Salt Lake City-based Alsco has the distinction of being the company that pioneered uniform rental in the late 1800s. Not only did they set the standard, they continue to define the standard today. They are joined by dozens of other linen and uniform providers around the country. But that’s not all. Retail clothing brands are now getting into the rental business.
Yes, you read that correctly. Retail clothing rental is a real thing. What began as a niche service offered by just two or three brands a few years ago has grown into an entire industry. It is an industry that lets fashionistas try out all the latest styles without committing to buy. Before you jump on the rental bandwagon though, be aware that retail clothing rental is not without its drawbacks.
How It Works
There are now quite a few companies offering retail clothing rental. Note that they all do things a bit differently. Here’s the basic concept: you choose the clothes you want to rent, then select your rental term. Pay the fee and you will have access to the clothing for the agreed-upon time. At the end of your rental term, return the clothing and walk away.
Some of companies provide the service exclusively online. Others provide rentals through brick-and-mortar stores. There are even a few that offer subscription services. By subscribing, you have access to a certain number of outfits every month. You can choose to keep the items you have rented during any given month by paying the difference between the rental cost and retail price.
Two of the biggest benefits of this sort of service are having access to the latest fashions and not having to launder your own clothing. The former should be obvious to the fashionista who would buy one of everything if she could afford to. The latter is not so obvious, especially to people who choose a longer rental term. You wouldn’t go two weeks with the same piece and never launder it.
Downsides of Retail Clothing Rental
So, are there any downsides to renting retail clothing? Absolutely. First and foremost is the reality that you could spend an awful lot of money on rental and not have anything in your closet you can truly call your own. Just like renting uniforms from Alsco, renting clothing from your local boutique or online retailer means paying a fee to borrow someone else’s clothing.
Next up is the risk of damaging the rented clothing. You do not necessarily have to launder rented items yourself, but you might end up paying full retail price for an item should you stain a piece of clothing, rip a seam, etc.
Next up are actual laundering concerns. You give the supplier the benefit of the doubt that it will properly launder all used items before returning them to inventory. But how do you really know, especially if the company doesn’t provide any proof? You never really know where the clothes are coming from or what laundering procedures they have been through.
Finally are the limits imposed by rental providers. No single subscription service is going to allow you to fill out your entire wardrobe with rented clothes and accessories. You might only be able to get one or two rental outfits at a time. That means either going with multiple subscription services or purchasing some of your own clothing.
Yes, retail clothing rental is a real thing. It doesn’t sound like a good business model for making money in the fashion industry, but enough retailers are doing it to make it mainstream.