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H&M tests renting clothes to address environment fears

MOUNTING CRITICISM:The clothing industry has come under increasing scrutiny as it is responsible for as much as 10% of greenhouse gas emissions

Bloomberg

Hennes & Mauritz AB (H&M) is testing a clothing rental service as the fashion industry faces mounting criticism for waste and pollution.

As of yesterday, consumers could rent garments for 350 kronor (US$36.65) a week in a refurbished flagship store on Sergels Torg in central Stockholm.

The Swedish retailer follows Gap Inc’s Banana Republic and Urban Outfitters Inc, which both launched similar services earlier this year to tap into a market that reached US$1 billion last year.

Web sites such as Vinted and Hurr Collective are expanding in Europe, offering consumers a way to sell or rent used clothes.

H&M’s rental model is limited to a collection of 50 garments offered to members of the company’s loyalty program. It is to assess the trial in three months before expanding any further.

The shop, which is testing new concepts, is also to feature clothing repair services, a coffee shop and a beauty bar.

“We have a huge belief in rental, but we still want to test and learn quite a lot, and do tweaks and changes,” H&M head of business development Daniel Claesson said in a presentation at the flagship store.

Credit Suisse analyst Simon Irwin said that he has doubts about the plan.

“I’d be surprised if you can really make it work as a business model,” Irwin said. “I can’t see that the kind of labor cost involved in a rental model at those price points really makes sense.”

The clothing industry has come under increasing scrutiny as it is responsible for as much as 10 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, and it consumes more energy than aviation and shipping combined, according to UN data.

By 2040, H&M intends to reach the point that its greenhouse gas emissions go negative, meaning that it would offset more than it produces.

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