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November 16, 2021

M&S trials rental model in bid for sustainable growth

Marks & Spencer (M&S) has launched its first clothing rental trial, underscoring its commitment to drive the circular economy as part of its Plan A target to become a Scope 3 net zero business by 2040.

By Hannah Abdulla

Marks & Spencer (M&S) has launched the initiative following its latest Founders Factory joint venture investment in the Zoa Group, the operator of leading clothing rental website Hirestreet.

First launched in 2018, the M&S Founders Factory Joint Venture is designed to identify and accelerate emerging businesses and provide M&S with valuable insight into industry change and trends.

The new partnership allows M&S to conduct its first ‘test and learn’’ trial in the clothing rental market, which according to GlobalData will be worth US$2.3bn by 2029.

Launching ahead of the busy Christmas party season, M&S’s first rental edit is made up of over 40 womenswear pieces from its Autograph range, with a focus on premium fabrics such as leather and silk, and the very latest dresses from its M&S X Ghost collaboration.

The collection items have a selling price of betweenGBP£69-GBP299 with M&S and will be available to rent on Hirestreet from GBP13 for four days.

M&S COO Katie Bickerstaffe says: “Clothing rental is a growing market and working with Hirestreet through our Founders Factory joint venture gives us a huge opportunity to learn from the leading start-up in this space, operate in an agile way, and better understand what our customers want from rental services.

“As we grow M&S clothing, we want to be more relevant more often and we know customers are increasingly interested in the circular fashion economy. Our partnership with Hirestreet means we are putting M&S clothing in front of new customers and our first rental edit doesn’t just showcase the style we have on offer, it also highlights the value and quality of clothing that is made to last.”

A key driver of the decision has been consumers’ growing awareness of sustainability when purchasing clothing.

M&S’ trial on Hirestreet follows the recent reset of its sustainability programme Plan A to have an “unrelenting focus” on becoming a fully net zero business by 2040. One of the pillars of the retailer’s roadmap to net zero is driving the circular economy and its new partnership with Zoa reflects its commitment to innovate and invest in products and services that help customers enjoy lower carbon lives.

fIsabella West, Founder and CEO, Zoa Rental and Hirestreet adds: “At Zoa we’re on a mission to transform the future of fashion. M&S is one of the largest clothing retailers in the UK with a reputation for quality and well-made clothes. Their move into rental is a hugely positive step forwards for the fashion industry.

“True sustainability does not exist without accessibility. Rental fashion is more than just providing temporary access to designer items, it’s about giving consumers alternatives to traditional consumption and making the best use of the resources we have.”

Product mix is key

Emily Salter, retail analyst at GlobalData told Just Style the move makes its more premium products such as the M&S X Ghost collection, accessible to a greater number of shoppers, as the rental prices are significantly less than the RRP and are relatively low versus other items offered by other rental platforms.

“This is in line with the retailer’s strategy to put value first, but in a more innovative way than simply lowering the prices of items.

“However, M&S needs to ensure that it gets the product mix right, as current consumer attitudes surrounding clothing rental mean that it is heavily skewed towards occasionwear, so it should consider launching exclusive rental products tailored towards this, for example for summer weddings and Christmas parties.

“M&S’ decision to trial clothing rental is a smart move to remain relevant to shoppers who are increasingly eco-conscious, and it has recognised that it must innovate and trial such concepts to keep up with the evolving fashion market and attract younger shoppers.”

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