Banana Republic hops on board the latest retail trend

Banana Republic has joined the growing ranks of retail companies that are letting consumers rent apparel.

Banana Republic on Friday said it will launch an online subscription rental service for women at the end of September, with the goal of adding men’s apparel at a later date. Called “Style Passport,” the service will allow customers to rent three items for the monthly fee of $85, with the option to purchase any piece. The plan includes free priority shipping, unlimited exchanges and returns, and complimentary laundering services.

Banana Republic’s move into apparel rental subscription comes as more and more traditional retailers are jumping into a market dominated by industry pioneer Rent the Runway. Last week, Macy’s confirmed its Bloomingdale’s division would introduce “My List at Bloomindale’s” in mid-September. The monthly subscription service will feature an assortment that includes hundreds of women’s apparel items from more than 60 brands. On a call with industry analysts Wednesday, Macy CEO Jeff Gennette said the Bloomingdale’s effort could lead to Macy's offering a rental subscription

In July, Urban Outfitters went live with its Nuuly apparel rental subscription service, which lets subscribers choose from the retailer’s namesake, Free People and Anthropologie brands, along with third-party labels and one-of-a-kind vintage pieces. American Eagle, Express and Ann Taylor also have introduced apparel rental programs.

There is little mystery as to why retailers are so eager to rent out their goods. According to a report from GlobalData, the rental subscription market, which is dominated by Rent the Runway, was valued at around $1 billion in 2018 and is expected to grow more than 20% a year, reaching $2.5 billion by 2023. Rental is also a good way to attract younger consumers new to the brand.

To develop Style Passport, Banana Republic partnered with rental technology platform CaaStle, which will handle logistics for the program. Bloomingdale's and Ann Taylor are also partnering with CaaStle for their rental offerings.

“We’re constantly evolving with our customer, meeting her where she is shopping. Style Passport will drive incremental revenue, and help us connect with younger shoppers who appreciate great style and want an affordable, sustainable way to try new fashion,” said Mark Breitbard, CEO and president of Banana Republic, a division of Gap Inc. “With this new service, we’ll gather valuable insights from a highly interactive customer base that can be used to design future product and experiences.”

Banana Republic said it also offer buy-online-pick-up-in store beginning in the fall of 2019.