Fashion rentals marketplace Rent the Runway was hit hard by the pandemic, as its subscribers were largely renting outfits to wear to in-person events. The company survived, however, by slashing costs, renegotiating supplier contracts, and entering the clothing resale market. Today, the company is expanding that side of its business once again by bringing some of its preworn items and other exclusives to Amazon in a new partnership with Amazon Fashion.
On Thursday, Amazon announced the launch of a Rent the Runway Amazon Fashion storefront, which will feature a selection of preworn fashion merchandise from over 35 brands across numerous styles. These preworn items have been inspected, cleaned, and restored but may have minor defects -- though nothing that would impact the physical integrity of the garment. Customers will be able to shop items for "weekend wear, workwear, date night apparel and seasonal essentials like sweaters, tops, coats, and denim," Amazon said.
This isn't the first time Rent the Runway has partnered with another retailer to help unload its preworn items.
The fashion subscription service survived 2020 by partnering with resale marketplace thredUP on a collection of previously rented designer clothing called "Revive by Rent the Runway" as well as with Nordstorm Rack. Last year, Rent the Runway also began working with Saks Off 5th, which agreed to sell preworn Rent the Runway clothes on its site as well. Plus, Rent the Runway sells preworn clothes on its own website to customers who don't have a subscription.
Image Credits: Amazon x Rent the Runway
In addition to bringing preworn clothes to Amazon, Rent the Runway will also offer a selection of merchandise from its "Design Collective" through Amazon Fashion. These limited-edition fashion collections are created by design talent, including names like Thakoon and Peter Som, using Rent the Runway's proprietary data and insights from its customer base. Other designers include Adam Lippes, Marina Moscone, and more, and will offer 1,000 styles in sizes 00–22 (though actual sizing may vary by availability).
With this launch, Amazon Fashion will be the first retailer to carry the new, unworn Design Collective merchandise, aside from Rent the Runway itself.
Some of the Design Collective items will also become available through Amazon Prime's "Try Before You Buy" offering, which allows for home try-on and returns.
The move is another way Rent the Runway is seeking growth in a postpandemic market. COVID could have easily destroyed Rent the Runway's business entirely -- and, for a time, things looked dire. In 2020, the company's active subscribers declined from 133,000 to 55,000, its losses grew and its stock tanked. It was only a year after Rent the Runway's IPO.
To its credit, the business survived COVID and, in its most recent earnings, saw a return to growth. In Q3 2022, Rent the Runway beat Wall Street expectations on quarterly revenue of $77.4 million compared with the $72.9 million analysts expected. It grew its active subscribers 15% from the year-ago quarter to 134,240 and raised its financial outlook for the year to $293–$295 million. (The company says the Amazon partnership was already baked into these projections.)
Image Credits: Amazon x Rent the Runway
"Collaborating with Amazon Fashion brings Rent the Runway incredible brand awareness," said Jenn Hyman, Rent the Runway co-founder and CEO, in a statement. "We believe strategic relationships like this can ignite a new engine of growth for our business. They also showcase demand for our products beyond our community and allow more customers to experience exclusive data-driven fashion from our top design partners."
Meanwhile, for Amazon, the partnership allows the retail giant to offer higher-end fashion while also dabbling in another area -- fashion resale -- without having to invest in spinning up a resale marketplace of its own. To date, Amazon has offered a way for consumers to browse select preowned merchandise through its Amazon Renewed site, but this doesn't include women's fashion. Instead, it's a way to shop for preowned consumer electronics, like phones and smartwatches, plus tools, cameras, gaming equipment, and other home, kitchen, and entertainment items.
It only has smaller investments in fashion resale through partners, including Shopbop's "pre-loved" shop and What Goes Around Comes Around's brand store with Luxury Stores at Amazon, focused on preloved handbags, jewelry and accessories, and some designer apparel.
"At Amazon Fashion, we continually expand our assortment through strategic relationships with brands to inspire and delight our customers," said Muge Erdirik Dogan, president of Amazon Fashion, in a release. "Rent the Runway’s collection continues to grow our offering in pre-loved and designer fashion."
Starting today, customers will be able to browse and shop from Rent the Runway’s brand store via amazon.com/stores/renttherunway. Products are eligible for free shipping with Prime and will allow for returns through Amazon, not Rent the Runway's stores.