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Brief Published: 25 Sep 2014

E-Fashion Rental Site Opens Shop

Rent the Runway, NYC

American online-based designer dress and accessories rental service Rent the Runway has opened its first standalone store. Located in the design-oriented Manhattan district of Flatiron, New York, it offers consumers a physical space in which to engage one-on-one with style advisers.

The store is currently an appointment-only venture and requires shoppers to fill out a style assessment online, which determines what they see in-store when visiting. Further streamlining the service, but with an emphasis on expertise (see also The Streamlined Sell in our Roaming Retail Industry Trend, publishing tomorrow), the site has 10 stylists on hand at all times plus occasionally a tailor.

Jenny Fleiss, co-founder of Rent the Runway, suggests the experience mirrors the efficiency of online retail: "Much like the website's personalisation experience, when you come here we have a stylist ready to work with you, dedicated to you for an hour."

For more on the way that consumers' online behaviours are reshaping the physical shopping experience, see Omni-Channel Retail and Selling Style (from our Future of the Store and New Masculinity Industry Trends, respectively).

Tablet-enhanced changing rooms help shoppers (and the brand) keep track of favourite items. Selected pieces are saved into an online account, complete with notes, so that customers can access their store experience at any time.

Items chosen in-store can be taken away on the day or reserved for future events. The store also provides a click-and-collect service so that online shoppers wanting to double check their online styling choices can come into the store to try them on, and also browse for matching accessories.

The permanent store follows two experimental pop-up shop-in-shops at upscale New York store Henri Bendel and the Cosmopolitan hotel in Las Vegas, plus a showroom at the company's SoHo headquarters in New York. Further US stores are planned for 2015, with the next slated to open in Washington DC.

For more on the rise of the rental economy as a retail model, see Inconspicuous Consumption in our Austerity Opportunity Macro Trend, and Try Before You Buy Retail at GU. For more on e-tail brands turning to bricks-and-mortar concepts to boost relevance, see E-Tail Gets a Physical Presence and E-Tailer Birchbox's Physical Store.