How Rent the Runway is turning traditional retail on its head

Josh Builder Rent the Runway

“We are not an ecommerce business – it sounds like a soundbite, but it’s true.”

It’s a bold claim by Rent the Runway’s chief technology officer and head of product Josh Builder, given that he works for a business whose primary purpose is helping women beef up their wardrobes, but it is an assertion he is confident he can back up.

When discussing one of the perennial problems facing online retailers today, Builder points to a crucial difference between his platform and theirs: “We have a 100% returns rate on our inventory and it is a vital component of our business model.”

Builder argues that because Rent the Runway’s operating model depends on its customers returning all of their purchases, and shoppers pay for access to the platform’s ‘closet in the cloud’, rather than to own the stock themselves, the platform is not an ecommerce platform in the traditional sense of the word, but a subscription service.

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