Renting clothes could be the future of fashion—or it could just be a fad. But traditional retailers can no longer afford to wait on the sidelines to find out, per the AP. That's why a growing number are now offering customers the option to rent clothes for a monthly fee instead of buying them. Bloomingdale's, Banana Republic, and Urban Outfitters are the latest to offer the services. Even footwear chain Designer Brands says it’s considering launching a rental service for shoes. Now a booming $1 billion business, the clothing rental sector is expected to reach $2.5 billion by 2023, according to research firm GlobalData. When combined with resale, it will account for 13% of the total $360 billion US clothing market within the decade, up from 7.3% today.
Clothing rentals are one more piece of the sharing economy, where customers—particularly those in their 20s and 30s—are less interested in owning or making big investments but still want access to different brands and services, says Steve Barr, consumer markets leader at PwC. "You no longer have to buy into the myth of continuous consumption,” says Jennifer Hyman, CEO and co-founder of Rent the Runway, which in 2009 pioneered the business model that many retailers are now trying to replicate. For clothing retailers, rentals offer hope at a time when they are dealing with mounds of unsold goods. Several have already gotten into the second-hand business. JC Penney and Macy's, for instance, have partnered with ThredUp to sell "gently-worn" clothes in a couple dozen locations. Nordstrom is testing resale at its flagship store in Manhattan.
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