- Rent the Runway has hired former Amazon executives in logistics and supply chain.
- The startup suffered from supply-chain issues back in 2019.
- It used the pandemic slowdown to invest in AI and other tech to make its operations more efficient.
- See more stories on Insider’s business page.
Rent the Runway has made key hires from Amazon as it’s looked to beef up its logistics and supply-chain operations over the past year and a half.
Three of those hires have come in the past four months.
Tony Clarke joined as the vice president of fulfillment design and technology in June. Clarke was previously the head of international infrastructure expansion at Amazon Web Services.
Sean Nolan, previously a regional director of operations for last mile at Amazon, joined Rent the Runway as the vice president of transportation in May.
Carla Li-Carrillo, previously the principal product manager for the global supply chain at Amazon, joined Rent the Runway as the company’s director of managed transportation in March.
The new hires are not the first time Rent the Runway has turned to Amazon for talent. The clothing-rental startup hired Brian Donato as its chief supply-chain officer in March 2020. Before a stint as the executive vice president of operations at Bowery Farming, he spent six years at Amazon, where he held various operations leadership roles.
Mike Roth, formerly the vice president of global customer-fulfillment operations and transportation at Amazon, also joined Rent the Runway’s board of directors in January 2020.
Rent the Runway declined to comment for this story. The newly hired Rent the Runway employees did not return Insider’s request for comment.
“Rent the Runway’s garment-rental business model is extremely reliant on accurate and on-time transportation and logistics, so it makes sense they would recruit talent from one of the largest and fastest innovators in fulfillment,” said Amanda Lai, a senior manager at retail consultancy McMillan Doolittle.
“When Amazon first introduced free two-day shipping for Prime members, it quickly set a new standard in fulfillment and raised Americans’ expectations when it comes to e-commerce, effectively forcing competitors to follow suit or risk losing sales to retailers who could fulfill faster and for free,” she said.
In September 2019, Rent the Runway was forced to cancel orders after the installation of a new system in its warehouse affected fulfillment. It temporarily stopped accepting new subscribers and sent $200 to customers whose orders were affected. Marv Cunningham, then the company’s chief supply-chain officer, left Runt the Runway in the wake of the issues. (Cunningham also spent five years at Amazon, from 2011 to 2016.)
“Bringing in industry innovators from Amazon could help mitigate any future logistical slipups in a rental industry that is so heavily reliant on on-time deliveries,” Lai said.
Jane Hali, the CEO of retail research firm Jane Hali & Associates, said that logistics and supply chain are the biggest challenges in the retail industry right now.
Rent the Runway’s business model is especially complicated logistically since it involves coordinating both shipments and returns as customers send items back to the startup after using them for a set rental period.
“That is not regular retailing,” Hali said.
Jennifer Hyman, a cofounder and the CEO of Rent the Runway, told Forbes in a recent interview that the company used the slowdown in demand created by the pandemic to invest in technology such as AI, radio ID tags, and robots to improve sorting, cleaning, and shipping procedures in its warehouses in Dallas and in Secaucus, New Jersey. The company hopes this tech will prepare it for the reopening boom it’s expecting. “People are really in the mood to get back out into the world and celebrate,” Hyman recently told The New York Times.
There have also been reports that Rent the Runway is considering going public via an initial public offering this year, though it has declined to comment on that.
Getting its supply chain in shape prepares it for its next phase of growth, Hali said: “It will help them as they go through their IPO.”