Urban Outfitters tries to stay relevant with an $88 monthly rental service

By Elizabeth Segran

Watch out Rent the Runway! Urban Outfitters, Inc. is coming for your lunch.

Today, the company–which owns Anthropologie, Free People, and Urban Outfitters–said it will offer a $88 monthly rental service called Nuuly. Customers can pick six items, which could amount to $800 worth of merchandise, wear them as frequently as they want, then swap them for new styles the following month. If the customer wants to keep that item, they can purchase it.

The clothes in the boxes will come from Urban Outfitters’ own stable of brands, but there will be other items available, too. Customers can pick from brands like Reebok and Fila, as well as denim from Levi’s and Wrangler. There will also be items from newer fashion startups like Naadam, Universal Standard, and Gal Meets Glam. And there will even be rare vintage items available to rent. Nuuly will offer 1,000 styles at launch, then add 100 new styles a week to triple the number of available styles by the end of the year.

This is a big move for a heritage company that first launched in 1970. Urban Outfitters has a large network of brick-and-mortar stores, which have not been doing very well. Its online business is relatively strong, but to stay on top of changing customer behavior, it’s vital for the company to stay in step with how brands interact with fashion today. And one thing’s for sure: Clothing rental is a big business. Rent the Runway, which launched a decade ago, has thrived by renting women everything from ballgowns to activewear to work clothes. And other brands, like Ann Taylor, are beginning to rent items from their collection through platforms like Caastle.

For Urban Outfitters, the model makes a lot of sense. All of the brands are catering to young, trendy shoppers, many of whom will be intrigued by the idea of being able to rent, rather than buy, items that may only be fashionable for a season. This approach also has the potential to cut down on fashion waste, since each item within the collection will be worn many more times, by many more customers, before it eventually reaches the end of its life cycle.

Customers can sign up to be put on the Nuuly waitlist on this website. Monthly rentals will begin later in the summer.


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