Startups use Netflix rental model for clothing, jewelry

May 20, 2013 6:44:05 AM PDT
It's been more than 15 years since the start of Netflix revolutionized the movie rental business. Now that same model is being applied to fashion -- a monthly subscription to shake up your closet.

A lot of young professionals want some excitement in their attire. But why buy when you can rent for less and have somebody else do the work?

We talked to customers of San Francisco-based Rocksbox, an online jewelry rental business.

"I'm super busy all the time, so it's nice to have someone pick stuff out and send it right to your door," customer Chelsea Norton said.

Mackenzie Vaillancourt added, "I'm afraid of having buyer's remorse, and when I try on pieces in the store or look at something online, I think that looks really cool. When I get it home I never have anything to wear with it."

Rocksbox eliminates that problem. Members pay $19 a month. They fill out an online profile. Then a stylist uses those preferences to select three pieces of designer jewelry and ship it to the customer.

"She can wear for up to two months and can exchange it as often as she wants, anytime for three new pieces," said Rocksbox founder Meaghan Rose

If you really love a piece, you can buy it at a discount.

Another San Francisco startup called Le Tote has a similar business model, with both jewelry and clothes.

"Most women grew up sharing clothes, whether it be with their sister, their cousins, their friends, this is a trend that doesn't go away," Le Tote co-founder Brett Northart said.

But now Le Tote allows you to share with strangers too. Members pay $49 a month for a box with three pieces of clothing and two pieces of jewelry. You can keep it as long as you want. When you send it back, the merchandise is inspected and cleaned for the next customer.

Shirley Bartov has been a customer for four months, "Every time I get a package, I get really excited and I want to open it up and see what's inside," she said.

Bartov filled out her preferences online and loves the service. But her first package was not quite right.

"Just didn't fit my body type, wasn't really my style," Bartov said. "So I sent an email to them with just feedback on what I liked, what I didn't like and my next package was great."

We watched as she opened her latest box containing two blouses, a necklace, a cuff bracelet, earrings, and a dress. Every item was a hit.

If you are a man looking for a fashion update, check out the Tie Society website. It costs $10 to $50 a month, depending on how many ties you rent at a time. With this service, you choose the ties you want.

"It allows me to have access to designer ties and designer wear that I wouldn't normally have access to because of price point," customer Jesse Meyer-Appel said.

All these rental companies repair minor damage for free, but you pay for serious damage or loss.

Remember, it's up to you to get the most for your money. The faster you wear and return the items, the more new merchandise you get for your monthly service fee.

Written and produced by Jennifer Olney


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