NEW YORK: Ownership may be going out of fashion, as a brand set up eight years ago to rent out formal women’s wear now eyes more customers, and is trialling a method of encouraging consumers to use rented clothes more often.

The Washington Post reported that Rent the Runway’s service will now expand to include in its subscription programme less formal items that increase usage cases. Customers will be able to rent four items for a flat rate of $89. This service builds on an offering that debuted last year allowing users to rent four items at any one time, with no monthly limit, for the higher price of $159 per month.

CEO Jennifer Hyman said that the development aims to help women reduce the size of their wardrobes. “There is so much waste when it comes to the closet — most women doesn’t use 80 or 85 percent of what they have,” she said. “What we offer is newness and variety.”

Sharing economy services have rendered some industries unrecognisable. Airbnb’s disruption of the hotel industry – and accommodation more generally – chimes with Uber and Lyft’s massive gain of market share in recent years. More traditional businesses in these areas have been forced to rethink their futures.

Some put a potential shift in the apparel industry down to the impact of social media in the last decade. “Social media has created an atmosphere in which, yeah, you could wear the same thing twice, but you’d rather not if you can avoid it,” argued Rachel Saunders, director of strategy at Cassandra, a research agency.

In order to keep up with fashion in a manner that is cost effective, she continued, it is necessary for consumers to become comfortable sharing clothes with strangers. Cassandra research shows that there is potential for growth, especially among young people, as 62% of millennials and 57% of teens want brands to offer more ways to rent.

However, Rent the Runway’s average consumer is 33 years-old, and in 9 out of 10 cases is a working professional living in a major city. While some experts suggest that everyday clothing is already very cheap, the rental system is also a touchpoint along the purchase journey, as the company offers discounts for previously borrowed clothing.

Elsewhere, startups are exploring the field: Girl Meets Dress in the UK, Chic By Choice in Europe and Glam Corner in Australia. In addition, services such as Borrow For Your Bump rents out maternity wear, cornering a temporary need state.

Recent research from YouGov also illuminated the millennial generation’s affinity with sharing economy services as 46% of millennials told the researcher that they would be willing to share ownership of a car in future.

Sourced from the Washington Post, Business of Fashion; additional content by WARC staff