While traditional retail went into freefall last year, the secondhand market experienced fast growth. Now it’s forecast to hit $64 billion in the next five years, and will overtake fast fashion.
Whilst Gen Z and millennials are well known for trading their old clothes and clobber on numerous online platforms (such as vinted and thredup), there's a whole new movement opening up for renting clothing.
Once the preserve of Moss Bros and wedding gear, the market for renting is exploding - and not just for working professionals, bargain hunters and fashion obsessives, as there are startups targeting parents too.
Bundlee and thelittleloop are rental services for baby and toddler clothes, while Whirli enables its customers to share children's toys. Kids O’Clock is a platform renting second hand designer clothing for kids. Such services minimise waste and clutter in the home, as well as saving users money. And, of course, recycling is very planet friendly.
Big-name brands are also starting to see the potential of the pre-used marketplace. In March, Ralph Lauren became the first luxury label to launch a subscription rental service, “The Lauren Look”, in North America.
“Brands are embracing the idea of renting out their clothes and also diversifying their audience. They’re looking at rental to get a new audience,” explains Eshita Kabra-Davies, founder and CEO of By Rotation. Some brands are dipping a toe into the rental space to stay relevant: Kabra-Davies gives the example of a £1,000-and-up dress label being interested because the alternative - selling past-season garments to discount retailers such as TK Maxx - was considered a risk to the brand’s reputation.
When bricks and mortar fashion brands work to reinvent themselves after the pandemic, they will have to adapt to a new set of rules to remain competitive, as consumers increasingly value sustainability and value-for-money. That lends itself naturally against ownership and into more sharing ways of consumption.
It all looks like we’re on the brink of a fundamental change in consumer behaviours.