It’s been a year since Scotch & Soda introduced a subscription rental service for men called Scotch Select. The response was strong enough for the Amsterdam-based apparel brand to begin offering the same service to women.
In one of her first interviews since taking over as chief executive officer of the Americas in April, Karis Durmer said Scotch Select Men’s “exceeded our expectations and validated our belief that men do indeed find value in rental. On the basis of that success, we are excited to expand the offer to include our women’s collection on the platform.”
Since launching in September, Durmer said the most popular rental items on Scotch Select have been sweaters, outerwear and tailored items. Although she declined to say how many members signed up, she said the number was “more than we had planned…hence our decision to continue with and expand the offer with women’s.”
Customers pay $99 a month to rent up to three items of apparel for as long as they want. The price includes shipping and dry-cleaning costs. If they choose to buy it, they can, if not they return it and get something else.
Durmer said there are a “core number of customers who’ve been with the service since month one and continue to enjoy the flexibility of rental. Along with that consistency, it’s been great to see those members increase their rate of purchase alongside rental. Beyond that core, each month we have seen a healthy rate of new customers join the service. That growth slowed during the first months of COVID-19, but has started picking up again recently.”
Athough Scotch & Soda is hardly alone in embracing the rental platform idea, Durmer said there are certain key differences.
“What sets this site apart is that we are not limiting the subscriber to one gender or the other,” she said. “On the contrary, subscribers will have access to both collections, allowing them to rent in a way that best represents their personal style. Many of our customers shop the brand that way and we wanted rental to provide the same flexibility of expression.”
Durmer said she’s expecting this strategy to attract women as well as couples. “We have no doubt women will be eager to join. In addition, we’re certainly expecting couples to share a subscription — it’s something we see now on the men’s side in fact. Because each subscription is limited to three items out at one time, couples will need to jockey for their picks, but why not? For us, the more people wearing the brand and feeling good in it, the better — no matter who wears what. If a subscriber’s significant other likes the service, our hope is that they will sign up, too, but if they continue to share, that’s OK, too,” she said.
Durmer declined to say how large a business the rental platform can represent for Scotch & Soda, but is optimistic. “There is still a big opportunity in rental — the concept is still a fairly new one to many customers and far from perfected across the board. I’m not sure any given brand or retailer is doing it 100 percent right, but clearly the demand is growing and I believe it is a channel that is here to stay.”
For now, Scotch Select will continue to be available only in the U.S., she said. And it will complement the company’s retail and wholesale business here.
The brand operates 41 stores in North America that represent 55 percent of its overall business. Although stores were closed due to the pandemic, none were shuttered permanently, she said.
“Obviously COVID-19 impacted brick-and-mortar during the closures, but we’re seeing positive momentum in wholesale and retail, particularly e-commerce performance heading into fall,” she said. “We remain optimistic about the prospects for retail in North America. The brand has added to the network over the past few years, but we still have a lot of room to grow in North America in the future.”
Durmer said the brand’s e-commerce, which accounted for 15 percent of sales prior to the pandemic, is “up significantly” in the past few months and was “crucial for us, and for every retailer for that matter. For a period of time, e-commerce and social media was our only way to connect with customers.”
Looking ahead, Durmer said Scotch & Soda has several initiatives it expects to help it further expand its reach. “We recently launched our first eyewear collection and an online outlet called Off-Season. Even amid a pandemic, our customers responded enthusiastically to both, which indicates there is appetite for more from the brand,” she said.
Beyond that, she added, “There are lots of opportunities for this brand, especially in North America. Most immediately, we see a real opportunity in our women’s business. Historically, men’s wear was the focus of Scotch & Soda — it began as a men’s brand, so it makes sense. Our men’s business is now well established and performs consistently year after year, so we believe it’s time to put the spotlight on the women’s collection.”
Durmer, who oversees North and South America, had been ceo of Altuzarra before joining Scotch & Soda this past spring. She started her career at investment banking firm Bear Stearns and held positions at Condé Nast and Martha Stewart Living Omnimedia.