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Why Urban Outfitters Thinks Nuuly is Millennials’ Fashion Rental Dream Come True

Urban Outfitters Inc.’s foray into the apparel rental bandwagon is officially open for business.

Nuuly, a cool, casual and decidedly millennial answer to Rent the Runway’s unlimited subscription service, launched Tuesday with more than 1,000 items from more than 100 different women’s brands. The program’s rentals include offerings from the group’s own brands—Anthropologie, BHLDN, Terrain and Free People—as well as pieces from brands like Levi’s, AYR, Agolde, Paige, Yumi Kim, Cititzens of Humanity, Universal Standard and more.

For $88, subscribers can rent six pieces per month. Rentals are sent back in a reusable shipping valise with a a pre-paid return label on a subscriber’s “Monthly Swap Date.” And, should they find a piece or two they just can’t part with, there’s always the option to buy. Similar to competitive apparel rental programs, Nuuly doesn’t charge late or damage fees, takes care of laundering and dry cleaning and gives customers the freedom to pause the service or cancel whenever they want.

Urban Outfitters Inc. first announced plans for Nuuly in May, and the company has dedicated a core team of about 70 people to getting the concept launched, according to Dave Hayne, the company’s president. By summer 2020, Nuuly will create more than 250 new jobs in the Philadelphia area across the firm’s home office and warehouse, he said.

The company declined to disclose the number of consumers who signed up to be on the waitlist.

When asked about the research that preceded the program’s build-out, Hayne told Sourcing Journal, “Our program and plan offering is based on extensive surveys, interviews, and focus groups, both to existing Urban brand customers and potential new customers.”

A notable takeaway gleaned from these efforts was that while interest in apparel rental subscription services was high, adoption and awareness among respondents were comparatively low. “We also gained the important insight that easy access to a broad assortment is an apparel renter’s primary motivation,” Hayne said. He pointed to Urban Outfitters Inc.’s in-house labels, a sizeable flock of third-party brands and “a curated selection of special vintage pieces” as the elements of Nuuly’s ample and diverse selection. 

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Hayne explained that Urban Outfitters Inc. has also been shifting its marketing efforts to mirror the consumer’s expectations, by offering greater breadth and depth of e-commerce, omnichannel and mobile experiences. The idea for Nuuly was born of an uptick in interest in subscription and “sharing economy models.”

“Customers are looking to add newness and excitement to their wardrobe in a sustainable way,” he said. “We believe the heaviest adopters for Nuuly will fall into two main groups, women ages 25-35 and 35-45, and we have developed the assortment accordingly to ensure we are speaking to both of these important demographics.” 

Nuuly’s offerings will also be size-inclusive, Hayne said, with the service’s core assortment ranging from size 00-26 and a specialized capsule of styles that ranges up to size 40.

At nearly half the cost of Rent the Runway’s unlimited program (which goes for $159 a month), Nuuly may prove to be a more accessible, and inclusive, offering for the millennial consumer.

It’s our goal for Nuuly to fill this white space as a full lifestyle brand,” Hayne said.

With assistance by Jessica Binns.