Fashion rental marketplace Rent the Runway has been hit hard by the pandemic, as its subscribers largely rent clothes for personal events. However, the company survived by cutting costs, renegotiating contracts with suppliers and entering the apparel resale market. Today, the company is once again expanding that side of its business by bringing some of its featured items and other exclusive items to Amazon in a new partnership with Amazon Fashion.
On Thursday, Amazon announced the launch of Rent the Runway Amazon Fashion, which will feature a curated selection of fashion items from more than 35 brands in a variety of styles. These pre-worn items have been inspected, cleaned and restored, but may have minor blemishes – although nothing that would affect the physical integrity of the garment. Customers will be able to shop items for “weekend wear, work wear, date wear, night wear and seasonal essentials such as sweaters, tops, coats and denim,” Amazon said.
This isn’t the first time Rent the Runway has partnered with another retailer to help unload pre-worn items.
The fashion subscription service survived 2020 by partnering with resale marketplace thredUP for a collection of previously rented designer clothing called “Revive by Rent the Runway,” as well as with Nordstorm Rack. Last year, Rent the Runway also launched a partnership with Saks Off 5th, which agreed to sell Rent the Runway’s featured clothing on its site. Additionally, Rent the Runway itself sells pre-worn clothing on its own website to non-subscription customers.
In addition to bringing pre-worn clothing to Amazon, Rent the Runway will also offer a selection of items from its “Design Collective” through Amazon Fashion. These limited edition fashion collections are created by design talent including names like Thakoon and Peter Som, using Rent the Runway’s own data and insights from the customer base. Other designers include Adam Lippes, Marina Moscone, and more, and they’ll offer 1,000 styles in sizes 00-22 (although actual sizes may vary based on availability.)
With this launch, Amazon Fashion will be the first retailer to carry new, unworn Design Collective merchandise, aside from Rent the Runway itself.
Some of Design Collective’s items will also be available through Amazon Prime’s “Try Before You Buy” offer, which allows home try-ons and returns.
The move is another way Rent the Runway is looking to grow in the post-pandemic market. Covid could easily have completely destroyed the Rent the Runway business – and for a while it looked dire. In 2020, the company’s active subscribers dropped from 133,000 to 55,000, its losses mounted, and its stock depleted. It was just a year after Rent the Runway’s IPO.
To its credit, the business has survived Covid and seen a return to growth in its latest earnings. In 2022Q3, Rent the Runway beat Wall Street expectations with quarterly revenue of $77.4 million, compared to analysts’ expected $72.9 million. It increased its active subscribers by 15% from the previous quarter to 134,240 and raised its financial outlook for the year to $293-295 million. (The company says the Amazon partnership was already baked into those projections).
“Partnering with Amazon Fashion brings incredible brand awareness to Rent the Runway,” Jenn Hyman, co-founder and CEO of Rent the Runway, said in a statement. “We believe that strategic relationships like this can fuel a new growth engine for our business. They also represent demand for our products outside of our community and allow more customers to experience exclusive data-driven fashion from our best design partners.”
For Amazon, meanwhile, the partnership allows the retail giant to offer high-end fashion while also dabbling in another area — fashion resale — without having to invest in creating its own marketplace. To date, Amazon has offered consumers a way to browse select pre-owned items through its Amazon Renewed site, but that does not include women’s fashion. Instead, it’s a way to shop for used consumer electronics like phones and smartwatches, plus tools, cameras, gaming gear and other household, kitchen and entertainment items.
It has only minor investments in fashion resale through partners, including a “pre-loved” edit of Shopbop and Amazon luxury brand What Goes Around Comes Around, which focuses on popular handbags, jewelry and accessories, and some designer clothing.
“At Amazon Fashion, we are constantly expanding our assortment through strategic brand relationships to inspire and delight our customers,” Muge Erdirik Dogan, president of Amazon Fashion, said in a statement. “The Rent the Runway collection continues to expand our offerings in previously popular and designer fashions.”
Starting today, customers will be able to browse and shop the Rent the Runway branded store via amazon.com/stores/renttherunway. Products are eligible for free shipping with Prime and will allow returns through Amazon, not through Rent the Runway stores.