Industry Trips: Rent the Runway & Trunk Club

This past week, I had the incredible opportunity to attend the Student Program and the Big Show hosted by the National Retail Federation in New York at the Javits Center. I first arrived in New York on Wednesday morning and already had a busy day planned out ahead of me. After settling into the Moxy hotel and exploring the few blocks around us including Times Square, we were ready to hop into the professional networking, starting with Rent the Runway.

Rent the Runway is a service that first began online and just recently opened their first brick and mortar store in New York, which I got to see firsthand. If you don’t know what Rent the Runway is, just picture your dream closet. For $89/ month you can choose four items from this store filled with designer clothing, handbags and accessories and keep those items for the duration of the month. Otherwise, for $159/ month, you can choose four items and switch these out as many times as you’d like for that entire month.

Rent the Runway Brick and Mortar Store

At the physical store, we got to see the inventory they had on the floor as well as a sneak peek of the special items they were hiding away in the basement. We also were able to see the shipments of clothing going out, as well as the clothing that was arriving and preparing to go through dry cleaning. One aspect about this business that I found incredible was that they don’t charge the consumers if they return a piece of clothing back in bad shape (like a wine stain or a rip). They build this insurance in and put it on the company to bring the clothes back into their just-like-new shape.

While at this store, I was also able to meet one of their best customers who has FIVE separate unlimited accounts! They joked that she single-handedly kept Rent the Runway in business. Even so, it was awesome to see how personable their connections with their customers were, some of them told stories of how they babysat in-store while moms were shopping and even house-sat/dog-sat when members were out of town. These workers truly made it feel like their consumers were their best friends and I absolutely loved that about Rent the Runway. That, and the fact that the woman showing us around was wearing a $1700 dress that she rented out with her membership–I know, WOW.

Rent the Runway’s core values haven’t changed since they’ve first opened.

After Rent the Runway, we headed straight over to Trunk Club, which happened to be connected to the same hotel Serena van der Woodsen lived in in the popular series Gossip Girl. Here, we were greeted at the bar with fresh ice waters until the entirety of our group arrived. After this, we were split up into smaller groups to be given more private tours of the space.

Each room was themed with a different name such as ‘vince.’ or ‘paige.’ and the interior design was impeccable. These rooms could be rented out by someone on their lunch break stopping by or by something as fun as a girl’s night out. I put rented in italics because you don’t have to pay for the room at all, you only pay for what you buy.

Trunk Club

Throughout the entire tour, they pointed out that there was no visible inventory. This is because they didn’t want customers to have to sift through loads of product. Each customer is assigned a personal stylist who gets to know the consumer first and then brings them clothing that they may be interested in or that would fit them well. Though this aspect is very extra, it’s not for everyone. You need to have an open mind when it comes to fashion. One aspect I wish they would have included in this tour was showing us the inventory, which they said was kept in the basement. It felt a little odd going to a retail store and not seeing a single item of clothing up for sale.

After the tour, they opened it up for questions and gave us a little more about their history. The stylists told us that they get help from the company in terms of growing their customer base now, but it wasn’t always like this. One stylist compared it to a wolf pack; only the strongest survive. She said if you had to run down the street with business cards in order to get customers and therefore commission, that was what you did. This was a bit of a shock to me because I never pictured a brick and mortar store that needed to depend on its employees SO much for the sake of its company. It reminded me a bit of companies like Mary Kay or Rodan and Fields.

Times Square

That night, some friends and I headed out on the town for some shopping around Times Square, which my bank account was not as thrilled about. After a nice dinner, I called it quits pretty early because I needed to be up bright and early the next day for Burlington.

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Raven Patzke

Author: ravenpatzke

Retailing & Consumer Behavior, Certificates in Digital Studies & Entrepreneurship

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