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Online dress rentals a ‘customer acquisition tool’ for designers

Fashion designers have a new online channel to expand their reach: the rental market.

Following a model pioneered by Rent The Runway in the US, Aussie e-commerce business, GlamCorner, lets consumers rent designer dresses for a fraction of the RRP.

The business was founded in late 2012 by husband and wife team Dean Jones and Audrey Khaing-Jones to provide a solution to the familiar problem of having a wardrobe full of clothes, but nothing to wear.

“We are big fans of Rent The Runway,” Jones said. “Especially the founders and what they’ve built over there – it’s one hell of a machine.”

The business has adapted the model to suit the Australian market, ranging Australian designer labels and developing a logistics channel to deliver Australia-wide.

GlamCorner has around 1200 dresses in its inventory, ranging in size from six to 20. The business aims to have 2000 dresses by the end of this year, and more depth of inventory for the most popular styles. Dresses can be rented for four or eight days, after which they are posted back to GlamCorner’s distribution centre in Alexandria, Sydney.

One of the first things the business needed to do when it launched was to forge relationships with Australian designers, and convince them that putting their dresses up for rent wouldn’t rob them of sales.

Jones said aspirational customers use GlamCorner to try designer labels, which they normally wouldn’t be able to afford.

“We absolutely offer to be a new customer acquisition channel for them [designers],” Jones said. “For our customers, we are a brand discovery platform.

“We are not cannibalising their retail trade; we are offering them an opportunity to access a segment of the market that couldn’t quite afford their label before. If they try before they buy, [they’re] more likely to become a lifetime retail customer for that designer. We have now been operating long enough that we have enough data and examples of customers telling us that.”

Air traffic control meets fashion
GlamCorner migrated from a custom-built e-commerce platform to Magento late last year. However, the core technology piece is its custom-built logistics platform, or as Jones calls it, “the air traffic control system”.

“We are all about getting them their dress lightening fast, and getting it back as efficiently possible as well,” he said. “So that takes a serious investment in technology.

“It’s a unique business model; it’s not plain vanilla fire and forget e-commerce. Everything we ship has to come back. So every customer we are shipping to, wherever they are, in Surry Hills or Alice Springs, we need to know with confidence they’d be able to send it back to us and within a timeframe that we are comfortable with. Most of the time, as soon as it gets back it’s booked by someone else and has to go straight back out again.”   

GlamCorner charges $9.95 for express shipping both ways, a charge it introduced a few months ago.

“We are giving our customers confidence they will definitely get it the next day, or by the date they have requested it. We only introduced that a few months ago; we’ve had no complaints and no drop off in conversion rates and we watch that stuff very closely. We are subsidising the majority of shipping costs both ways. For us, it is not a revenue channel. We still wear the majority of the shipping cost.”  

Pureplay focus
In the US, Rent The Runway has opened four physical locations where renters can try on dresses or book an appointment with a stylist. GlamCorner hasn’t explored any bricks and mortar opportunities because, according to Jones, they haven’t seen the need to.

GlamCorner offers a try-on service for $30, where customers can try on two dresses in the comfort of their own homes for 24 hours and then send them back. Renters can also add a back-up dress to their orders for $15, an option almost 50 per cent of customers take up.

“The physical component, the bricks and mortar component, we just haven’t explored it seriously because we just haven’t seen the need,” Jones said. “We do our best to remove the need to come into a fitting room because that is also really time consuming.

“Instead of saying, ‘here we are, come to us’, our answer is, ‘tell us where you are and we’ll get it to you’.”

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