By Melissa Fares
NEW YORK (Reuters) - Rent the Runway will partner with Williams-Sonoma Inc's West Elm brand to allow subscribers to rent home decor, the clothing rental company said on Thursday.
The New York City-based company, which has previously only rented out designer apparel and accessories, will let customers try out soft home goods, including quilts, blankets, shams and decorative pillows made by West Elm beginning in the summer. The items will be available in 26 "bundles" ranging in retail value from $150 to $450.
Founded in 2009 by Jennifer Hyman and Jenny Fleiss, Rent the Runway is one of a handful of clothing rental companies that have pitched themselves as an alternative to fast fashion players like H&M and Zara.
Rent the Runway's unlimited subscribers pay $159 a month to rent four items at a time from a selection of more than 600 designers of clothing and accessories, for as long as they like.
The home good bundles would count as one of the four items.
"One of the things that we continue to hear from our subscribers, other than that they want more, was what other parts of my life can you solve and home was something that kept popping up," said Maureen Sullivan, chief operating officer at Rent the Runway, adding that the partnership would give the company more access to data in hopes of luring in new customers.
"We have a ton of learnings around what people want to rent in apparel and accessories, but we don't know what people want to rent for their home."
The partnership with Rent the Runway, whose customer is an average age of 29, will also potentially help West Elm attract a younger generation of shoppers, Sullivan said.
On home goods retailer Williams-Sonoma's last earnings call in November, Chief Executive Officer Laura Alber highlighted that product mix and lower price points have helped the company bring in new shoppers across brands.
"West Elm continues to grow its business across not just furniture but in other categories... And so they're attracting younger customers and customers coming into the market with not only price point but mix," Alber said, adding that they have also had success with Williams-Sonoma's dinnerware line Open Kitchen, which is "attracting a younger clientele and new customers to the brand."
This is the first time West Elm has made products available for rent.
"Together we can listen and respond to customer shopping behavior, allowing demand to drive iteration," said President of West Elm, Alex Bellos. Bellos did not provide comment on whether the partnership would lure in younger shoppers.
Fleiss also co-founded Jetblack, part of Walmart.com Inc's first portfolio company, Store No. 8., in 2018. Jetblack is a same-day delivery service where customers can place orders using a text message.
(Reporting by Melissa Fares in New York)