Children’s apparel is a big and growing market. As of 2018, according to Euromonitor research, the global children’s apparel industry is worth $203 billion — and growing quickly at 5 percent a year.
Children’s clothes are in fact the fastest growing apparel category. Some of that growth is organic — literally. Children grow quickly, which means they outgrow clothes quickly: by the age of 2, children have been through an average of seven clothing sizes.
But some of that growth is socially induced — while parents were always fated to spend over $10,000 outfitting their offspring between birth and age 18, affluent modern parents are spending not just to keep their children in clothes, but also on trend. Balenciaga, Prada, Gucci, Supreme — the list of designer lines with kid labels has gone from zero to 60 over the last three or four years. And the Euromonitor numbers reflect that growth — as of 2018 designer children's wear was a $6 billion industry.
Which is why Rent the Runway is pushing into the kids clothes market, with subscriptions built to offer label-conscious parents a slightly more affordable mechanism to keep their kids on trend.
“Many of our members have kids and are the primary shoppers, so giving them access to clothing for their children was a no-brainer. Kids are constantly growing, making rental the perfect and environmentally sustainable solution — especially for fashion forward or high-formality items. And kids are messy. Who wants to dry-clean a kid's dress? ” CEO Jennifer Hyman noted in an interview with Forbes.
The system is designed to basically fold children's clothing into a primary member account, with the kid inventory being part of a what a member can choose to rent as part of their Unlimited and Update subscription memberships. Moreover, she noted, as part of this launch, Rent the Runway is co-launching Extra Spots for Unlimited and Update memberships. The new feature allows subscribers to add on as many other outfit slots for their accounts as they need — and flex that number of spots up or down each month accordingly. Additional spots will cost $39 per month for Unlimited and $25 for Update.
The move comes as Rent the Runway has evolved far from its roots as an early pioneer in rented instead of owned high fashion items for women. The expansion, according to Hyman, has been fast and unpredictable.
Three years ago, she noted, before the firm launched its Unlimited option — which allows users to select four styles per month for $159 — the most common use for the site was for special occasion rentals of designer dresses and gowns.
“Now, our most engaged members are wearing rented clothing 120 days a year,” she said.
Which in her view means expansion is the next and most natural step for the business — along with as diversity in what it offers consumers. About a month ago, Rent the Runway announced its first foray into the retail world outside of fashion with a home goods rental partnership with West Elm. The service allows users to select from 26 bundles for the bedroom or living room. That service will launch this summer, Hyman noted, and their expectations for their new children's launch are high. Phrases like “the potential is limitless” and “expand exponentially,” were used.
And as always, such terms should be taken with a grain of salt — potential is always limitless but how good and how popular a product or service can be is often a matter of execution. Rent the Runway now has to deliver designer labels for kids and stylish home furnishing as well. Both are often harder than people think — and Rent the Runway has to find a way to get outfits through multiple child-wear without those outfits being destroyed, which can be challenge in kids clothes. As Hyman pointed out, kids are messy.
But Rent the Runway is ambitious, as has delivered in the past in the arena of women’s clothes. Now, the firm wants to see just how much more it can rent out, outside the typical runway.
“We want to be the Amazon Prime of rental — the premiere destination for all products that you don’t need to own, which will now include children’s clothing,” Hyman said. “We think the category expansion will make our membership even more appealing to our current and future members.”