Ann Taylor launched “Infinite Style” earlier this month with little fanfare. And while I would normally avoid forecasting a venture’s future this early on, I am already 75% confident that Infinite Style will undergo this life cycle: continue to garner little attention, with subscription numbers that peter out, and eventually fold quietly.
I thought about presenting my argument in a more mathematically rigorous way, because ultimately it will fail because the numbers (i.e., limited selection that’s too expensive with too much competition) don’t add up, but I think its faults are in plain view and actually require no painstaking analysis.
The basics: Infinite Style is a paid subscription service, allowing members to rent up to 3 boxes–each containing up to 3 pieces from Ann Taylor’s current collection—a month. Members pay $95 a month for this service, and are billed monthly, with no cancellation penalties.
The Clothes: dresses, tops, and bottoms (no coats or accessories), which normally run $50-$180. But those who shop Ann Taylor know that store-wide promotions are frequent and most shoppers have come to expect 40% to 50% off events at least 1-2 times a month. Items are usually further marked down within six weeks of becoming available, and can usually be bought for 60-80% off their original price tags.
The (direct) competitors: Rent the Runway Unlimited ($159/month. 2000+ pieces; 4 pieces at a time; no cap on total number of shipments); Le Tote (5 plans, from $59-$79/month; 3-5 pieces in every “tote,” with no cap on total number of shipments); Gwynnie Bee ($49-95/month; 1-3 items at a time, with no cap on total number of shipments).
The (indirect) competitors: fast fashion (Forever 21, Zara, H&M, etc.–price ranges vary but are typically affordable enough on even on an allowance) and personal styling subscription services (Stitch Fix; Trunk Club; Prime Wardrobe; and so many others).
There is a remote possibility that Ann Taylor has a huge fan base who currently buy 1-3 new items (if they buy more from AT right now, Ascena is surely losing money by converting retail customers into subscribers) from the retailer every month and only wear those items 3-5 times before tiring of and discarding/donating them; who subscribe to the newfangled belief that the concept of ownership is passé and who also delight in the idea of a subscription service that will allow them to enjoy new clothes without necessarily owning them. I combed through Ann Taylor’s last few quarterly and annual reports and couldn’t find information about the average order value, nevermind information about its average customer or superfan and their shopping habits. I am prepared to be proven dead wrong in my prediction (I just can’t imagine a large enough group of shoppers who would subscribe to this service, like those who chimed in on this reddit post, but maybe the overhead on this new project is low enough that even a few hundred subscribers could justify its existence?), but I would be very surprised if Infinite Style becomes a leader in clothing rental services.
The cynic in me just assumes that Ann Taylor launched Infinite Style to generate investor interest (because subscription services are buzzier than traditional retail atm), as one of its goals in 2017 was to “reinvent” itself to “create a sustainable business model for the future.”
|Ann Taylor Plaid Funnel Neck Coat in Scarlet Lily (size XXSP) || Gap Stripe Boatneck Sweater in Red Stripe (size XS; past season) || J. Crew Martie Pant in Bi-Stretch Wool in Navy (size 00; past season) || Chanel Jumbo Flap || Kate Spade Lydia Jewel Heels (reviewed here)|
While Infinite Style doesn’t appeal to me personally, I am a big fan of Ann Taylor, and will probably remain content just buying things outright rather than having to rent them. One of my favorite new finds is the plaid coat pictured in this post. It’s more flamboyant than most things you’ll find on Ann Taylor’s racks, but the classic color combo will ensure that you already own understated pieces to wear it with.
And the sales continue: Everything is 50% off at Ann Taylor with code HAPPYTUESDAY until the end of today. Some picks: