Number Cruncher | Why the ski/snowboard rental biz is on the rise

Blockbuster Video stores may no longer be around, but in the snow sports industry, rentals are here to stay. The adventure travel boom, direct delivery offerings, and high checked bag fees are making grab-and-go gear more attractive than ever.
Author:
Updated:
Original:

snow rental gear

Snow sports shops are taking advantage of the upward-ticking rental trend by expanding their fleets. Photo courtesy of Brian Gautreau via Flickr.

You get to keep the money and the inventory? In theory alone, the rental business seems like a pretty good gig, but here’s some news to sweeten the deal: rentals were up nearly 300,000 units and over $16 million in the 2015/16 season, bringing total revenue to $238 million.

Though the magnitude of that increase likely has more to do with seasonal weather fluctuations, it does reflect steady growth in interest, said Kelly Davis, director of research for SnowSports Industries America (SIA). Specialty shops are taking heed — about 43 percent of those interviewed for a survey said they expected to expand their rental inventory in the 2016/17 season.

According to Davis, casual users currently compose 80 percent of the snow sports participant base. Millennials’ experimental adventure habits could widen that sector even more in the future.

Infographic2

Driven to spend money on new experiences, millennials are known dabblers and a significant component of what the Adventure Travel Trade Association calls “Adventure Grazers,” a label that describes about 24 percent of the US population. First-time adventure travelers are more likely to rent than buy, and they’re growing in number. That’s good news for specialty shops with rental fleets.

Rental gear: Not just for newbs

Tentative newbies aren’t the only ones taking advantage; even ski and ride diehards find themselves leaving their quiver of tried-and-trues at home when they travel these days.

“We’re seeing destination skiers and snowboarders demoing new gear when they do a destination trip,” said Davis. Airline fees might be one impetus lurking behind the trend. Such fees are relatively new — American Airlines was the first mainstream airline to institute a charge for passengers’ first checked bag in 2008.

“It’s inconvenient and pretty expensive to take your skis and board on an airplane these days,” Davis said, adding that the destination demo trend is ultimately a good thing. “You can try new stuff and hopefully fall in love with that new stuff,” which can translate to sales, she said.

In Winter Park, Colorado, Epic Mountain Sports has grown its demo fleet to 16 different companies. The variety brings customers into the store, and knowledgeable boot fitters and personnel take it from there, said shop owner Katherine Mowrey. She said 50 percent of their rentals come through online reservations.

The virtual rental: You can do it all online

Another trend sweeping the ski hill: direct delivery. Rental operations now ship gear, apparel, and accessories directly to consumers, either at home or at their hotel. After the rental period, the satisfied skier simply rolls the whole kit back into the box and makes a pickup appointment, dumps the goods off at the shop, or sends the return by mail. While a number of online services like GetOutfitted and Ski Butlers specialize in the rental delivery game, they’re not the only ones getting on board.

“Specialty shops are cluing into the viability of that particular model,” said Davis.

The Utah snow sports chain Ski N’ See is one such shop, sending an expert fitter with an armload of equipment to the homes and hotels of Park City skiers in need. Epic Mountain Sports does the same in Winter Park, though Mowrey emphasizes that it’s a nice side offering, not the main show.

“Whenever possible, we try to get clients to come into the store so we can show them what we have,” she said. “The delivery business has grown in popularity in the area over the years, and I think it’s a great service for a specific clientele, but it’s still a niche market.”

Related

Circuit, a Portland-based gym, opened in 2005 and how has three locations. The gym offers bouldering as well as yoga classes, summer camps, and birthday parties. Credit: Evan Lovely/Flickr

Number Cruncher: Climbing gyms are on the rise

The number of climbing gyms in the U.S. is clambering upward, having more than doubled in the past decade. In 2015 alone, the U.S. indoor climbing industry saw 10 percent growth, according to data from the Climbing Business Journal, with 40 new gyms bringing the total up to 381 ...read more

Mandatory helmet regulation in resort ski schools are getting kids acclimated to helmets early in life – making them more likely to keep the protective headgear as part of their kit as they grow older. Photo by originallittlehellraiser on Flickr.

Number Cruncher: Helmet use at all-time high

Ten years ago, anyone with a plastic hat glimmering in the sunlight faced sneers from lidless skiers. Today, it’s the opposite. About 78 percent of resort skiers and snowboarders wear helmets, according to recent data by the National Ski Areas Association. A good thing, too—the ...read more

Graphic by Corey Buhay

Number Cruncher: Fitness trackers drive wearable device boom

Wearable device shipments in 2015 rocketed up 171.6 percent over 2014 shipments, according to market intelligence provider International Data Corporation (IDC)’s preliminary Worldwide Quarterly Wearable Device tracker. IDC names two drivers of the enormous growth: the fitness ...read more

Jose Gonzales, founder of Latino Outdoors. Photo courtesy of REI.

Number Cruncher: Hispanics outspend all other groups

The outdoor industry is overwhelmingly white, but white consumers aren’t the biggest spenders. According to OIA’s ConsumerVue research, for example, Latino outdoorists spend about 27 percent more annually than the average outdoor consumer, and Asian and Pacific Islanders spend ...read more

Reese Witherspoon plays Cheryl Strayed, author of bestseller "Wild," in the movie adaptation of the book. Photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures.

Number Cruncher: The Real Wild Effect

In the years following the release of Cheryl Strayed’s Wild, first as a novel and then as a star-studded Hollywood production about one woman’s journey on the Pacific Crest Trail, the number of PCT hikers quadrupled. Publications from The Wall Street Journal to Mashable suggest ...read more

rental counter at Jackson's Base Camp at Park City, Utah.

Rise of the rentals

While hauling his luggage out the door, Eric Derflinger ticks off each item from his mental packing list. Jackets, pants, and gloves? Check, check, check. Skis and poles? A split second of panic, then he remembers he’s renting this time around. Old habits are hard to break. A ...read more

Obama_and_Shelton_Johnson

Number Cruncher: The greenest presidents

WHEN PRESIDENT BARACK OBAMA STEPS OUT OF THE WHITE HOUSE, he’ll be leaving some big shoes to fill. Half a billion-acre shoes, to be exact. Our current POTUS made headlines again last week when he designated the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument off the ...read more

Photo by Flickr user Donald Lee Pardue

Number Cruncher: What you need to know about your bottom line

Gross Margin Return on Investment (GMROI) is the only financial formula that generates a dollar amount instead of a percent, directly illustrating the fruits (or failure) of your invested dollars. GMROI measures the return on your investment—a GMROI higher $1 means a gain. ...read more

A hammock along the AT. Photo from Fickr

Number Cruncher: A glimpse at the most popular brands among thru-hikers

Thanks to Hollywood, thru-hiking interest and numbers are on the rise. The Pacific Crest Trail saw a 92 percent increase in prospective thru-hikers in 2015 following the film release of Wild, and Appalachian Trail Conservancy officials expect as much as a 60 percent increase in ...read more