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Rent the Runway goes big in NYC


Online apparel-rental company Rent the Runway continues its brick-and-mortar expansion with the opening of its biggest store to date, a tech-savvy, 4,000-sq.-ft. flagship in Manhattan.

The stylish space merges the retailer’s digital assets with physical elements to create a very personalized customer experience, one based on each customer’s unique needs and past interactions with the brand.

“Everything around the store experience is based on our customer’s needs,” said Maureen Sullivan, president of Rent the Runway. “Ninety percent of our customers work, and the most important thing to them is their time. Everything has to be efficient as possible.”

To that end, a drop-off area, “RTR Post,” is located up front where customers can return their orders and exit the store — all in just 10 seconds. There is also a sleek service counter, reminiscent of Apple’s Genius Bar, where customers can pick up dresses ordered online, make an appointment for one of the store’s 16 fitting rooms — a text is sent when the room is ready — and browse the brand’s online offerings of 200,000-plus styles on tablets.

Rent the Runway added two new features to its mobile app to support the store experience: RTR Now, which provides a real-time view of the store’s inventory on a smartphone; and RTR Concierge, which enables shoppers to interact with store associates and preselect dresses they want to try on when they arrive.

Immersive display technology, from Samsung, is integrated throughout the flagship, starting with a huge video wall. Located up front, the wall is made of nine displays that bring the brand and its customers to life with exclusive content.

The main focal point of the store is an area called the “Dream Closet,” which combines built-in displays of the featured merchandise with four, 32-inch endcap digital displays and a spacious fitting room area. There are no mannequins or racks. The idea, Sullivan said, is for the customer to feel as if she is walking into a dream version of her very own closet — a closet that is continually updated with new brands and styles.

The digital displays highlight the depth of clothing available online, and serve as a “closet in the cloud,” giving customers access to Rent the Runway’s “endless aisle” of online offerings.

“The digital display features a live feed that pulls directly from our site,” Sullivan said. “It isn’t technology for technology’s sake, but technology that really enhances the customer experience.”

In the rear of the store, shoppers can interact with Samsung’s “Mirror Display,” which combines a mirror with an interactive screen that allows shoppers to try out different make-up looks as they try on different outfits.

Rent the Runway’s physical inventory changes on a daily basis. Customers can browse the styles on their own, or they can schedule an appointment and consult with a personal stylist in the luxurious Style Studio.

The flagship is Rent the Runway’s seventh physical location. The brand is also opening in-store shops at select Neiman Marcus stores. And it recently closed on a $60 million round of funding, led by Fidelity Management. Total investment now stands at $190 million.

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