Express is now offering a $70-per-month apparel rental subscription, a price point that beats similar services from Ann Taylor ($95 monthly for three items) and Rent-the-Runway ($89 monthly for four).
The program hews closely to Ann Taylor’s parameters: three items per box, free shipping both ways, free laundry, the opportunity to switch out items or keep them "forever," which Express says will "save on the retail price every time," according to the retailer's website.
Apparel (not including shoes or accessories) is available in women’s sizes 00-18 and XXS-XL, according to the retailer’s website. Express notes that customers are likely to be wearing used clothing, kept in pristine condition. Normal wear and tear is expected and isn’t penalized, the company also said.
Express is joining the subscription craze as new questions have arisen about the model's viability.
Customer acquisition and retention are the sticking points, especially for more discretionary items like apparel, in contrast to replenishment categories like grooming, research shows. Nearly 40% of subscribers of any service type cancel, according to a report from McKinsey and Co. earlier this year. More than a third cancel in less than three months, and over half cancel within six, McKinsey found.
Consumers don't see themselves shopping through subscription boxes, according to new research from GPShopper, a Synchrony solution conducted by third-party research firm YouGov, which was emailed to Retail Dive. More than a quarter of consumers (28%) say they are unlikely to use subscription boxes to shop in 10 years, the study showed. And subscription boxes aren't resonating as a portal to discovery: Just 7% of Americans became a repeat customer of a product and only 8% discovered a new favorite brand through such services, according to the GPShopper study.
"The inclination to fall in line with competitors might, in fact, be retailers’ biggest downfall," Maya Mikhailov, co-founder and CMO of GPShopper, Synchrony, told Retail Dive in an email. "Those who intend to exist 10 years down the line need to listen to what their customers want, instead of investing all of their resources trying to implement the latest tech trends."
That research comes amid some trouble at the premier service in the space. Stitch Fix — which positions itself as a styling service rather than subscription-based rental like Ann Taylor, Rent-the-Runway and the new offer from Express — finds itself turning to more expensive marketing to boost customer acquisition. Stitch Fix this week posted fourth quarter revenues that landed below expectations. Executives said they will renew television advertising to reach more potential new subscribers.