Fashion changes practically every day as trends come and go. (Some may come back, while others, fortunately, go away forever.) It’s not uncommon for a new dress to be used only once and then for years waiting at the bottom of your wardrobe to be used another time… This often never happens. That’s why an increasing number of consumers are consciously giving up on buying things that would serve them only once, like a prom or wedding dress. They’re driven by economic, but also increasingly environmental reasons. American consumers alone generate almost 258 million tons of waste per year (data from 2014), and a large chunk of this waste is formed by millions of discarded textiles.
On the one hand, consumers are increasingly aware of their responsibility when making a purchase decision. On the other hand, the passion for fashion or the desire to emphasize the uniqueness of the occasion with our outfits means that we tend to scour many online stores in search of another new creation.
And here, a question arises…
Is there any way to reconcile care for the environment and the love of fashion?
This is possible today thanks to the increasingly popular online rentals. Even if in Poland such services are associated with carnival costumes, online rentals offer a modern, economical, and zero-waste approach to fashion. And all of that is delivered directly to our doorstep.
By renting instead of buying or throwing away, we can reduce tons of textile waste generated each year, but also reduce the carbon and water footprints.
Trend goes from the US
Online rentals have been on the rise in the United States for several years now. Recent research in the US has shown that 77% of people prefer to rent products rather than buy them because it’s a great way to save money. As a result, in the past few years niche markets for the rental of vehicles, dresses, household appliances, tourist equipment, and more have been gaining more interest among customers.
Rent the Runway is one of the most popular rental companies in the fashion industry. It was founded in 2009 and joined the group of unicorns a year ago, reaching $1 billion in funding.
Rent the Runway began as a typical dress rental for special occasions. However, the idea of renting more casual clothes allowed the platform to attract the attention of customers from all over America. By developing a subscription system ($89 per month for four pieces of clothing and $159 for unlimited access), Rent the Runway has achieved the goal that many companies dream of – customer loyalty and retention. Today, the company has 100,000 active subscribers and is still growing.
Rent the Runway example is not an isolated one. The “borrowing instead of buying” trend creates the face of the re-commerce industry. Cars and fashion are two categories of rental companies that have become particularly popular in recent years – not only to customers but also to investors. However, companies offering the rental of equipment, tools, furniture, and even books are not lagging behind.
Here are a few examples of popular product categories in rental markets:
- Apartments, e.g., Airbnb
- Cars, e.g., Turo
- Clothing, e.g., Rent the Runway
- Books, e.g., Cheg
- Furniture e.g., Cort
It also seems that renting isn’t a seasonal trend. Research shows that the majority of online rental platform users are people under 35 years of age. The young generation of people who like new technologies, traveling, and… lack of commitments, chooses borrowing instead of buying because it’s a more practical and cost-effective way of acquiring goods.
On the one hand, these types of websites give young consumers the opportunity to use products (for example, exclusive ones) without having to buy them. On the other hand, they help you earn* money by turning a profit on things you don’t need on a daily basis. There is also a practical aspect, namely – the free wardrobe space.
– Our client base is growing every single day – says Karina Sobis, owner of E-Garderobe. – Our customers come back to us regularly and invite their friends to our platform. It turns out that eco and zero waste trends are close to many of us, and they influence various aspects of our lives. We pay more attention to what we eat, and above all – what we buy and how it was produced. Consumer awareness in Poland is already at a very high level – she emphasizes.
*Some rental websites have become marketplaces where users can “display” their items for rent.
Polish E-Garderobe is following the best
Equivalents of American unicorns also emerge in our home market. One of them is E-Garderobe, an online creative rental (from dresses through pants, blouses, skirts to handbags) from the best Polish and international designers. You will find there unique, stylish suggestions for both official occasions and business brunches.
– In our rental shop, I wanted to offer Polish women the opportunity to wear high-quality clothing with a unique design for a fraction of its retail price – comments Karina Sobis. – Thanks to rental services, you can wear a dress worth several thousand zlotys and pay only 100-250 zlotys for it.
E-Garderobe is an innovative company in the fashion industry that offers its customers a new vision of ownership. As we can learn on the company website, the brand addresses its offer to women who love fashion and value high-quality products, but at the same time, want to follow the zero waste principle.
– We’re like Netflix, but in our case, you’ll find dresses instead of movies – says the owner of the brand. – This is a complete novelty in our market. I came across the idea of setting up a virtual rental shop during my stay in New York. The residents of this city often use rentals – they don’t waste time shopping and, at the same time, are eco-friendly.
One aspect of running an online rental business we haven’t touched upon yet is the operational issues. In other words, how to organize it all so that the rental process works smoothly, products reach customers on time, and their re-admission is as quick as possible, all the while not losing on service quality? How to prepare for the fact that our products will always be returned – both in terms of infrastructure, as well as contracts with delivery companies and cash flow?
Logistics for E-Garderobe – how does it work?
Screenshot from E-Garderobe.com
On the E-Garderobe website, customers can choose their dream clothing model and delivery date. There are two options – rental for 4 or 7 days, or a try-on. In both cases, Omnipack packs and sends the selected products to customers, and then handles the returns.
Depending on the date chosen by the customer, the orders fall into our system according to their priority. In other words, the orders with the shortest delivery times fall to the top of the queue. The courier delivers the ordered products within 24 hours.
One day before the end of the rental period (at the latest), the customer can enter the user panel and order a courier to pick up the order. The user can select the delivery time or leave the package at their nearest DPD pickup point (until 13.00).
The courier delivers the products to the laundry. Once they’re ready, we pick the garments up and take them to our warehouse again.
A common problem for rental companies is identifying the returned products that pass from the hands of the customer to the courier and then to the laundry and warehouse. That’s why one of the most important elements of the entire process we use with E-Garderobe is… tags. These are special labels sewn onto the clothes which are resistant to washing and ironing. This is not only eco-friendly – no need to sew new labels – but above all, efficient. We don’t have to open and sew in a new tag every time, and the employees can easily identify products and match them to the appropriate order in the system. Everything is automatically forwarded to the headquarters that can monitor the execution of subsequent orders 24/7, both the shipments and returns.
– Without outsourcing our logistics to Omnipack, we wouldn’t be able to organize shipments on time to our clients in such a professional manner. In addition, it saved us the costs associated with the employment of new staff – admits Karina Sobis. – Omnipack is also our quality guardian and makes sure that products reach our customers in an impeccable condition: clean, ironed, carefully packed.