Drivers and barriers to fashion rental for everyday garments: an empirical analysis of a former fashion-rental company
We analyze the business models of online business-to-consumer (B2C) fashion rental and share challenges and lessons learned from an in-depth case study of a former German fashion-rental company. The firm focused on renting everyday, rather than special occasion, clothing, thus increasing the potential sustainability impact of its offer significantly. We also examine drivers and barriers of both an everyday children’s wear and a women’s wear rental model by incorporating both retailer and consumer perspectives through business data, manager interviews, and consumer surveys with customer and target groups. All data were merged into a single, in-depth analysis of the business models. By combining the complementary viewpoints of retailer and consumers, we were able to more precisely pinpoint the locations of the difficulties in the business models. The main barriers to success were the worsening quality of the company’s inventory and its difficulty acquiring and retaining customers, due both to a lack of familiarity with the concept of fashion rental and the poorly perceived price-performance ratio of fashion rental. These issues suggest that online-fashion rental should begin by focusing on special occasion rentals with more high-end fashion options and should plan a sizeable budget for marketing to raise consumer awareness of alternatives to traditional retail models and alleviate customer concerns. If such a rental model is successful and establishes a stable customer base, everyday fashion-rental options could be explored as a supplement. The article demonstrates the importance of integrating different data sources to obtain a comprehensive understanding of why online-rental models fail or succeed.