When fashion outfitting fuses with logistics and customer database management to fad a new business model with feminine appeal across America.
Rent the Runway is a US high-end fashion rental tech startup founded in 2009 by Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss. Back in the days, the two graduates from Harvard Business School thought that women would like to rent beautiful brand name outfits for a fraction rather than commit big purchases on dresses that might be used only once.
In a business world where the sharing economy becomes the fashion-forward, Airbnb is replacing the regular hotel system, Uber is the formidable competitor for local taxis and Netflix’s popularity is forcing rental movie companies out of the game altogether. Rent the Runway is another name that belongs in the same category. Beyond traditional retail, by combining wardrobe sharing with fashion consultancy and logistics; having the main warehouse serving as a massive dry-cleaner, it went from a small startup with a staff of two to a business with over 1,200 employees nationwide today, receiving more than $200 million in capital funding from investors around the world, including Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, bringing Rent the Runway’s business cap to $800 million and branches in five major cities across America.
Rent the Runway offers a range of rental options, from work outfits to maternal wear to bags, belts and other dressing accessories and ornaments. Customers can opt to rent individual items or unlimited rotating on a monthly basis. Options are available for selection from the website or mobile app. For a tangible experience, customers can visit the actual store where a helper is ready to consult on various selections and clothing combos to attain what the customer is looking for.
The products are procured based on long-term contracts with various fashion brands for wholesale rates in various sizes that are suitable for women with different shapes. There are also new designer clothes special tailored for Rent the Runway customers.
Rent the Runway values the importance of customer database management. Favorite fashion trend, style, fabric texture, color, brand and rental duration, are all required information to analyze order decision making, appropriate rental time, delivery method and reasonable price range, as well as favorable store designs. It is obtained from rental transactions, online reviews and qualitative analysis from application and website usage by the Rent the Runway analysis team.
Supply chain management plays a central role in this business model because with leasing comes a requirement to be able deliver clothing to customers on time, receive returns, check for damage and get them cleaned with the shortest turnaround time possible to rotate the wardrobe out to the next customer in line. With that, Rent the Runway’s warehouse is essentially designed as a massive dry cleaning and garment repair operation where employees specialize in the care of celebrity designer clothing lines. Equipped with nine years of hindsight expertise in logistics and technological investment, in 2018, Rent the Runway will launch a logistics company to handle supply chain for various partnering brands that supply its garments, also.
How far will Rent the Runway leap ahead remains to be seen. The take-home message from such an experience, on the other hand, should serve up some food for thought and inspiration for aspiring startups.
Compiled by BLOG.SCGLogistics
Reference and photo supplychaindive.com, forbes.com, cnbc.com, fastcompany.com, footwearnews.com, renttherunway.com