Earlier this month I finally had a reason to try out a new clothing rental company called Routinely. Routinely markets itself as "Workout clothes on demand." Essentially, it's an app where you can rent workout clothes up to 2 hours before a workout class or gym session, having the clothes brought to your office or workout facility.
I'll be honest, I don't really work out that much (or....ever....) I would really like to, but it's just one of those things that I just never seem to have much time left for at the end of the day! But, the week of the 4th of July that changed. My old roommate was teaching one of her last workout classes at Jane Do in Hoboken, NJ, I was getting out of work early due to the slow business around the holiday, AND I DIDN'T BRING CLOTHES FOR CLASS WITH ME.
I finally did it, I had a reason for Routinely!
Routinely had been on my radar since Summer 2018 when an old coworker shared it with me. Immediately I was intrigued. I was already renting clothes from Le Tote, and while they offered athleisure options, I never wanted to use my allotted clothing items on workout clothes (I wanted to use them on cool statement pieces!). Yet, I knew that clothes with elastic and spandex are some of the WORST offenders of fast fashion (A pair of leggings can take 20-200 years to decompose in a landfill!). Routinely seemed like a good idea, I just needed a reason to use it - which is why it took a year to finally get me to bite the bullet!
I rented on Routinely on July 3rd, it made it to my office in the first 20 minutes of the 2 hour delivery window, I had an awesome workout in my pants, t shirt and sports bra, and then I was able to keep the clothes for 3 days before returning via Fedex or UPS. Needless to say, when I woke up to an email on July 17th saying Routinely was going out of business, I was surprised!
Here I thought I had found a cool new rental service, but it's already gone! In a world of MANY clothing rental companies (Le Tote, Rent the Runway Unlimited, American Eagle Style Drop, etc) and with brands starting their own programs all the time, it's kind of shocking that a rental company could go out of business - the market is hot! So, with this in mind, I'm going to pundit a few reasons why Routinely couldn't last, and hopefully future clothing rental companies can learn from this. Clothing rentals are the way of the future, we need them to last, and keep our landfills fashion free!
1) Split mailing options; Routinely was really convenient for the renter, because we had two options for returning, UPS or Fedex. No doubt, having two business accounts split their business with each postal retailer, making it harder to negotiate for deals due to volume.
2) "Rent New" - Routinely constantly had to have a stock of new options for every item on their app due to their "Rent New option." Why rent new?! That's just online shopping! The whole point is to rent and reuse with an app like Routinely. I understand a lot of the general public's apprehension with Routinely in the first place may have been the squickiness of renting someone's "sweaty" clothes, but with more heavy advertising on the commercial laundry services, as well as the environmental impact of elastic (and Routinely's post-rental cycle donations), I think this apprehension could be overcome, without needing so many new clothes on hand.
3) Most rental companies rely upon mailing the products to the renters, Routinely's business model was based upon being able to rent "on demand," which relies on having a fleet of delivery people, which can be tough and expensive! By rolling out in a few high volume locations and keeping stock on site (kinda like an onsite merch shop a la Peloton or Equinox, but rentable attire), that cuts down on courier service, and potentially even shipping, if people can leave the clothes at the studio, a dedicated Routinely employee could then come at the end of the day (or week) and pick up the dirty items for the commercial launderer. Sounds like less travel stops to me!
4) Lack of accessories on the platform. The Routinely app/site was largely clothes with some shoes, sock and a small handful of accessories (wraps for boxing classes). If they had added an ability to rent more niche accessories (yoga mats, barre socks, ballet shoes, etc) people that may have held back because they STILL did not have everything needed to take a class may have made the leap!
5) Grassroots advertising...perhaps I'm not searching for the right things, but despite being a Classpass user, having a gym membership (even if I don't use it, it's still there!), and actively researching clothing rental companies, I never heard about Routinely, or saw an ad from them ANYWHERE. Cookies be damned! I heard about Routinely once from an old coworker, and that was it. Nary a subway ad, a standee by check in at a yoga studio, NOTHING. More brand visibility would have no doubt helped for sure.
While I enjoyed my Routinely experience and am sad to see the platform go away, another rental brand is surely on the horizon (and in the meantime, you can still rent activewear from other rental companies). Renting is the way of the future (for better or worse), and we'll all just keep sweating in each other's clothes as time goes by (Have you rode the subway this summer? If yes, you've probably already worn someone else's sweat!). The closeout sale is still happening, now 70% off, so snag some discounted Nikes while you still can!