Rent the Runway has launched a partnership with homewares retailer, West Elm, driven by customer demand and informed by data collection.
The rental line will include pillows, blankets and other soft goods. They will be available from this summer.
“We are consistently hearing from our subscribers, and home kept popping up. We saw there was a real demand there,” said Maureen Sullivan, COO of Rent the Runway on stage at SXSW this weekend.
Meanwhile, West Elm’s president, Alex Bellos, said customers are frequently reselling furniture and other goods from the brand. “We are top four on craigslist, so we wanted to act on that.”
The intention of the partnership is to use the rental data to inform a longer-term strategy. “We want to stay ahead of the design curve,” said Bellos. “The consumer savviness around home design is evolving and the level of sophistication is accelerating in an exponential rate.”
He also explained that with the recent decline in home ownership, the partnership also helps the brand meet its customers where they are. “Convenience is becoming more and more of a priority. People are less likely to drive [to a brick-and-mortar store] and this partnership was part of thinking of how we could pop-up in unexpected places.”
The popularity of home tours on social media also played a role in the decision. “We are seeing what people are featuring in their home tours and [they’re] tagging brands,” said Bellos. Sullivan referred to everyone as a merchandiser in their own right today.
The products chosen for the collaboration were informed by Rent The Runway’s data. “90% of our subscribers are working women, so we chose items from the bedroom and living room, because that’s where they spend most of their time [at home],” explained Sullivan. Much like the fashion industry, the goal of the partnership is to constantly update the choice of products, with new bundles launching every season.
The companies say they are intending to learn as they go in terms of the consumer behavior that might follow with homewares – how long people will want to keep items for, how often they will change them and more. The rise of the sharing economy has had huge success in fashion, so it’ll be interesting to see how it will evolve in the home market.
The partnership was celebrated at SXSW with a pop-up in West Elm’s Austin location. Not only could customers rent outfits to wear during the festival, but get the chance to see the new rental West Elm products from the collaboration first-hand.
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