I tried Rent the Runway’s new Amazon Go-inspired store in San Francisco and it felt like shoplifting

Rent the RunwayMiha Matei Photography / Rent the Runway
  • On Wednesday Rent the Runway, an online clothing rental company, opened its fifth physical retail location in San Francisco’s Financial District.
  • The 8,300 square-foot retail space is the company’s largest to date.
  • It includes a coworking space and beauty bar in its two-floor layout, available to Rent the Runway subscribers and non-customers alike.
  • Chief Operating Officer Maureen Sullivan told Business Insider the space is the “Amazon Go” of clothing retail, with automated checkouts, expedited returns, and zero price tags.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Rent the Runway’s largest retail space yet could be your new dream closet.

On Wednesday, the online clothing rental company opened its fifth physical retail location in San Francisco’s Financial District. The 8,300 square-foot, two-floor space is the company’s largest to date, and includes a barista, 20 dressing rooms, a beauty bar, and coworking space.

Rent the Runway is an online rental market for women’s and children’s clothing through monthly memberships. The company has been credited with popularising clothing rentals for special occasions and everyday wear, and was most recently valued at $US1 billion in March.

“It’s like the Amazon Go model of shopping,” Rent the Runway COO Maureen Sullivan told Business Insider. “It’s all automated. You just scan the barcode on the item, throw it in your bag, and walk out.”

Sullivan’s pitch was so convincing, we had to try it for ourselves, and it was as seamless as she described – but left me feeling like I had just shoplifted designer clothing. Although self-checkout isn’t quite as futuristic as Amazon’s cashierless convenience stores, Rent the Runway has implemented the concept in a cooler way than you might think.

The company’s other retail locations operate more like traditional stores, with salespeople and price tags: The biggest selling point for those locations is that you can order a piece online, and pick it up in person.

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The 8,300 square-foot space was designed by an all-female team using data collected from other Rent the Runway retail spaces.

Miha Matei Photography / Rent the Runway

The two-floor space was designed by Alda Ly Architecture and Hilary Koyfman, who also collaborated on the designs for coworking space The Wing and membership-based wellness startup Parsley Health. The team specialises in designing spaces for communities of women, Sullivan says.


Sullivan says that San Francisco is the third-largest market for the company’s monthly subscription offering.

Miha Matei Photography / Rent the Runway

Sullivan told Business Insider that the company uses customer feedback to stock the store with sizing, seasonal colours, and clothing for specific events like weddings or conferences during popular seasons.

As I was browsing the selection, I noticed I instinctively reached for the label to see how much each item cost. In its place was a small bar code glued to the label that would allow me to scan and walk out with whatever I wanted, all covered under the Rent the Runway subscription.


The store integrates Rent the Runway’s technology to automate customer pick-ups and returns.

Miha Matei Photography / Rent the Runway

The checkout process was as seamless as Sullivan promised, although finding my personal QR code to do the checkout required digging around in the Rent the Runway app. The scanned items instantly appear in my virtual closet displayed on the register, and there are slots next to the scanners for unwanted hangers.

According to Sullivan, the store will also employ a select amount of human stylists to help customers select clothing and answer any questions during the purchase process. Sullivan said customers are more likely to select “bolder” options if they are able to try the clothing item on in-person versus online.


Customers and non-customers alike can use the space for community events, coworking, or coffee.

Miha Matei Photography / Rent the Runway

The space includes freely available WiFi, couches, desks, and removable clothing racks so customers are able to use the space for more than just trying on clothes.


The trip took me only 5 minutes from browsing to check out but made me feel like I was shoplifting.

Megan Hernbroth / Business InsiderMy bounty.

I literally left the store with an armful of new clothes, as they don’t have any bags on site to transport your items. I normally would throw the clothes in my backpack, but I stopped in between other appointments and had to make do without it. Leaving the store with clothes in hand, I honestly felt like I had just shoplifted. I expected to get funny looks from the store’s human employees while walking out with my bounty, but all I got was a polite smile.

If they had stopped me, I’m not sure what I would have done. The confirmation email is a few minutes delayed, and still prominently says that my “shipment” is being processed, so it’s not clear that I had selected items from the store itself.

Some Rent the Runway customers have reported quality issues with online orders, but Sullivan thinks the ability to touch and try on clothing before bringing it home will ensure customers find the right fit for whatever they’re looking for.

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