce business,” she added.
Rebecca Minkoff’s rental experience will offer consumers a new degree of control and flexibility, CaaStle said. Those who choose to borrow an item from the site can wear it as many times as they like, with the option to buy the item outright at a discounted cost at any point during the pre-paid period. After that, they can return the item or extend the rental by paying a daily fee, which is applied as a discount to the purchase price. If a renter racks up fees that end up meeting the buy price for the item, they will own the product without any penalties.
“We are excited to be the first brand to market with this functionality, and to offer our customer options to try new styles,” designer Rebecca Minkoff said. “Innovation is a large part of our business, and something that our customer expects,” and the program gives consumers “more sustainable, cost effective options from the brand.”
Co-founding CEO Uri Minkoff said that the brand has been working with CaaStle for some time to bring its rental offering to market. “The Borrow program makes sense for our apparel business as it allows us to offer more consumers the opportunity to experience our clothing directly from our e-commerce site while staying within our native environment,” he said.
Vince was an early adopter of CaaStle’s subscription rental capabilities, the tech company said, and the premium dual-gender label is next in line to add the Borrow button to its site. Meanwhile, Rebecca Taylor has also announced plans to introduce Borrow to shoppers in the coming weeks. Not unlike the tech player’s standard offering, which takes care of reverse logistics, shipping and cleaning of products, CaaStle’s Borrow program can be implemented within a matter of weeks, it said.
CaaStle and its competitors in the space are quickly pouncing on partnerships with brands and retailers interested in promoting a circular economy while creating a new revenue stream. Apparel rental site Hurr, which aided U.K. department store Selfridges in launching its own rental service earlier this month, also recently debuted an enterprise program designed to arm fashion companies with the same technology and back-end capabilities that power its own platform.
While the pandemic prompted many avid renters to pause their subscriptions to popular services like Rent the Runway, the sharing space is seeing a resurgence. On Tuesday, the company’s co-founder and CEO, Jennifer Hyman, proclaimed in a LinkedIn post that “rental is back,” while announcing that actress and Goop guru Gwyneth Paltrow would be joining RTR’s board of directors.
“As a gifted entrepreneur with her finger on the pulse of culture, Gwyneth’s keen understanding of consumer psychology and unparalleled ability to tap into and define the cultural zeitgeist will play a key role in propelling Rent the Runway forward in a post-pandemic world,” she wrote.
Writing on Instagram, Paltrow added, “The company has brilliantly disrupted the way we think about fashion and our closets—I am thrilled to be part of the ride.”
In addition to gaining star power, Hyman also evinced confidence that the brand has the backing of consumers. After a year languishing in lockdown, she said, shoppers are already “maximizing every moment, big or small,” and jumping at opportunities to express themselves through fashion. “The idea of an unlimited closet in the cloud has truly never been more relevant,” she added.
The executive backed up the assertion with data showing the service’s near-full recovery. “As of today, active subscribers are up 93 percent from our Covid low in May 2020 and our total daily subscriber acquisition has recently hit the same average daily levels as pre-Covid,” Hyman said.
RTR’s primary member markets in metropolitan areas across the country have seen a strong showing, with the New York region’s daily acquisition rate besting this February’s numbers 4.5 times over. The company has exceeded its 2019 acquisition rates in Chicago and Boston, Hyman said, while Southern strongholds like Texas, Florida and Georgia have nearly returned to 2019 levels. New cities across the South and mid-Atlantic, from Charleston, South Carolina to Nashville, Tenn. have seen “unprecedented subscriber growth,” she added.
Renters are increasingly ditching yoga pants and loungewear, opting instead for summer garb like crop tops, which are renting at four times the rate previously seen, she added. Mini skirts have gained twice the traction they saw in 2019, while cutouts and color are trending heavily across renters’ wishlists.
What’s more, the collective shopper mindset surrounding conscious consumption has changed, perhaps permanently, amid the pandemic, Hyman said. Twice as many RTR customers (30 percent of the company’s user base) reported signing up for the service based on sustainability concerns than 15 months prior.
“The data is clearly telling us that there is something about this rapidly changing climate and evolving consumer value set that has made RTR even more resonant,” she added.