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Rent the Runway and Nordstrom have big plans to reshape retail

Rent the Runway and Nordstrom have big plans to reshape retail
[Photo: Alexandra Maria/Unsplash]

Rent the Runway, the decade-old clothing rental platform now valued at $1 billion, is expanding its partnership with heritage department store Nordstrom. The two companies tell Fast Company exclusively that they will be blending their capabilities along many dimensions, including creating new products together and incorporating Nordstrom inventory into the Rent the Runway system.

For Rent the Runway customers, the most immediate and obvious shift is that they will be able to drop off their rentals at more Nordstrom locations. Earlier this year, Rent the Runway piloted a program where users could drop off their products at five Nordstrom stores. These drop boxes have been very successful, and starting on the 18th of November, 22 more Nordstrom stores, in cities like San Francisco, Chicago, and Dallas, will carry these drop boxes.

Over the past few years, as Rent the Runway has expanded beyond gowns into workwear and everyday clothes, customers have increasingly moved toward ongoing subscriptions rather than one-off rentals. This means that they are ordering clothes on a monthly or weekly basis. Drop boxes make it easier for customers to return clothes, and it also allows them to order their next batch of outfits more quickly. Last year, Rent the Runway also partnered with WeWork to launch drop boxes in coworking locations.

But the Nordstrom partnership goes beyond these boxes. Rent the Runway has brought Nordstrom on as a “platform partner,” which means it will incorporate Nordstrom inventory into the platform. And going forward, the two companies plan to design clothes together, using data about the kinds of products customers want and what items work best within the rental model.

Consumers are increasingly embracing rental over ownership in many product categories, from clothes to furniture. But partnerships like this reveal that heritage retailers can be part of this new rental economy, too.

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