The rental apparel, accessories and home decor business’ brick-and-mortar locations served as a drop-off and pick-up spot for shoppers, while also offering some styling services. But the physical stores proved too expensive in the era of coronavirus.
“The closure of our retail stores is something we had long considered as part of the evolution of our overall business strategy as the primary use-case of our stores for the past few years has been pick-up and drop-off, and was a decision we accelerated during the pandemic,” said Anushka Salinas, president and chief operating officer of Rent the Runway. “We will continue to innovate our experience to best suit the changes in our customer’s lives, even in a new normal. We always believed in Rent the Runway’s physical presence. And to best meet our customers where they are now, [we] will leverage the technology we’ve already built to transition from a traditional retail experience and expand our drop-off box offerings and digital features to serve even more members across the country.”
Like most retailers, Rent the Runway was forced to close stores in mid March to prevent the spread of the coronavirus.
But unlike other retailers, sharing clothing and other household items didn’t bode well in the midst of a global health crisis that involves a highly contagious virus. It also didn’t help that the company is known for renting out designer frocks for special events, such as wedding and graduation ceremonies, many of which were canceled in the face of the pandemic. The onset of the coronavirus Stateside caused many loyal subscribers to put their accounts on hold. Then, within weeks of the store closures, Rent the Runway laid off all retail associates.
The company would not comment on the number of employees laid off. But sources familiar with the business said there have been no further layoffs to date.
The rental apparel business had stores in Santa Monica, Calif., Chicago, San Francisco, Boston and Washington, D.C., along with a flagship in New York City. Shoppers can also drop off items at WeWork locations in those cities, along with Miami and select Nordstrom stores.
Roughly half of Rent the Runway shoppers are outside of major cities, according to sources. The company also ships to about 76 percent of zip codes nationwide.
Salinas said a number of Rent the Runway drop-box locations will remain, but declined to comment on which ones and where.