Is access the new ownership? Even traditional retailers are bracing themselves for the day when leasing clothing becomes as natural as as hailing an Lyft or cueing up a song on Spotify.
Take Express, for example. In October, the mall fixture launched Style Trial, a service that allows customers to borrow up to three pieces—with no limits on exchanges, free shipping both ways, and free dry cleaning—for $69.95 per month. If a subscriber loves something to death, she can buy it at a discount for keeps. Otherwise, she can keep garments circulating in an eternally refreshed “closet in the cloud” with virtually infinite options yet zero commitments.
“Essentially, it allows customers to experience the breadth of our full assortment and styling services without breaking the budget,” Jim Hilt, the retailer’s executive vice president and chief customer experience officer, explained. “We know our customer loves to experiment with fashion and Style Trial provides them with easy access to the latest trends, as well as an ongoing rotation of staple pieces at fraction of the price.”
Express was the third major women’s wear purveyor in less than a year to do this, following a mold set by New York & Co.’s NY&C Closet ($49.95 for three items) and Ann Taylor’s Infinite Style ($95 for three items). Soon after, Rebecca Taylor rolled out RTND, which lets subscribers take out four items for a monthly fee of $159. Vince launched a subscription box in the vein of Stitch Fix. Even DSW has promised—threatened?—to look into shoe rentals.