What Rental Startups Can Learn From Rent the Runway’s Shipping Outages


Rent the Runway announced on Tuesday morning that its operations are “back in business” following days of “logistics problems and shipping delays.” The fashion rental platform published a statement confirming the company completed its promised system upgrades ahead of schedule, allowing the site to take new orders and new subscribers once again.

As Observer previously reported, Rent the Runway originally estimated new orders would not be processed until October 15, but its appears the around-the-clock upgrades have done the trick.

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“As we continue transforming the traditional model of clothing consumption, we may not always be perfect, but please know that we will never stop investing in making your renting experience the best it can be,” the company said in a statement.

Rent the Runway noted that the incident is part of “breaking ground” as an e-commerce startup; however, some industry experts believe similar hiccups can be avoided to help reduce customer frustration in the future. While a company as large as Rent the Runway, currently valued at $1 billion, generally operates using sophisticated fulfillment technology, shipping outages do cost time and money to rebuild consumer trust. For example, the company is issuing $200 gift cards to customers with canceled orders.

“In order to avoid this type of disruption in supply chain operations, rental service startups should make sure they are investing in AI (artificial intelligence) and cloud-driven services that amplify operations on the backend,” said Ronen Luzon, CEO of retail solutions startup MySizeID.

As managing director of Fluent Commerce, Rob Shaw told Observer that Rent the Runway’s major issue rose from launching a new system “without running all failovers.”

“This launch resulted in a major crash of the system that resulted in their inventory no longer being visible,” Shaw explained.

Luzon, who also founded parcel measurement app BoxSizeID, explained the importance of utilizing platforms and technologies for shipping logistics, “which allows rental services to reduce operating expenses and improve operational efficiency.” With more online retailers applying the rental model, customers’ expectations of receiving their orders quickly are increasing.

“I would advise all rental startups to make sure you are clear on what you’re looking to deliver to consumers,” Shaw continued. And those looking to debut a new service in this category “will need to allow plenty of time to test the software first—before officially running it.”

The pressure to fulfill orders quickly was evidently felt by Rent the Runway’s internal team, Shaw said. “Rental startups should be wary of not pushing back on this sort of pressure and only launching new services when completely sure that they are fine-tuned.”