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Rent the Runway Terminates Staff at All 5 Stores

Rent the Runway’s store staff is out of a job—for now.

The fashion unicorn’s five stores in Chicago, New York City, Washington, D.C., San Francisco and Santa Monica, Calif., have been closed since March 16, when retailers across the nation heeded health officials’ calls to discourage large public gatherings—breeding grounds for the highly transmissible viral outbreak.

When it announced plans on March 14 to close stores, Rent the Runway committed to “paying associates for their usual part- or full-time scheduled hours” during the closures—which then were set to be sidelined for “the time being.”

But like virtually every player in the non-essential-retail landscape, the two-week honeymoon period full of promises to pay homebound, socially distancing store staff has come to a close, and cold, hard reality is sinking in.

“Like many businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, Rent the Runway has had to make some difficult decisions in the short term to thrive in the long term which include temporary store closures and retail role eliminations,” the fashion subscription service said in a statement.

Millions of Americans have made the transition to working from home over the past two weeks in response to the unprecedented coronavirus outbreak, which as of Monday has sparked more than 140,000 cases in the U.S., per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Services like Rent the Runway, which offers two subscription options in addition to one-off item rentals, rely heavily on demand from women who need a fresh infusion of wardrobe options to look their best—and with no offices to show up at every day and social calendars cancelled for the foreseeable future, demand has changed quickly in recent weeks for rental services and fashion sellers as a whole.

Rent the Runway reacted to the pandemic by eliminating all store employees but offered severance and will continue covering health benefits.
Since early December, Rent the Runway has offered a selection of casual athleisure styles, which could appeal to subscription members suddenly without offices and social occasions to dress for. Rent the Runway

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Athleisure, however, remains a promising growth opportunity. Rent the Runway added the category, including a selection of ski-friendly styles, on Dec. 3.

As retail hunkers down for an unexpected hibernation, even veteran merchants like Macy’s and Nordstrom are retooling their workforces in the name of cost savings. And like its elder peers, Rent the Runway will extend affected staff something of a helping hand.

“We are striving to make this transition as seamless as possible for our employees, from compensation to continuation of health insurance coverage,” the company said, declining to share how many workers are affected by the staffing decision. “While we don’t have a sense of how long our business will be impacted, we remain committed to serving and supporting our employees and customers during this challenging time.”