Luxury for rent, a new gold mine?

The building is plush. The room, lit by a large window, is surrounded by clothes rails loaded with dresses inviting one to dream. On this Monday noon in January, the door to the Une Robe Un Soir showroom opens and closes. A client comes out. A neighbor influencer slips into the room looking for a red dress for a night out. The phone rings regularly… To believe the activity that emerges, the rental attracts. Because as its name suggests, Une Robe Un Soir offers to rent dresses from big names for a short time. And enjoy a dress for four days normally sold for several hundred or even several thousand euros, and that for an average price of 130 euros. “We have 1,500 clients, 20% of which are returning clients because we meet a need,” indicate Naïma Cardi and Deborah Bertrand, the two leaders of the start-up.

The Un Robe Un Soir showroom © Challenges

This need, Une Robe Un Soir is not the only one to be concerned about. And the start-up’s observation – consumers are more and more inclined to favor use over possession – is widely shared. Les Cachotières, Panoply, Couture Market… Rental in high-end or luxury fashion has given rise to many vocations in recent years. The platforms have flourished. Some offer the rental of individual pieces to shine during an event. Others offer subscriptions to regularly change your wardrobe. Some act as intermediaries between private owners and tenants. Others manage their own clothing stock. But all have a reference to the mouth: Rent the Runway.

Rent the Runway: la success story american

Rent the Runway is the success story American which suggests that anything is possible. Launched in 2009 by two former Harvard alumni, the New York-based start-up has grown to reach over 9 million users, $ 100 million in revenue and be valued at nearly 800 million dollars. euros, recalls CNBC … Something to dream of many French entrepreneurs even if discretion is required when addressing the issue of figures. “We have multiplied our turnover by three in one year”, simply indicate the two managers of Une Robe Un Soir without giving a figure. They also mention “a positive operating result” but “significant investments”. “We are approaching 15,000 rentals since the opening and we expect profitability in 2020”, explains Ingrid Brochard, the founder of Panoply.

Panoply, which started out with a subscription offer now also offers unit rentals. “Half of our activity corresponds to subscription and the other to unit rental”, explains Ingrid Brochard. Une Robe Un Soir went the other way. Originally created for unit rental, the start-up bought L’Habibli, which had positioned itself in the subscription niche and will be offering this new offer from mid-March. The two start-ups are thus making the bet to move forward on two feet – the unit and the subscription – and thus reach customers with different profiles. “These are two complementary models”, assures Naïma Cardi.

Because the challenge is there: to find a viable model. “The rental trend is still being sought,” said Julie El Ghouzzi, director of the Center for Luxury and Creation. “Rent the Runway works. But there are also signs that it is not that easy.” The shutdown of InstantLuxe at the end of 2018 could well be one of them. The site which had developed in the sale of second-hand luxury products had been bought by Galeries Lafayette in 2016 and had diversified into rental, although this remained marginal. “Rental is a complex market with logistics that are a real challenge,” notes Naïma Cardi from Une Robe Un Soir, while Ingrid Brochard considers that this market is based on “one third on fashion, one third on logistics and a third on technology: you have to invest a lot to achieve profitability. “

The collaborative economy could weigh 300 billion euros in 2025

But if the rental phenomenon is still in its infancy, it seems to have a bright future, driven by a change in consumer behavior: the collaborative economy could reach 300 billion euros worldwide in 2025, according to PwC estimates relayed in 2016 by Bercy. Figures which could therefore rise further. Something to challenge luxury brands who watch, attentively, the initiatives at work. And for good reason: the luxury market – with accessible luxury and premium – should weigh a little less than 500 billion euros in 2020 according to the latest EY report. In view of the staggering stakes, understanding this rental phenomenon seems all the more crucial.

With its corner at Galeries Lafayette for almost a year, Panoply had a front row seat to observe the reactions of brands sold in neighboring shops. “Sometimes the same dress is sold in a store and rented from us. At first, the salespeople in the neighboring shops were worried and came to look at what we were doing, but now they send us customers and are happy that ‘a part that a customer would not necessarily have bought is ultimately worn. ” Because rental and sale do not necessarily affect the same audiences.

Panoply organized a parade with its clients in the fall of 2018 © Panoply

Panoply also works in partnership with several brands, which allows it to offer pieces from current collections. Rent the Runway also plays this role of partner of the brands, to whom it can provide new valuable data on consumers.

Brands on the lookout

“For luxury brands, it is important to know the new rules of this market in order to take part in it with two objectives: to recruit new customers (…) and to learn from these new uses in order to adapt its offer accordingly”, A report from the BCG and the Center du luxe et la creation at the start of 2018 also indicated. Faced with this now unavoidable question, brands seem to be on the lookout. François-Henri Pinault, the CEO of the Kering group had declared a year ago to test “the subscription for certain types of products”. New models such as rental, subscription, second-hand or even home services are therefore one of the areas on which Kering is focusing. “With the subscription, there is a loyalty aspect. It’s the idea that we engage with the brand”, explains Julie El Ghouzzi.

The shoe brand Bocage has taken the plunge and launched its own subscription rental service. After a few months of experimentation, it should extend the offer to 36 stores in March. The shoes returned to the store are reconditioned in their factory in Montjean-sur-Loire and will be returned to the rental circuit from the end of the year. “We are at the beginnings of a rapidly developing market”, judges Clémence Cornet, marketing director of Bocage. “So far, our test has been a success in terms of customer satisfaction, team engagement and media coverage. We have set ourselves the goal of having 50 customers per store for the summer 2019 season.”

With L’Atelier Bocage, it is a first rental attempt in the shoe world, less obvious at first glance, and carried out directly by the brand. A bet that could inspire other players… or other luxury sectors. Because rental is not limited to fashion. After nearly 20 years spent in major watch and jewelry houses, Thomas Blavet, for example, has developed the Luxothèque, a platform that allows you to rent luxury watches on an ad hoc basis or via a subscription. Getting ready from head to toe with rented items could very quickly become a possibility for everyone.