Ever since Rent the Runway launched back in 2009, giving customers access first to a whole library of formal gowns and cocktail dresses, and then to workwear, weekend wear, and accessories to rent rather than own, industry analysts and reporters have been wondering: could closet-sharing kill the department store?
Well, it looks like one of them at least, has decided to team up rather than fight to the death: today, Neiman Marcus and Rent the Runway announced a major longterm partnership, bringing RTR’s technology and philosophy into brick-and-mortar department stores across the country. The first such location opens today at Neiman Marcus’ San Francisco location, targeting a city where apps rule virtually every aspect of life.
“This is not just revolutionary for our business, but it is really more symbolic of how much the industry is changing and accepting innovative new models, and understanding that the millennial consumer has completely changed how she wants to get dressed,” says Rent the Runway co-founder and CEO Jennifer Hyman. “In a world where you use Uber, Spotify, Airbnb, ClassPass, Blue Apron, of course you’re going to have expectations of your closet, and your closet is going to have to catch up with your life.”
Rent the Runway stores at Neiman Marcus will feature a rotating selection of designer clothing and accessories available to rent from more than 400 brands, including Jason Wu, Marni, and Proenza Schouler, complemented by a range of products available to buy, including shoes, lingerie, ready-to-wear basics, cosmetics, and accessories. RTR stylist appointments will also be offered—a service that could draw in the prom or special-event shopper that has defected from department stores in favor of renting.
With concierge services, customers in a rush can check their app, see what’s available in store, and have a stylist book the rental and courier the order to them with just a few taps, or pick up the order curbside. Customers who subscribe to the Unlimited program, which offers three rentals at a time for a monthly subscription fee, can also pick up and drop off their orders in-store—something that’s currently offered at RTR’s standalone brick-and-mortar stores in California, Chicago, and New York, which Hyman says they plan to continue opening in coming years.
“I think we can do something really remarkable together and give women what they want, which is a combination of both renting and buying,” says Hyman, gesturing to the turtleneck I’m wearing as an example of what should fall into the latter category. “Having a subscription to fashion is a portion of how you should get dressed everyday, not everything. It’s about putting you’re closet on steroids and giving yourself unlimited options for the things that you do.”