The digitally born Rent the Runway is giving bricks-and-mortar a big seal of approval with a new 5,000-square-foot flagship opening today at 30 West 15th Street in Manhattan.
The company, which rents to women who’d rather date their apparel and accessories than make a serious financial commitment, operates stores in Chicago; Washington, D.C.; Woodland Hills, Calif.; Las Vegas, and at Neiman Marcus in San Francisco.
The flagship replaces a long-running pop-up shop in the same Flatiron District neighborhood, where founder Jennifer Hyman, said, “The pop-up opened two years ago. We were thinking we’d learn a lot and experiment there. We’re unveiling the store of the future.”
Hyman said Rent the Runway plans to open 15 flagships in major metropolitan areas in the U.S. Two units are scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2017, she said, but declined to reveal the locations.
The company, which has more than six million members, has raised $126 million in venture capital funding since launching in 2010. Rent the Runway plans to rent out $1.4 billion in retail value of designer merchandise in 2016.
Hyman said the flagship is a completely reimagined retail concept that suits the company’s rental business model.
The centerpiece of the flagship is the RTR Bar, where customers can ask associates about fits and styles and address issues about orders. “It takes the service conversation away from the checkout to a Genius Bar-like setting,” Hyman said.
Associates at the flagship will be armed with personalized closet profiles for shoppers, listing their designer preferences and upcoming event dates gleaned from data captured on-site and through the Rent the runway app. The profiles are powered by a new proprietary back-end management system and will allow associates to tailor selections for customers. The company’s inventory includes 200,000 items from more than 400 designers, 200 added within the last 18 months.
Rent the Runway’s inventory will rotate daily. A feature of the app, RTR Now, allows consumers to browse the inventory that’s stocked at the flagship and available at any given time. Hyman said that 33 percent of Rent the Runway’s store orders are worn the same day.
Style Studios for a fee offer an elevated experience with a stylist. Customers complete a digital style profile when they book an appointment so the stylist can pull looks for them.
“There are different types of styling service you can sign up for,” Hyman said, adding that women are more apt to step out of their sartorial comfort zones when guided by a stylist. “When women rent clothing they’re [already] more comfortable trying something new and taking risks,” she said. “A stylist can introduce them to new things they wouldn’t have picked out for themselves. The best experiences come from women who’ve fallen in love with something new. It’s discovery, having fun with your closet and getting dressed without the commitment.”
Hyman said the average order value is higher in stores than online. “In stores, she thinks of multiple occasions,” she said. “The other element is that after the appointment, we’re building her personalized closet profile with upcoming event dates that she can access and we can access at any time. We’re able to personalize the Rent the Runway experience from then on.”
Subscriptions are one of the highest growth areas for Rent the Runway, Hyman said. The two options include an unlimited package where customers receive three items at a time, keep them as long as they want and swap them out for new products, for $139 a month. The $65 per month Style Pass affords customers one dress and a free backup size.
Rent the Runway’s customers are “buying every single category of clothing and accessories,” Hyman said. “We’ve moved from being about dresses and jewelry and evening bags. It’s now outerwear and handbags and everything you need to outfit yourself.”