M&S partners with rental platform Hirestreet. Courtesy.
On Tuesday, the British retailer announced an undisclosed investment in Hirestreet’s parent Zoa Group through a joint venture with brand accelerator Founders Factory, as it launched its debut rental offering on the platform.
It makes M&S the first major high street retailer in the UK to signal broader ambitions in the burgeoning clothing rental market.
M&S has consigned about 500 pieces across 35 styles from its current season collection to Hirestreet, which will then handle the loans and logistics within its own platform. Prices for M&S pieces start at £13 ($17.48) for a four-day hire period.
Dipping a toe into the clothing rental market is the latest in a string of efforts to reverse years of declining sales at M&S’s apparel division. Last year, the company began stocking third-party brands on its website, and launched an on-going collaboration with Ghost. In January, it acquired British womenswear brand Jaeger out of administration, further bolstering its offering of brands on its platform.
The moves are part of a years-long struggle to maintain relevance in an increasingly volatile and competitive retail market. The group’s clothing and home division netted £3.2 billion in sales for the year ending March 2020, down 8.3 percent on the previous year. Over the pandemic, sales fell a further 31.5 percent.
Launching on Hirestreet is a way to put “M&S clothing in front of new customers,” chief operating officer Katie Bickerstaffe said in a statement. “We want to be more relevant more often and we know customers are increasingly interested in the circular fashion economy,” she said.
Covid-19 crushed the market for fashion rentals, but platforms are betting that pent-up demand for social events and sustainability will boost post-pandemic business.