Following in the recent footsteps of Bloomingdale’s and Urban Outfitters, Gap Inc.’s Banana Republic is offering a subscription service for women’s apparel. The service, called “Style Passport,” costs $85 per month for a three-garment plan that includes free priority shipping, unlimited exchanges/returns and complimentary laundering services.
Banana Republic also will offer buy online/pick up in-store (BOPIS) beginning in Fall 2019.
Banana Republic, like its sister division Gap, has struggled to gain consumer share in recent years amid criticism of its merchandise and an inability to adapt to macro fashion trends, so the subscription program (and the late introduction of BOPIS) are clear attempts at attracting consumers with other value propositions. The slowed interest in the company’s apparel offerings, however, makes the addition of a subscription business seem more like a shot in the dark than an actual improvement for a retailer that saw same-store sales fall 3% in Q1.
“There is no doubt that rental is growing but it is only growing in certain parts of the apparel market,” said Neil Saunders, Managing Director at GlobalData Retail in a RetailWire discussion. “Basic, everyday clothing is not a significant growth segment. And basic, everyday clothing is what Banana Republic sells. What’s more, Banana Republic’s problem is that its styles are often mismatched with what consumers want. If people don’t want product then it doesn’t matter how you offer it to them. They won’t rent, buy or otherwise acquire it.”
Whereas Rent The Runway built a successful business model on offering high-end dresses and accessories for an affordable price, it remains to be seen whether Banana Republic can provide enough pricing value through a similar model.
Banana Republic partnered with rental technology platform CaaStle (Clothing as a Service) to develop Style Passport and will utilize its white glove service to handle logistics while delivering a seamless experience. Express, Ann Taylor, New York & Co. and American Eagle all have launched rental services through the service.
Old Navy, Banana Republic’s other sister division, saw a 1% same-store sales loss in the quarter but has traditionally done a better job of keeping up with shopper needs in recent years. Because of this, Old Navy is being spun off into its own company, separate from the rest of the Gap Inc. brands.