M&S forges fashion partnerships for womenswear rental and childrenswear resale

Image: M&S

The retailer has partnered with clothing rental platform Hirestreet to make 40 items from its Spring womenswear collection available to borrow. From this week, 16 items will be available to borrow, with the rest due to be added in the coming weeks and months.

Hirestreet enables shoppers to rent items for either four, 10, or 30 days. Customers order their rentals online for home delivery, and are given instructions on how to send them back once their rental period is over. Hirestreet then manages the cleaning process. Should customers choose not to wear the items, they receive credit to spend on future bookings.

M&S first trialled rentals via Hirestreet last year, during the Autumn/Winter fashion season, with a smaller collection. It claims the new collection will be the largest from a high-street brand to be listed on Hirestreet to date.

“At M&S our focus is ensuring our product is more relevant, more often for our customers’ lives – that’s not just what we offer but how,” said M&S’s managing director for clothing and homewares, Richard Price.

“We know customers are increasingly interested in the circular economy and rental which is why we started our exciting partnership with Hirestreet last year. The feedback so far has been great with Hirestreet users discovering the everyday style and value of our clothing on the platform. We’re continuing to test and learn this Spring/Summer with a new collection which is perfect for a range of occasions – including the holidays and special events we know consumers are really looking forward to.”

Rental is becoming a fast-growing way for fashion retailers to appeal to consumers who are increasingly aware of the sector’s environmental impact – particularly the significant amount of waste produced at the customer level. The Ellen MacArthur Foundation estimates that a bin lorry of fashion is landfilled or incinerated every second, due to growing consumption and a lack of appropriate reuse and recycling systems. Polling of M&S’s customers found that more than one-third now consider the climate impact of their clothing when making a purchase.

A further benefit of rental touted by M&S is cost savings. Items that would cost £55 to buy new can be rented for just £11 for four days, rising to £16 for four days for an £89 dress. Hirestreet also offers ‘bundles’, whereby customers can rent three outfits for 30 days for £50.

This is not to say that rental is without its challenges – both in terms of customer behaviour change and logistics, and environmental sustainability. On the sustainability side of things, shipping and dry-cleaning clothing are both high-impact activities which, if not managed properly by providers, can push the lifecycle footprint of a rented garment higher than a new one which is worn a handful of times and then discarded.

Pre-loved childrenswear

Rental isn’t the only alternative fashion business model being explored by M&S; earlier this month, the retailer announced an investment in – and a trial with – peer-to-peer childrenswear marketplace Dotte. Dotte hosts a digital platform whereby parents and guardians can buy, sell and donate used clothing. It also offers users a route to textile recycling for clothing that is not in good enough condition for resale and donation.

The platform was launched in 2020, with co-founders Louise Weiss and Samantha Valentine acknowledging that kidswear often ends up as waste given how quickly it is outgrown, and given the lack of solutions to help parents and guardians avoid binning used items. 1.83 million items of children’s clothing are estimated to be sent to landfill in the UK each year.

M&S is incentivising Dotte users who sell or donate used clothing from the M&S Kidswear range with vouchers for money off their next purchase. In total, 16 British kidswear brands are now partnered with Dotte, with M&S being the largest.

“We design and make our products so that the M&S label means quality – product that can be handed down – because we believe style shouldn’t cost the earth,” said M&S’s head of kidswear Alice Duggan. “Pre-loved selling is a growing market and, through joining the Dotte resale collective, we’re looking forward to learning more from an agile start-up and supporting the circular economy.”

Action inspires action. Stay ahead of the curve with sustainability and energy newsletters from edie