What it’s like to use Urban Outfitters rental service

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  • I rent all my clothes from Nuuly, a platform created by Urban Outfitters Inc.
  • It reduced my reliance on fast fashion, a major polluter, as well as buying clothes more widely.
  • Although swayed by the pandemic, experts say the rental and second-hand clothing trend is here to stay.

If subscription services dominate our present, rental services could rule our future.

At least that’s what Urban Outfitters is banking on with its subscription service, Nuuly. Launched in 2019, the service offers users access to Urban-owned brands, including Anthropologie and Free People, as well as products from similar brands. It’s Urban’s first foray into the rental market, and it sits somewhere between the designer buffet on Rent the Runway and subscription clothing box companies like Stitch Fix or Nordstrom’s Trunk Club.

What makes Nuuly unique, and what personally attracted me to the service, is that the jackets, dresses or jeans available for hire are often the same products that buyers might buy, for example, on the website of Anthropology. They’re not discarded clothes or last season’s items, and they can be worn as many times as possible in 30 days for the low price of $88 per month.

This, coupled with broader changes in the way we shop and live in the age of the pandemic, has caused me to question my own shopping habits and wonder if I really need to own everything I want to wear.

Now, after three months of using Nuuly, I can say that my relationship with consumerism has changed. Owning clothes is over; renting them is in.

How Nuuly Works

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I first heard about Nuuly through a stylish friend and jumped on board in November, just before the pandemic turned the holiday season upside down again (thanks, Omicron). Like many people I know, I didn’t know what to wear to socialize or go to parties, and Nuuly seemed like a low-risk way to give my wardrobe some much-needed help.

Nuuly works like this: you browse a range of clothing from dozens of brands and select six items. Nuuly will charge you $88 (if you need more clothes, you can add extras for $18 a pop) and ship your selections in a durable, reusable bag. At the end of the month, you’ll return everything and unlock your next set of items.

After a few months of using the service, the biggest downside I’ve found is the lack of flexibility. If you receive an item that you don’t like or doesn’t fit, there is no way to exchange it for something different. To receive new items, you must return everything at once and pay to unlock your next turn.

But the benefits mostly make up for that. Most of the items I’ve received so far are brand new with tags still attached, making the experience feel a lot like regular shopping. Also, probably because I’m a city dweller, my items usually arrive within days of ordering and returns are easy as I live about 100 yards from a UPS store.

Nuuly also offers discounts if there’s something you want to keep, which is how I ended up with a brand new pair of Levi’s jeans for $40 off.

Pandemic-era consumers prioritize quality and sustainability over ‘green waste’

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Clodagh Kilcoyne/Reuters


Like many sectors, clothing rental has been affected by the pandemic.

According to Coresight Research data cited by The New York Times, the market was worth $1.3 billion in 2019 and fell to $1.1 billion in 2020. Things bounced back slightly in 2021, and analysts now estimate that the clothing rental market could bring in nearly $7.5 billion in revenue by 2026.

Nuuly has seen the same decline during the pandemic, along with inventory issues, Urban Co-President and COO Frank Conforti said on the company’s latest earnings call in November, outlining its business. rental as being in its “first rounds”.

But Nuuly is considered one of the company’s most important growth initiatives, and the service saw a 55% increase in subscribers between the second and third quarters and is expected to reach 50,000 users by the end of 2021.

This isn’t Urban’s only foray into the apparel secondary market, either: Urban launched a sister marketplace last August, a peer-to-peer resale site called Nuuly Thrift. Nuuly Thrift allows users to buy and sell clothing and get a discount on the Urban family of brands, which is a way to maintain the “buy and sell cycle within the URBN ecosystem “, CEO Richard Hayne said during the company’s second quarter results. call last August.

Taken together, Urban’s rental and resale ambitions are a symptom of a broader shift within the retail industry: brands have noticed that people are simply buying differently now. A 2021 survey of resale platform ThredUp’s “post-pandemic consumer” found shoppers care more about durability and quality than before – 51% said they felt more opposed to “ecological waste” now than before. the pandemic.

Some studies have shown that clothing rental has a different but still significant environmental footprint. For me at least, renting has been a way to reduce or completely eliminate dependence on fast fashion, a major polluter.

And now that consumers are prioritizing quality and durability, buying second-hand goods or renting clothes is simply more normalized than before, Aditya Vedantam, an assistant professor at the Institute, told Insider. University of Buffalo School of Management.

“There are these shifting trends and the COVID crisis has made that even more important. Resale and rental, all of that falls under the broader framework of the sharing economy,” Vedantam said. “We see it in so many industries, like car sharing, and we see it in the apparel space.”

And regardless of how purchases look in the months and years to come, he said, “peer-to-peer rentals are here to stay.”

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