Will Rent the Runway get hit by the coronavirus?

Discussion
Sources: Rent the Runway
Mar 05, 2020
George Anderson

Many Americans, if not scared, are certainly wary about what effects the coronavirus (COVID-19) may have on their lives as new reports show it spreading to more states across the U.S. As concern heightens, the impact is being felt at retail. Retailers are seeing a run on hand sanitizer in stores and online. Consumers planning for possible quarantines are stocking up on shelf-stable items and other supplies.

Now, comes word that Rent the Runway has added a new item to its FAQ page about how it cleans its garments to prevent the spread of viruses, including COVID-19. The upscale clothing rental service also sent an email to subscribers to allay their concerns.

Rent the Runway cites Harvard Health in stating “there is currently no evidence that COVID-19 can be transmitted from soft surfaces like fabric or carpet to humans. In addition, our cleaning agents and practices are designed to kill viruses such as the common cold and flu. While scientific information is still developing, we have no reason to believe that our processes are ineffective against COVID-19.”

To be absolutely clear about the concern that it takes regarding the care of its garments, the FAQ says its fulfillment center teams use a variety of techniques to clean the items it ships. “All garments go through a wet or dry cleaning process. They also go through an additional steaming process, which heats items to between 248°F and 302°F with the exception of faux fur, select outerwear, leather, and faux leather garments, which still go through standard cleaning processes. According to the CDC, flu viruses are killed by heat above 167°F. Every garment is then enclosed in plastic for protection and cleanliness, which we ask customers to return for recycling.”

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: How likely is the coronavirus to cut into the rental and sales of secondhand clothing retailers? Was Rent the Runway’s response to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus sufficient to allay fears among its current and prospective subscribers?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"All the assurances notwithstanding, people will react emotionally and not scientifically."
"Was the Rent the Runway response enough? Not likely, we are dealing with emotion, not reality."
"Another concern for Rent the Runway is the cancellation of events, gatherings, and parties – a lot of consumers rent products for those occasions..."

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10 Comments on "Will Rent the Runway get hit by the coronavirus?"


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Bob Amster
BrainTrust

All the assurances notwithstanding, people will react emotionally and not scientifically. Rent the Runway and other business like it will be negatively impacted by the coronavirus.

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

What Bob said.

Mark Ryski
BrainTrust

If coronavirus breaks loose, it’s going to affect all retailers and second hand clothing may be particularly hard hit. While I appreciate that Rent the Runway posted a message about their cleaning procedures, there’s still so much not known about the virus it’s impossible for Rent the Runway (or anyone else for that matter) to be confident. I suspect that we’ll be dealing with the coronavirus issue well into this year and maybe even longer.

Neil Saunders
BrainTrust

Even though there is no evidence so far that you can catch the virus from fabric, I expect consumer worries could diminish demand for rental and secondhand products. This might only be at the margins, but it will still be unhelpful. Another concern for Rent the Runway is the cancellation of events, gatherings, and parties – a lot of consumers rent products for those occasions and if demand goes down there could be a knock-on impact.

Brandon Rael
BrainTrust

Every single business and service provider will be impacted by the potential chaos from the coronavirus. Rent the Runway, as well as the other leading sharing economy companies, including Uber, Airbnb, WeWork, will have to take the necessary precautions to ensure that they are transparent around their policies.

Rent the Runway, along with all the other subscription clothing providers in particular, will need to step up their game and be fully transparent around the measures they are taking to ensure that the clothing has been cleaned and sanitized beyond their normal day to day operations. These are uncertain times, and consumers expect companies to respond accordingly.

Gene Detroyer
BrainTrust

Not to make the concern for COV-19 any less serious, but the response of the general population is laughable. In this case, as in most, study the facts (facts from healthcare professionals, not from the internet).

Assuming the virus could be transmitted on the surface of a product, consider how many people have touched a shirt, jacked, skirt, toy in a traditional store versus a second-hand store. It seems to me that the exposure of that product is massively greater in traditional retailers than in second-hand retailers.

Was the Rent the Runway response enough? Not likely, we are dealing with emotion, not reality.

I had to smile this morning when the MTA announced they are disinfecting the subway cars every 72 hours. I am not saying they should not, but even if they disinfected them every day, within the next 24 hours, 6 million people will bring their germs into the tightly confined environment that is mass transit.

Peter Charness
BrainTrust

Some of their customers won’t be reassured, and a lot of their customers won’t be going out as much and needing the service. It’s going to be a tough time for most retailers, restaurants, and entertainment venues.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

There was a recent survey that found 38 percent of American beer drinkers won’t buy Corona “under any circumstances” at the moment. People are scared and are still searching for answers. Rent the Runway, secondhand retailers, and retail in general will have a tough time until more is known. Every business will be affected.

Sheri Blattel
Guest

The rapid spread of Covid-19, the varying information available and the myriad of press releases has placed cause for concern on everyone’s mind. Transparent and accurate communication is critical from retailers to consumers in these uncertain times. As mentioned, events and gatherings are being cancelled and/or postponed nationally at a multitude of levels. For Rent the Runway, those events are a driving factor in their business platform. They are certain to see an impact as well as all other secondhand and rental entities. The reality is that the impact spreads beyond this segment to all business as well as retailers, suppliers, entertainment venues, restaurants, malls, and places of gathering until there is confidence re-established surrounding the spread and impact of this virus. While there is risk associated with the virus, vigilant hygiene and appropriate precautions are the best defense.

Gregory Osborne
BrainTrust

Was Rent the Runway’s response adequate? Yes, in the sense that it would be hard to do better. No, in the sense that many (a) will never see it, or (b) will react based on their emotions, not the facts. Many retailers are being dealt difficult cards; at least Rent-the-Runway played its hand well.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"All the assurances notwithstanding, people will react emotionally and not scientifically."
"Was the Rent the Runway response enough? Not likely, we are dealing with emotion, not reality."
"Another concern for Rent the Runway is the cancellation of events, gatherings, and parties – a lot of consumers rent products for those occasions..."

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