Rent the Runway adds a new subscription option that allows renters to swap clothes more often

Key Points
  • Rent the Runway adds a new subscription option.
  • The clothing rental service is changing how women think about shopping for clothes.
  • The company is making it easier to rent, and buy less from traditional apparel retailers.
Jennifer Hyman, Rent the Runway 
Scott Mlyn | CNBC

Rent the Runway hopes a new membership option will encourage even more women to buy fewer clothes, and turn to renting.

The clothing and accessories rental service is launching a two-swap plan, it announced Tuesday.

Up until now, Rent the Runway had offered two plans. There is an unlimited subscription, where users pay $159 per month to borrow four items at any time, swapping those out as frequently as they want during the month. It also offers a one-swap plan, where customers pay $89 monthly to have four items at once that can be swapped at the turn of each month.

The new two-swap model gives users the ability to (you guessed it) swap out four items two times each month. It costs $135 per month.

"We are continuing to push the envelop to make [Rent the Runway] as easy to use as possible," said Anushka Salinas, its chief operating officer, in an interview. "You'll continue to see more and more of that from us this year."

The company said existing customers were looking for a "middle of the road" option. They did not necessarily need an unlimited Rent the Runway subscription, but wanted more than four pieces of clothes or accessories each month.

The company expects some of its one-swap users will be upgrading to the two-swap plan, according to Salinas. Rent the Runway also anticipates gaining new customers with this launch, she said. But there is always the risk that some of its unlimited members could opt to downgrade.

Last year, Rent the Runway received a new funding that boosted its private market valuation to $1 billion. All told, the company has raised more than $330 million.

Its business is growing as traditional retailers, including Kohl's and J.C. Penney, have seen women's apparel sales struggle. Some retailers, including Express, have even launched their own similar rental models to compete with Rent the Runway. 

Rent the Runway has also expanded into new categories. It now rents ski gear, workout apparel and more recently formal Indian wear. It also offers handbags, jewelry and home goods. And it has partnered with companies including Nordstrom, WeWork and Marriott International to put drop boxes, for its customers to return their clothes more speedily, at some of their properties.

But the growth has not come without obstacles.

Rent the Runway last fall briefly halted taking on new customers, citing kinks in its supply chain. Some frustrated users saw delays or even complete cancellations of their orders. Rent the Runway said it made an upgrade to its system to get back to business as usual in October.

The company then announced last month that it had hired a former Amazon exec, Brian Donato, to become the start-up's chief supply chain officer, taking the helm of Rent the Runway's logistics and customer service. It has also added Mike Roth, a former vice president of Amazon's North America operations, to its board.

"At the end of the day, we are a very large logistics company," Salinas said. "We need to continue to focus on this."

Rent the Runway was named to CNBC's 2019 Disruptor 50 list.

Rent the Runway's fulfillment center