Goodbye Money: Rent The Runway Is Adding Home Items from West Elm
“This is a monumental moment for Rent the Runway and the sharing economy as a whole. We know that clothing is often a vehicle to help people feel confident and expressive, and this new partnership will unlock that feeling through home decor,” said Jennifer Hyman, co-founder and CEO of Rent the Runway.
Customers can choose from 26 curated home bundles for the bedroom and living room. It’s the first for both companies: Not only is West Elm is dipping their toes into the rental world, but Rent the Runway is expanding its offerings beyond apparel and accessories.
“We are making it easier than ever for customers to discover great design for their spaces,” said Alex Bellos, President of West Elm, adding that items up for grabs will include everything from Belgian linen quilts and chenille rib throws to pillow covers. “Each of our 26 curated home bundles encourage subscribers to translate their playful and bold style to decorating, and allow them to experience West Elm’s original, modern products from the comforts of home.”
But some critics are skeptical of the plan, saying that while rental programs let consumers try and attain items they can’t normally afford, it makes sense to rent pricier items like black tie gowns. But everyday items like bedding? Not so much.
“There are some items where you will get more bang for your bucks by purchasing it out right,” says consumer savings expert Andrea Woroch. “However, in this case, you are better off saving money by shopping secondhand. For instance, sites like Facebook Marketplace allow you to shop for used items locally in your community—whether furniture, toys, or sporting goods—and with people you may potentially even know.”
West Elm and Rent the Runway certainly aren’t the first to try out home decor rentals. Swedish home behemoth IKEA has frequently stated their sustainability goal to be “planet positive” by 2030, adding that renting furniture could be a key part of that. Torbjorn Loof of Inter IKEA (the store’s parent company) told the Financial Times last month that the company was testing out a rental program for desks and chairs in Europe.
“We will work together with partners so you can actually lease your furniture,” said Loof. “When that leasing period is over, you hand it back and you might lease something else. And instead of throwing those away, we refurbish them a little and we could sell them, prolonging the life cycle of the products.”
The program could extend beyond just furniture; “You could say leasing is another way of financing a kitchen,” Loof said.