Weddings are back. The Knot predicted in February that nearly 50% of weddings meant for last year will happen in 2021. As lockdown restrictions lift, in-person events return and all the weddings that were supposed to happen in 2020 pile up on top of ones scheduled for this year, the demand for wedding dresses, bridesmaid dresses, suits and all things matrimonial has increased.
And some customers are saying that finding the right options for rental is increasingly difficult.
“It seems like the influx of 2021 weddings is creating a huge inventory problem for rental services,” said writer Maya Kosoff, whose work has appeared in Vanity Fair and the Washington Post. Kosoff has been looking for dresses for October and November weddings at multiple rental platforms, but has found that many of the options she wanted have been reserved 5-6 months out.
Meanwhile, URBN’s rental service Nuuly is seeing subscriber counts higher than they were before the pandemic. That demand comes shortly after an “aggressively reduced investment” in Nuuly during 2020 to save money, according to the company’s first-quarter of 2021 earnings report.
“Nuuly is already seeing an influx of new renters, which we expect to continue throughout the year,” said David Hayne, chief digital officer of URBN and president of Nuuly.
Rent the Runway has seen similarly high demand. Dress rentals increased every consecutive week between January and April, according to the company. Rent the Runway said it foresaw major demand incoming and began working on sourcing new inventory last winter.
“We currently have over 85% availability for October and November across fall/winter and seasonless styles,” the company said in a statement to Glossy. “We were successful in bringing in the inventory we need for this massive recovery.”
Because rental companies quickly went from a long period of little demand and paused memberships to a sudden surge of increased demand beyond pre-pandemic levels, inventory levels aren’t meeting demand. To avoid that problem for the wedding boom, rental companies need to bulk up their inventory in advance.
But that can take a while. Supply chains globally are still backed up, especially shipping by sea. That congestion means rental services that need enough inventory to satisfy summer and fall weddings should have already started months ago.
Andrew Blackmon, CEO of men’s formalwear rental service The Black Tux, said shoring up inventory ahead of the 2021 wedding boom was one of the main priorities for his company. Blackmon said he started buying more inventory at the end of 2020. The Black Tux now has 50% more inventory this year than it did for 2020. According to Rent the Runway, it adds new inventory on a weekly basis and took similar measures to shore up inventory at the beginning of the year.
“There’s a huge supply chain component to rental,” Blackmon said. “You need to start buying inventory well in advance. There are basically two years of weddings happening in one year and that creates a compound effect. With more weddings, you need more inventory.”
Note: This story has been updated to include comment from Rent the Runway on their preparations for the wedding boom.