Renting is the new Black….and I don’t mean property…

Listen up ! Check it out ! Stuff goes in cycles ! Back to the future! There is nothing new ! Bunch of clichés , none have any relevance. Well sort of not .

Within our own industry, party and fancy dress, much of today’s market was first created by retailers who used to hire out costumes for fancy dress parties. If you go back, perhaps, twenty/ twenty five years, the only fancy dress available was to hire . Then came along some innovative suppliers who discovered they could source very inexpensive alternatives for the consumer to buy and keep, from the Far East. The idea of actually buying and keeping the costume for less than the price to hire, leads us to the huge market it has become. A slight over simplification, but the principal and consequence are the same.

Within fashion, there has never been much of a tradition with hire, apart from maybe Wedding and formal evening wear clothing, certainly within the U.K. Yet, in the USA, approximately ten years ago , appeared a website called Rent the Runway, initially for the purpose of renting formal wear, since then it has become ….

subscription fashion service that powers women to rent unlimited designer styles for everyday and occasion

Ten years later others have joined the fray. In 2018 the American State of fashion Report 2019, highlighted that the End of Ownership was one of the industry’s top 10 trends.

The lifespan of the fashion product is becoming more elastic as pre-owned, refurbished,

repair and rental business models continue to evolve. Fashion players will increasingly tap into this market

to gain access to new consumers seeking both affordability and a move away from the permanent ownership of clothing

Has this trend crossed the Atlantic? You bet your ‘sweet bippy’ it has , hirestreetuk.com, ourcloset.co.uk, frontrowuk.com to list but a few.

Environmental issues are front line news and at the same time creating new and different opportunities for pretty much most businesses, if they have got any commercial sense . The thought that much ‘fashion’ wear gets worn little and is dumped into landfill is not an appealing thought. Not that I am totally convinced it is completely true , but the concept of hiring is perhaps attractive to the conscientious consumer despite the somewhat counter intuitive issue of the CO2 miles travelled by each piece of apparel as it continually goes backwards and forwards. Is that really better than the distance traveled between retailer, consumer and local dump? It also ignores some of the benefits accrued to Charities via clothing given and sold in charity shops. Oh well, subject for another day , maybe . Nonetheless the environment is undoubtedly an influencing factor.

So where does that leads us within our own market place. I am not totally sure. There are theories within our own market and throughout Europe, that the total market for fancy dress is close to a plateau. There is, undoubtedly, a move by the consumer to buy accessories that can be used again as opposed to a specific character costume that can only be used for a one ‘style’ event . So perhaps there is a perfect storm brewing . The meeting of converging energies, trends, environment and economics. If this were to be the case, I am not sure what the business model would be. Could be very ironic . One of the most notable features over the last couple of years within our industry has been the mass closure of fancy dress hire operators. There is no suggestion that there is going to be a 180 degree shift in the market but it may an indicator for retailers looking at closing their hire departments to hang on a bit .

Whatever the consequence,I don’t think it should be ignored. There will be somebody out there thinking about it. There’s a bit of a rule concerning trends (it’s only my rule) and that is if you follow them , they don’t happen, if you don’t , you look back in anger ….

So back to the opening sentence. Loads of clichés, having no meaning to anything sort of makes them no longer clichés. Well, if you take the definition as the overuse of the word or phrase to the point of losing its meaning , then you can include trends. Once over used, they cease to be trends. When everyone has forgotten about a previous trend, it can once again become a trend . A bit like ‘hire’. Something to figure out over breakfast.

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