Why American Eagle’s Clothing Rental Service is a Leading Fashion Trend

Women’s clothing

By Emily McCullough

It seems as though no one wants to own anything anymore.  There is Uber for cars, Spotify for music, Netflix for movies and now there are retailers who allow you to rent clothing.  The sharing economy for fashion is not a fad. The online global clothing rental market is expected to hit $3.3 billion by 2026. Why is the sharing economy becoming so popular in fashion? There are two key drivers.  It promotes sustainability and it is more economical. Millennials are always looking for trendy clothing but are also conscious of their consumption and how it impacts the environment.  Clothing rental services allow consumers to constantly have a trendy wardrobe with less harm to the environment. If consumers are constantly making new purchases that are unused that waste can end up in landfills, harming the environment. With clothing rental services, consumers can be friendly to the environment while wearing the latest trends.  

The second benefit of the rental fashion trend is that it is more economical. Many consumers have a wardrobe with many unused items. For example, the average person has 57 unworn clothing items and regularly only wears 44% of the clothing that they own. Therefore, they can make money on over half of the clothes that they already own but do not wear by selling them.  The popular resale clothing trend makes this easy to do.  The amount of unworn clothing demonstrates one of the reasons why home organizer Marie Kondo has become such a phenomenon.   She is tapping into a need that exists. We have too much clothing and the space our clothing takes up could be put to better use. Instead of buying such a large quantity of clothing every year that money could be put towards other activities that such as travelling.

There are several retailers that are capitalizing on the trend of rental clothing including American Eagle Outfitters, Rent the Runway and Boro. 

1. American Eagle Outfitters (AEO) is one of the retailers that is leading the rental clothing trend. It  launched “Style Drop,” in January of 2019, a subscription service where customers can participate with four easy steps – Browse, Rent, Return, Repeat for a monthly fee of $49.95. For that fee customers get three items per month, unlimited exchanges, free shipping, and free dry cleaning. If the customer decides to keep an item, they can purchase the item at a discount of 25% or more. “Express Style Trial”, recently launched by clothing company Express is a similar service.

2. Rent the Runway has a platform where customers rent four high-quality designer pieces.  It has two main plans.  One for $89 per month and one for $159 per month. The difference between the plans is that under the cheaper plan customers can get four items per month and can have one item swap per month.  With the more expensive plan customers can receive unlimited items and unlimited swaps of items.  The fee includes shipping, dry cleaning and insurance. Insurance covers even a simple stain the customer may get when wearing the clothing. 89% of Rent the Runway’s members report saving time and money on clothing and 71% of members report finding a new fashion designer through the process. Rent the Runway launched 10 years ago and was valued at $1 billion by the spring of 2019.

3. Boro, a Canadian dress rental store, has a marketplace where individuals can either list or rent clothing. Individuals who list receive a percentage of sales. Those who rent clothing can do so at different prices and can rent for a limited time. This is not a subscription-based service, rather it works on an as needed-basis for customers wanting to purchase clothing when the need arrives. 

If Uber and Spotify are any indication of consumers’ growing affinity for not owning assets, the rental clothing trend is not going anywhere, anytime soon.

Tricia McKinnonTrends