Can Rental And Resale Platforms Spark Joy In The World Of Retail?

Can Rental And Resale Platforms Spark Joy In The World Of Retail?

Rental And Resale: Are These Two Trends The Future Of Retail?
Rental And Resale: Are These Two Trends The Future Of Retail?
Romana Hai

Romana Hai

Romana Hai

Romana Hai


A year ago, I was very much a “shop the latest trends” kind of gal. You know… the kind to shop the latest fads and/or splurge on the unique pieces — the ones you’d always remember and ultimately the kind that you could only really ever wear once.

While it may scream financial stupidity when I shopped for these pieces, I thought I was being financially savvy. Hear me out.

In my mind, there was some rhyme and reason to spending money on such pieces:

  1. I am going to keep this piece. It’s a statement. I love it.


2. I want it NOW, but I know I’m going sell it in a few months (on websites and apps like The Real Real, Tradesy and/or Poshmark) and get at least 75 percent of my money back. (Very hopeful thinking, I know.)

And to be honest, selling clothes or accessories was always easy for me because not only am I meticulous about my stuff, but for the past seven or so years, I have really embraced the Marie Kondo method — if an item no longer sparks joy… poof! It is gone.

But when the pandemic hit, the idea of forgoing items that were no longer being used became my go-to mantra.

As my lululemon leggings and oversized crewnecks became my attire of choice during lockdowns, those once-coveted, one-of-a-kind, statement-worthy workpieces or dinner ensembles no longer sparked joy they once did.

A new mindset emerged

Instead of shopping for pieces that matched up to the latest trends, I finally became more thoughtful about the purchases I made. Whatever I shopped needed to be considered a long-term “investment” piece or hold high resale value. This was finally an approach my wallet was happy with.

During the pandemic, like many, I turned to my closet for not only another source of “income” but also to purge items I was no longer wearing. Anything that did not fit or had not been worn in a while, or was something that no longer sparked joy, was either sold, donated, or recycled.

As the sales rolled in, I either turned it over to my savings account, paid a bill, or rewarded myself.

Back in June 2020, Retail Bum reported an uptick in jewelry sales. Specifically, the “bored rich people” that were seemingly unaffected were splurging on buying expensive jewelry. For example, Sotheby’s reported selling $500,000 bracelets online during the pandemic. 

While I definitely do not fall into this category, I did turn to jewelry, specifically pieces that I could wear every single day without taking off, even well after the pandemic.

All that said, my shopping behaviors were a reflection of the trends we have seen over the past year.

Resale platforms saw major traction. For one, Poshmark saw its sales increase in the third week of April 2020, while Vestiaire Collective reported a boost in sales in April and witnessed an increase in their number of daily listings by 33 percent.

That said, brands and retailers have noted the trend as a missed opportunity and are looking to get in on the action.

Brands And Retailers Look To Gain Control Over Resale Market

Just last week, Rent The Runway (RTR) announced that it would be entering the $33 billion fashion resale market soon, allowing customers to purchase pre-owned designer clothing in addition to renting outfits.

While still holding true to its core rental offering, the added option to allow customers to purchase a rental item directly responds to consumers’ changing shopping needs and their interest in sustainable shopping.

Rental And Resale Are These Two Trends The Future Of Retail (1)

But RTR was not the first to announce a resale offering.

In April 2020, lululemon announced its first-ever re-commerce program called lululemon Like New, which seeks to extend the life of its products by encouraging consumers to trade in gently used lululemon clothing in-store or by mail in exchange for a lululemon e-gift card.

Luxury retailer FarFetch also launched a resale effort called the Farfetch Second Life store in September 2020, where consumers can sell pre-owned luxury products.

These efforts are not only allowing brands and retailers to gain more control over the resale market, but are also keeping them relevant to consumers that are rethinking their wardrobes.

Offering Rentals To Those Who Cannot Commit

But while many consumers are rethinking their wardrobes and selling off their items, many are not so quick to repurchase replacements. In fact, many are turning to rental platforms for all their fashion needs.

It is perhaps not surprising that RTR has reportedly seen a 93 percent increase in active subscribers, with many of its customers using the platform to not only just rent out workwear and special occasion attire but also athleisure, loungewear and casual apparel.

“The data is clearly telling us that there is something about this rapidly changing climate and evolving consumer value set that has made RTR even more resonant in a post-pandemic world. We are seeing a substantial recovery across all aspects of our business, including exciting subscriber growth and new use cases for RTR,” said Rent the Runway’s Chief Executive Officer Jennifer Hyman in a press release last month.

Rental And Resale Are These Two Trends The Future Of Retail
Source: Rent The Runway

“That, coupled with the strategic changes we made last year, have meaningfully improved our margins and overall financial profile from 2019. As a result, we’re in an incredibly strong position today. What’s even more exciting is that we are seeing this momentum organically, and with only 40 percent of the country fully vaccinated.”

The strategic changes Hyman is referring to include the company’s digital pivot and the decision to close its physical stores and forgo its unlimited rental subscription option.

Then there’s Selfridges which announced the expansion of its rental service in May 2020. As part of its extended offering, the British department store is giving shoppers access to a curated selection of new season womenswear, menswear and accessories through Selfridges Rental. The offering is just one of the many sustainable initiatives the department store plans to roll out as part of its five-year plan

But as fashion rentals have gained momentum, players like Vivrelle are looking to fill some of the gaps within the rental market space. Through its subscription-based solution, Vivrelle enables members to rent designer handbags.

Morgan Stewart

To amplify its user base, the rental platform has looked to influencer-based marketing to spread the word and has partnered with TV personality Morgan Stewart and even Instagram influencer Sai De Silva of @scoutthecity. The move to work with such people of influence is a strategy that works because it well…they are more likely to “influence” their followers to sign-up. Right? It does not get any simpler than that.

Sai De Silva of @scoutthecity

As we look ahead into the future of not just fashion but the broader retail industry, brands would do well to focus on putting their sustainability initiatives front and center of their sales strategy, whether it be through efforts and programs dedicated to extending the life of products, refining and incorporating more eco-friendly based materials and/or reducing their overall carbon footprint.

For me, personally, being able to rent items and resell pre-owned ones without any friction are key factors that influence my loyalty toward various brands. For anything that I do choose to buy, like those Gucci platforms I mentioned last week, I will always turn to my favorite resale apps when my purchases no longer spark joy. For everything else, subscription-based rentals seem to be a more nifty and financially savvy option I could potentially enjoy.

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