The Future of Resale and Rental Fashion

Resale and rental occupy a curious spot in the fashion market.

The pioneers that charged out ahead and into the public markets — including Rent the Runway Inc., ThredUp Inc. and The RealReal Inc. — have all struggled with investors, who are no longer willing to settle for growth and want actual profits.

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Still, brands and retailers keep jumping in, pumping more heat into a resale and rental sector that is sometimes seen as a kind of sustainable savior, a single-item logistics nightmare or just a black hole for money.

Maybe it’s a little bit of all of those, but certainly big companies are very much still paying attention.

Zara launched a pre-owned platform in 14 European markets in December. And Amazon Luxury Stores recently entered resale with Hardly Ever Worn It in the U.K., Germany, France, Italy and Spain.

Urban Outfitters Inc.’s Nuuly rental platform drove $65.5 million in revenues in the third quarter, an 86 percent increase from a year earlier that produced operating profits.

“With the strong partnership of our sister brands Anthropologie, Free People, FP Movement and Urban Outfitters as well as over 400 other partner brands, we have curated what we believe is the most compelling rental clothing assortment on the market,” crowed David Hayne, Urban’s chief technology officer, to analysts last year.

Just where all these resale and rental efforts lead remains to be seen. But the sense is, they’re going somewhere.

“We’re kind of in the messy, let’s figure it out [stage], because brands and companies all realize now, yes, it’s a real market,” said Cara Smyth, chair of Fashion Makes Change at the Rockefeller Philanthropy Advisors.

“Resale grew five times faster than the regular retail clothing sector in 2022,” Smyth said. “There’s money to be made. There are

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