Rent the Runway's New User Base: Sorority Girls


rent the runway gossip girl style dress

A screengrab of Rent the Runway's teen-inspired Gossip Girl collection.

Blame it on the yearly spring formals. Or the endless Facebook tagging. But as every woman knows, you can’t wear the same dress twice anymore, lest your fashion faux paus be displayed on Facebook for all to see. Enter Rent The Runway‘s brilliant marketing ploy.

As fashion’s “Netflix for Couture,” Rent The Runway has already revolutionized the bridal market with its promise of cheap designer gowns or jewelry for every woman — as long as she returns it the next day. But now, the e-commerce site has targeted another customer base: sorority girls.

College campuses, and even some fancy prep schools, make up about 25% of the company’s business, the Wall Street Journal reports. And their appeal to this demographic should come as no surprise to founders Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss, who aimed to reach fashion-conscious (and cash-light) students from the start.

rent the runway gossip girl style dress

A screengrab of Rent the Runway's teen-inspired Gossip Girl collection.

Many of the styles offered on the site cater to the teen demographic, including categories like Prom, Spring Break, Sorority Formals, and Gossip Girl Style. And with rentals as low as $50, wearing BCBG won’t cost more than a trip to Forever 21.

The site has also initiated an on-campus slew of “Runway Representatives” to help sell (or rent out) its merch. They’ve proven very successful, and the next in line to receive these on-campus reps are prep schools. As the WSJ notes, with 150 reps on 50 campuses, college-specific taglines like “Have a one-night stand with fashion” are clearly working.

“The interesting thing about college is it’s a very insular atmosphere” where women have a lot of influence on each other, says Brooke Hartmann, Rent The Runway’s director of social marketing. “When there’s a formal, we’re shipping 20 boxes,” she adds.

Preying on college girls’ desires to impress their beefy prom/formal/frat party dates — or each other — using the relatively new tools of e-commerce is a pretty brilliant strategy, in our view. As any marketer knows, the young female demographic is a major get, and Rent the Runway has found a unique way to capture it (which likely won’t last — no doubt dress-rental competitors are planning to launch as we speak).

Still, the question remains of how this huge teen appeal will affect the rest of Rent the Runway’s customers. The twentysomething fashionista set rarely aspires to look the same as sorority girls. And do career women in their 30s and 40s really want to risk wearing the same dress their daughter or niece are rocking?


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