A peer-to-peer rental marketplace is one that allows almost anyone to list their items for hire.
All The Dresses is unique in that we’re the only designer clothing rental marketplace in Australia where all the clothing is provided by professional rental businesses only. Individuals aren’t able to list items from their closet, and even the businesses we partner with need to go through a vetting process.
Overall this ensures that the quality of service is much higher. The people fulfilling your orders are really experienced in clothing hire. They know how to clean garments properly, they know how particular styles and fabrics should be packed and they have a good understanding of the Australia Post network.
Peer-to-peer platforms still have popularity though. They’ve been able to get a lot of press because they’ve sold the dream of making money out of the clothes sitting in your closet unused. But is it all it’s cracked up to be?
We break it up into 3 main categories – The Customer Experience, Sustainability and The Lender Experience.
The Customer Experience
The Booking Process
As a customer on a peer-to-peer platform, you don’t truly know what’s actually available for hire for your date, even for items that are offered by a professional business. If you like a dress, you can put through a request to book it, but then you need to wait for it to get accepted.
Most lenders are individuals with day jobs. Renting out their dresses is just something for a bit of extra income or a side-hustle. It’s not their highest priority to respond to requests quickly.
That makes it hard when you’re on a short timeframe and need to organise a different option if your booking request doesn’t get accepted.
Even the businesses that use the platform don’t have their live availability connected, so there’s every chance an item is already booked for your dates. You won’t know until the business responds to your request.
Quality & Reliability
Similarly, delivering on time and with the highest quality probably also isn’t the highest priority in the lives of many of the lenders on these platforms. Many lenders on the platform might’ve only rented out their items a handful of times before, or it might even be their first time!
They don’t run a full time business that has their reputation and livelihood on the line. A bad rating on the peer-to-peer platform really isn’t a big problem for the lender.
There’s a lot that can go wrong when you’re putting your trust for your big event in an individual that isn’t a professional and doesn’t have a big downside when they don’t deliver.
No business is perfect of course. Renting from a professional business doesn’t guarantee it’s always going to be a perfect experience. But we think there’s a reason the biggest peer-to-peer dress hire marketplaces in Australia don’t have their Google profile open for public reviews.
An argument that peer-to-peer platforms can make is that some of the lenders on the platform are actually professional businesses. This is true, but these businesses often need to charge a higher price there than they do in their stores or websites, to make up for the cut taken by the platform.
So as the customer, you pay more, and some platforms will even charge you a booking fee of up to 10% on top of this!
All The Dresses guarantees that every item listed on our website will be the same price as if you rent directly from the rental business that offers the item. Our partners commit to this, and they do so because our tech and the way we operate makes the whole process as little effort as possible for them. They’re happy to give up a small cut when we bring business to them.
Maybe the most important problem with peer-to-peer dress hire platforms relates to sustainability.
If you look at all the press these platforms have been able to get from news sites and TV, they’re mostly along the line of “make money from your old dresses”, or “Jenny makes $50,000 extra income each year just renting out her clothes!”.
The industry is meant to be encouraging renting rather than buying items you’ll only wear once, but unfortunately, in many cases these platforms actually have the opposite effect.
They’re always encouraging people to join as lenders on the platform, and try to tell the public how easy it is for them to make money.
So when someone has their eye on that one hot dress, they’re happy to buy, because they believe they’ll just make their money back by renting it out to people after they’ve worn it. In this way, people are in some cases encouraged to buy rather than hire.
It could be true that you’ll recover some of your expense, but is it really going to result in maximum usage and minimal consumption?
A professional rental business is inherently required to maximise the usage from each garment in order to turn a profit. They have multiple channels to find renters, not just marketplace platforms, such as their own stores or studios. They have efficient processes for returns & cleaning to minimise turnaround time between bookings.
They also have a lot of experience in garment cleaning, so that they minimise wear and tear on the garment, giving it a longer life.
