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CSA Exclusive: BOOtique makes sure its rental process isn’t a scary one

As the clothing rental business heats up, BOOtique is the latest company to hop on the retail trend.

The Shenandoah, Texas-based costume retailer opened the doors to its first store 35 years ago, but it continues to look for new ways to expand its breadth. The company, which offers an assortment of high-quality costumes, theatrical makeup and accessories, operates two stores, and opened its online store in September. To get its brand in front of more customers, BOOtique will open a series of pop-ups across Texas this Halloween season, and is also considering a franchise operation,

As the company expands, BOOtique finds itself increasingly competing against more value-centric retailers that enable consumers to find their costume needs at lower price points.

“The consumer has the option to purchase cheaply made products at an all in one convenient locations like the Walmarts of the world,” said Ashley Cheatham, BOOtique’s owner. “Our challenge is providing the customer with superior products while matching or exceeding the convenience of the other options.”

The increased competition pushed BOOtique to pursue a new strategy, — costume rentals, both online and in-store. Chain Store Age spoke with Cheatham about how a new inventory management system is helping the company pursue its rental strategy.

What trends are impacting the growth of the rental retail category?
The convenience of shopping online has created a huge opportunity for growth in the rental retail category. Most people in today’s market don’t have the time or the desire to sit in traffic, and go to a store to find what they need. The ability to provide abundant choices online to a consumer seeking items for a specific purpose is a valuable service needed in today’s world. It just makes sense.

Everyone wants to look great, and in our industry, the option to rent instead of buy is a game changer. And that doesn’t stop with costumes, it is also true of [merchandise for] Halloween parties and theatrical events, for example.

What are challenges when it comes to competing in this space?
Retailers in the rental space always face the challenge of competing with the big-box stores. The option to rent for seasonal or one-time events gives us a competitive advantage, and another choice for the consumer.

To make the transition, we deployed the Renterval system, which integrated our point-of-sale and website, and gives us the ability to schedule rentals in store or online. Our customers can schedule their rentals or buy online without having to speak with an actual employee, and we don’t have to worry about accidentally selling an item that has been rented for the future.

How does the new system work?
Each SKU has its own calendar and inventory count. If an item is rented, it no longer shows as available to be purchased or rented until it has been returned to us and checked back into inventory. Having that ability to track our inventory means that we don’t have to separate our items based on rentals and sales. It all comes from the same pool.

How does it drive consumer engagement?
The Renterval system notifies the consumer when their rentals are due, it sends out receipts, confirmations, and other alerts. It is like having a support staff handling client relations in the background for the business.

What results have you seen since adding the system?
Since first rolling it out last August, we have been steadily improving our day-to-day sales, both in-store and online. Being able to manage our inventory and sell/rent online at the same time has created a huge change in how we function.

We plan to integrate our multiple pop-up stores into the Renterval system for the upcoming Halloween season. We are also redesigning our in-store POS system to closely mirror other retail experiences, while simultaneously managing the online inventory.
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