Fashion rental was one of the unlikely success stories of 2020. Even as the world went into lockdown, and opportunities to show off new outfits fizzled away, rental platforms doubled down on building online communities, with consumers renting luxurious clothes just to wear at home. And some estimates now point to the rental market doubling in size by 2025.
But in one of the largest apparel sub-sectors, childrenswear, the appetite for renting has been relatively low. Kids grow and need new clothes at a great pace, and the constant wardrobe reshuffles present an obvious avenue to explore rental opportunities.
Many businesses have started small, partnering with big-name brands.
• The Little Loop and Graceful Changes were both founded by new parents taken aback by the environmental and financial cost of kids' clothing.
• Swedish brand Hyber focuses on seasonal clothing that children outgrow rapidly.
• In Vancouver, Tradle curates bundles of baby clothes in ‘capsule wardrobes’.
But rental is difficult to scale up. A lot of the businesses in the space can only operate within their city or country – the logistics, environmental impact and costs involved with circling kids clothing around the world would make the business model completely unsustainable.
Bigger brands haven’t been that successful up until now. In December 2020, Nike announced the closure of Adventure Club, its subscription shoe rental service for children. Meanwhile, memberships for Rent the Runway’s kids service are priced the same as adult subscriptions ($69 a month for four items), which may be a turn-off for many parents.
Instead, resale currently makes up a large proportion of the kidswear market. Laura Roso Vidrequin, a former fashion buyer, launched Kids O’Clock, a peer-to-peer marketplace for preloved kidswear. ‘The added time and cost of shipping, washing and managing returns in the rental model can put brands off investing in it,’ she says. A marketplace model moves the onus away from brands and on to buyers and sellers, she adds.
Dinoski, on the other hand, actively takes control of the resale process, asking parents to return ski suits that their kids have outgrown for the brand itself to then sell on.
High-street retailer Arket recently announced its kidswear rental programme in partnership with Circos, one of the largest and most multinational businesses in the rental space. So, kids' rental isn’t quite off the agenda yet. Especially since the baby equipment sector seems to have got the rental formula down.
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