The Millennial Report: Clothing Subscription Services- the Benefits and Challenges

Although statistics claim millennials are opposed to marriage, my calendar says otherwise. For the past few summers, I attended millennial weddings nearly every other weekend! As the weddings compounded, I found that I had more weddings to attend than outfits to wear, which put me in the midst of a wardrobe crisis. I didn’t want to repeatedly sport one dress in front of the same friends and have my fashion faux pas immortalized on social media.

I suppose I could have purchased a handful of new dresses for each wedding, but that would have cost me an exorbitant amount of money—what can I say? I have expensive taste

To help solve my predicament, I conducted a little research and discovered that many millennials (31%, in fact!) participate in subscription services that allow them to purchase or rent products, including dresses and accessories. Each month, subscribers receive new shipments right to their doors for a fraction of the cost of buying new products.

I concluded that the benefits of apparel and accessory subscription services seemed too good to pass up, so I gave one a shot. Here’s what I took away from my experience.

Benefits of Clothing Subscription Services 
  • Cost savings. The dresses I like are usually too expensive for one-time wear, and last summer I needed more dresses than I could afford. By signing up for a clothing subscription service, I paid a reasonable monthly fee for a wide selection of dresses, so I never had to repeat an outfit. Throughout one summer, I paid roughly a couple hundred dollars renting clothing as opposed to one thousand dollars if I bought the dresses on my own. 

If you want to save extra money on clothing rentals, try a subscription service such as Armoire that has tiered plans, allowing subscribers to budget according to their needs. 

  • Reduced risk. You can often score deals on clothing during sale seasons. But purchasing items on final sale is risky because there’s typically no return policy. 

To help customers mitigate the risk of buying new items, many subscription services like Rent the Runway and Vince Unfold offer purchase programs, in which subscribers can buy rented products at a discounted rate after trying them out for a while. This way, subscribers can vet items before committing. 

  • Commitment-free experimentation. Sometimes I’m hesitant to buy clothing or accessories outside my style comfort zone. A statement accessory might intrigue me, but I typically won’t purchase it if I’m not confident I’ll wear it. 

By signing up for a clothing subscription service, I got to rent and test all of the accessories I was too reluctant to buy. Subscription services like YogaClub, Comma Vintage, and Vivrelle offer subscribers the chance to safely experiment with new styles—some of which may be far outside their typical spending limits.

Challenges I Encountered with Subscription Services

Despite the many benefits of apparel and accessories subscription services, I learned that there are some drawbacks, too:

  • Lack of available inventory. My foray with subscription services began in June when wedding season was already in full swing. Due to the high demand of the season, almost all of the styles I liked were unavailable for months.
  • Limited sizing. I’m a little lady, and I often have difficulty finding clothes that fit me. The clothing subscription service I tested held very limited inventory in my size, which dramatically reduced my options.
  • Myth of sustainability. The fashion industry wreaks havoc on the environment. It accounts for 8-10% of global carbon emissions—that’s more than aviation and shipping combined! To counteract these dismal numbers, some clothing subscription services market themselves as environmentally friendly alternatives to stores that sell new clothes.

But a recent study assessed the environmental impact of clothing subscription services and showed that renting clothes is less green than throwing clothes into a landfill. That’s mostly due to various hidden environmental costs in clothing delivery and packaging. The best way consumers can shop responsibly is to buy sparingly and keep their clothes longer. 

Ultimately, I learned that apparel and accessories subscription services are incredibly convenient when you’re on a budget—even if you occasionally have to supplement your wardrobe with additional pieces on your own. 

Have you tried clothing subscription services?

Check out last month’s Millennial Report for more insight into the millennial mind.

Don’t let this opportunity to capture the millennial audience slip by. Contact Sophelle for more millennial marketing strategies.