E-commerce startups have been working at the online-offline game for a while now, in the form of pop-up shops and brick-and-mortar investments like Warby Parker’s New York flagship and Bonobos’ Guide Shops. Now Rent the Runway has found a new offline home: a permanent showroom overtaking a floor in Henri Bendel’s iconic Fifth Avenue department store.
It’s not the first time Rent the Runway has made moves offline. In 2012 they opened a showroom in Manhattan’s West Village, and college campus reps often hold trunk shows before formals and sorority events. The retailer has also held pop-up shops and a mobile road tour.
As with BaubleBar’s “The Bar” and Bonobos’ Guide Shops, Rent the Runway’s new showroom operates as a plushy personal shopping experience, and customers are encouraged to book appointments ahead of time with stylists (called “Go-To Girls”) for a one-on-one consultation. For online retailers that have built their brand on making shopping more seamless in one way or another, the offline experience has to replicate that, but with a little more glamour delivered in the form of personal service.
Shoppers can create a profile with their size, shape, and preferences ahead of time to guide their stylist, who then helps them out in-person. Unlike Bonobos’ Guide Shops, which don’t hold inventory in-store in order to reduce overhead, Rent the Runway shoppers either reserve a style from the showroom for delivery later or walk out of Bendel with their purchases in hand.
Rent the Runway did not disclose the financial or business terms of the partnership with Bendel, which is owned by Limited Brands, also the parent company of Victoria’s Secret, PINK, and Bath & Body Works.
Bendel — one of the three B’s of high-end Manhattan department stores, along with Barneys and Bergdorf Goodman — gives Rent the Runway a bit of old New York luxury weight. In size alone, the 1400 square foot space is a step up from the retailer’s 250 square foot West Village Showroom.
While Rent the Runway’s app functions as a showrooming tool while women are out shopping, there’s no concern for competition here, as Bendel sells only accessories, jewelry, and beauty products. It is the only clothing brand with a dedicated space at Bendel.
[Image: Rent the Runway]