The resale and rental models are moving from the online space into bricks-and-mortar stores.
As new-wave businesses such as fashion rental platforms cement their status in the online world, they are increasingly taking steps in offline, physical retail spaces. At the same time, existing retailers are seeking a slice of the success, and pop-ups from online leaders are finding a home in high-profile department stores.
In recent months, luxury retailer Liberty opened a pop-up from high-end rental brand MyWardrobe HQ, which is running through February and March, and Selfridges’ Oxford Street store debuted a six month pop-up from rental site Hurr. This follows on from collaborations with peer-to-peer resale site Depop, which ran in September and October 2019, and joins the now-permanent section from resale site Vestiaire Collective in the store.
Brands are also beginning to introduce concepts beyond sale of new pieces into their own offers: Danish womenswear brand Ganni has launched a rental scheme, Ganni Repeat, in Denmark, and Sweden-based lifestyle brand Gant announced plans to launch rental at nine of its stores in May – including its London flagship.
For retailers and department stores, collaborating with these brands is a smart way to cater to the changing demands of shoppers, and test out new models in store to see the response from customers. The collaborations are beneficial for platform and retailer alike.
Hurr founder Victoria Prew says that her brand’s space in Selfridges has already proved a huge success – introducing the concept to new market sectors as well as strengthening connections with existing customers. Online, Prew notes that the brand’s main users are millennial women, but in-store renters have a wider demographic. Mother-of-the-bride rentals, for example, are a new category of shopper for Hurr.
Businesses founded on circular principals of resale and repair have the potential to permanent changes to the way we operate
Bosse Myhr, Selfridges
Prew explains that the Selfridges pop-up came about thanks to the success of the brand’s first pop-up shop in Belgravia, which ran during November and December 2019.
“They came down and saw the success of the pop-up and wanted to get a piece of the brand,” she says. “Selfridges is very forward thinking in terms of trialling new trends and new concepts. They are really focusing on the sharing and sustainability concept: investing in circular models.”
Prew says Selfridges has been keen for the space to feature products with “stories” – such as a dress bought 15 years ago in Selfridges, which the owner is now renting out via Hurr.
Bosse Myhr, director of womenswear and menswear at Selfridges, adds: “Businesses like Hurr alongside others founded on circular prineiples of resale and repair – our long-term partners Vestaire Collective and [restoration service] The Restory, for example – have the potential to make positive, exciting and permanent changes to the way we operate.”
The wider changes Myhr implies are beginning to emerge at Selfridges. Earlier this month, it announced the launch of “Resellfridges” – its own resale scheme. The project is part of a wider initiative running throughout 2020, in which the retailer will experiment with trials of sustainable retail models.
In the initial scheme, the London store’s “most discerning customers [will] present their extensive and desirable archives”, and it is currently seeking applications online for those interested in reselling their items.
Alongside encouraging rental, it encourages shoppers to buy the real thing – not the fast fashion copy
Sacha Newall, My Wardrobe HQ
A few minutes up the road from Selfridges, London department store Liberty is also embracing new business models in its Regent Street Store. Tucked within the womenswear section, a pop-up with fashion rental marketplace My Wardrobe HQ opened in February, running for six weeks.
“Liberty has really embraced the idea of sharing the wardrobe, and were keen to bring it into the store,” Sacha Newall, co-founder and CEO of My Wardrobe HQ tells Drapers.
“It brings a new demographic of shoppers into the store and is great for our own vendor recruitment. Alongside encouraging rental, it encourages shoppers to buy the real thing – not the fast fashion copy. You can buy something in Liberty and then sell it on or rent it out through My Wardrobe HQ.”
She continues: “The eclectic mix of styles works perfectly with Liberty’s aesthetic, and it chimes with Liberty’s ethos of heritage versus disruption.”
Madeleine Macey, chief marketing officer at Liberty, agrees, and describes Liberty as “a retailer that has always championed the avant-garde”: “At Liberty, we have always embraced quality craftsmanship over fast fashion, and believe in democratic luxury. This is a different way for new and existing customers to enjoy the Liberty edit.”
As retailers begin to experiment with the concept, Jane Shepherdson, chair of MyWardrobe HQ, says it is developing a “white label” offer to fulfil the logistical demands and help retailers launch rental with ease.
“Offering rental on top of an already complex retail model could be too much for some businesses,” she explains. “Organising the logistical side of things can be complex. Offering a white label service helps to overcome the perceived barriers to rental by providing a full service that ensures cleanliness, timeliness and authenticity.”
High street hurdles
Although pop-ups and collaborations are proving to have appeal, not everyone sees potential in permanent, standalone rental and resale stores, because of high street headwinds and the convenience of online.
James Harford-Tyrer, founder of luxury resale platform Cudoni, explains that for growing businesses, online offers far greater potential scalability and speed: “Scalability goes hand in hand with globalisation: you can naturally reach a lot more people online rather than being dependent on footfall. There is always a huge demand worldwide [for luxury items] and a finite amount of supply.”
[He also notes that the online offer better allows Cudoni to provide the kind of instant, luxury experiences that shoppers demand in the modern world – simultaneously making the consignment model more accessible to a wide audience and helping shoppers to satisfy sustainable shopping habits.
Cudoni is exploring the idea of pop-ups – to create what Harford-Tyrer describes as a “tangible, human touchpoint” for customers – but a permanent store is not on the horizon.
“Business rates are pretty hefty in the UK at the moment relative to footfall, so running bricks-and-mortar stores is an increasing challenge for retailers,” he says. “Pop-ups are interesting, but running a store less so, because of the cost factors.”
Do it yourself
The costs of bricks-and-mortar retail are less of an obstacle for brands with an existing store footprint. Sweden-based lifestyle retailer Gant announced in February that a rental trial would be launching in May 2020 across nine international stores – including on London’s Regent Street.
Shoppers will be able to rent selected items from its shops for three days, at prices ranging from £10 for accessories to £25 for clothing. Jessica Cederberg-Wodmar, Gant’s global sustainability director says that there are already plans to expand the scheme to other stores.
“We are embracing sustainability from all different angles – and circular fashion is one of those,” she says. “This is a permanent project that we will be scaling up.”
In contrast with the many online rental companies, Gant will only offer the service in stores to begin with. Products to hire will sit side-by-side with general products, featuring hang-tags highlighting that they are available to rent – integrating the offer cohesively onto the shop floor.
Gant says the scheme is both a business and sustainability opportunity – in addition to promoting a circular fashion system, the business hopes it will encourage purchases. Each piece will be cleaned by Gant between rentals, and if an item is not returned then shoppers will be charged a pre-determined fee for the item, which will donated to the charity WaterAid.
Cederberg-Wodmar explains that the rental concept heightens the experiential, physical nature of stores to help drive sales: “We believe that when they come into the store, people look at clothes and want to touch and try them on. If you’re not certain about purchasing, then rental can be a way to continue that trial – to have the experience and decide for definite whether you want that item in your wardrobe.”
As retailers and brands hunt for experiences that will drive shoppers into stores, and the new wave of circular start-ups seek to gain scale, an increase in in-store rental, resale and restoration services seems like a natural development.
However, to succeed, the services offered online must be equally seamless in stores – and start-ups should be mindful of the potential for retailers to launch their own versions of these models: disrupting the disruptors and winning market share. For now, however, collaboration is key and circular pop-ups are bringing benefits for all.