Others are excited by the idea of making money from the old dresses that have been in their closet for years. They might be amazing pieces, but the fact is that over 90% of rentals are for pieces that have been released in the last 12 months.
To be successful as a lender on a peer-to-peer platform, you need new dresses and you need to keep investing in keeping your wardrobe up-to-date. The platform needs to keep pushing lenders to do this to ensure they have stock listed that people actually want to rent.
If your intention is to eventually run a full-time clothing hire business, then that could be a good way to start out. But most lenders on peer-to-peer platforms just do it for some extra cash on the side. It’s really not an efficient way to ensure each garment lives its life to the fullest.
The Lender Experience
Tedious Booking Process
Because of the problems with the request/accept process mentioned earlier, it usually results in customers putting through multiple requests for different items (or the same item from multiple lenders) in the hope that one or more come back accepted.
When multiple requests are accepted by the lender, the customer would then only keep one and cancel the rest. For those lenders, they’ve spent time & effort checking and accepting requests, for no result. In the meantime, they’ve also had to reserve their item so no-one else can book it.
Because the majority of lenders on peer-to-peer rental platforms are individuals, the platform needs to shield customers from direct contact with the lender as much as possible. The lender doesn’t have the experience to deal with customer issues. What that means is the platform won’t provide the lender with the contact details of the customer – neither before or after their booking is placed.
If the customer then damages or doesn’t return the dress, the lender has to rely on the platform to chase it down, which can be a lengthy process. We’ve heard of some requiring you go and get a statutory declaration signed by a notary as part of their standard process for getting compensated for your unreturned items.
Whilst it can be a positive that the lender doesn’t have to deal with it themselves, it’s also very frustrating that they can’t just reach out to the customer directly via phone or email and potentially get their garment back a lot quicker.
We’ve seen peer-to-peer platforms recently make claims in major publications, such as some lenders making $100,000/year from lending on the platform. Firstly, this would be the hire fees received and not actual profit, and secondly, the lenders renting this amount are almost definitely already professional rental boutiques, not just people renting out items from their home closet.
Any lender making this amount in hire fees on a peer-to-peer platform is investing significantly in stock.
We’ve also seen claims of lenders making $15,000+ from one dress. If we break this down, that would mean the dress has been rented anywhere between 50 and 250 times (based on dress rental fees of $60 to $300). This is just unrealistic, and we would hate to think what condition the dress would be in after being rented and dry-cleaned that many times.
We’re talking a single piece of clothing being rented every single weekend for multiple years straight! That just ain’t happening.
Most of the professional rental companies we partner with at All The Dresses would sell/remove an item from their hire collection after it’s been hired anywhere from 6 to 20 times.
In reality the platforms are using misleading language. It may be “one dress”, but the lender may have it in a full size range and in multiple units for each size.
We’re obviously biased, but we believe it’s hard to argue against the points made above.
We didn’t come up with these arguments because of how All The Dresses operates, we deliberately chose to operate the way that we do because we knew about these issues with peer-to-peer rentals from the beginning.
The result is a platform that provides a much better experience for both customers and lenders, and one we believe provides a better solution from a sustainability perspective. Over 20,000 customers that’ve been dressed by All The Dresses likely agree, as do our amazing rental partners.
All The Dresses is unique in that we’re the only dress rental marketplace (in the World, not just Australia), where the availability calendar for every item is always up-to-date and every booking is confirmed instantly (think about how awesome it was when Airbnb first added the instant confirmation option).
We also believe we’re the only ones offering true price comparison between rental businesses. Whilst viewing an item on our site you are shown an easy dropdown for comparing prices, postage and size options between the different rental businesses offering that item. No one else does that.
We hope that sheds some light on peer-to-peer rentals as well as how the model that applies to a dress hire marketplace like All The Dresses is vastly different.
To start your search for a dress for your next event, click here.
If you have any thoughts, comments or even counter-arguments to the above, we’d love to hear them. Contact us, here.