Will Ralph Lauren Become the Netflix of Clothes?
Starting at $125 per month, the Lauren Look subscription box is aimed at a relatively affluent target market. A subscriber receives four clothing items from the retail business and can keep them as long they wish. The flexibility to hold onto borrowed clothes for an unlimited period is similar to Netflix’s mail-order business model from the past. Before launching streaming, Netflix subscribers received DVDs by mail from the entertainment business.
The prospect of ordering clothes that might have been worn previously may be a turn-off to some consumers. Ralph Lauren has mitigated this concern by offering complimentary dry cleaning. The company also offers a size chart so that customers can translate Ralph Lauren size numbers to measurements. Also, subscribers can choose to purchase rented clothes from the business for a discounted price.
Ralph Lauren has a strong track of online sales to build on. In the company’s third quarter of fiscal 2021 report, the company reported digital sales in Europe were up 70% and up 10% in North America.
How the Business Partners With a Nonprofit
The business also has a charitable component. After rented clothes have been used a set number of times, Ralph Lauren will donate the clothes to Delivering Good. In operation since 1985, Delivering Good has distributed $2 billion worth of donated products to families. In 2018, the nonprofit spent over $130 million directing donated products to recipients.
The Booming Clothing Rental Business
Renting clothing is no longer limited to formal wear occasions like weddings and proms. In addition to Ralph Lauren, other entrepreneurs are already in the subscription box market. Rent the Runway, founded in 2009, is a significant company in the niche. The fashion business had an estimated $100 million in annual revenue and six million customers as of 2017.
With a monthly price under $100, Nuuly might offer more significant competition for Ralph Lauren. However, Nully’s subscription box has a time limit - clothes need to be returned in thirty days.
Not every company in the category has found success. Armarium, a fashion rental company that offered clothes for a fur day rental period, has closed down.
Alternative Clothing by Mail Business Models
Subscription box services come in a variety of types. One of the industry’s oldest companies is Blacksocks, operating out of Switzerland and the United States (US), which has offered black socks to men since 1999. Nordstrom, a large retail company, also offers something like a subscription box, the Nordstrom Trunk Club. Unlike Ralph Lauren and Blacksocks.com, Nordstrom has offerings for men and women. However, the Nordstrom offering does not include recurring charges. Instead, the business charges a set $25 styling fee per trunk.
About the Author
Bruce Harpham is an author and marketing consultant based in Canada. His first book, "Project Managers At Work," shared real-world success lessons from NASA, Google, and other organizations. His articles have been published in CIO.com, InfoWorld, Canadian Business, and other organizations. Visit BruceHarpham.com for articles, interviews with tech leaders, and updates on future books.