More and more winter athletes are turning to snowboards and skis to rent. Linked to this is a high demand for service and the desire to rent high-end products. This development is posing major challenges for the industry, but also means new ways to get into contact with the end consumer. How are leading retailers and brands utilizing this opportunity?
Our series on the end of the 2017/18 season on ISPO.com considers the most important developments in the winter sports industry. In addition to the rental trend there are the major trends of the coming years in winter sports in part one; in the second part we wanted to know whether winter sports companies should remain true to their brand essence or also offer products for the summer ; and in part three industry experts talk about the boom in cross-country skiing (further parts to follow).
The trend is leaning heavily towards rental skis and snowboards – a positive development? Here’s what the leading brands and retailers have to say:
- Tim Bielohoubeck, Head of the Strategic Brands department at Intersport Germany
- Philipp Giselbrecht, Product and Marketing Chief at Kästle
- Thierry Kunz, CMO of Nidecker
- Thomas Delago, founder of Nitro Snowboards
- Florian Estermeier, Director of Sales at Rossignol Germany
- Xavier Le Guen, Vice President of Salomon Winter Sports Equipment
- Reto Aeschenbacher, Brand Manager, Scott Sports
- Josef Holub, founder and co-owner, Goodboards
- Ralph Letzing, Hardware Purchasing at Sport 2000
Intersport Germany has its headquarters in Heilbronn, and the association group is affiliated with over 900 retailers nationwide, with roughly 1,500 specialty stores. Tim Bielohoubeck is Head of the Strategic Brands department at Intersport Germany
Tim Bielohoubeck: “It’s true that skiers like to take advantage of the comfort that rental provides, and more and more so at that. But it’s also true that the customer trusts their local sports shop on site. With Intersport Rent, our retailers offer their customers the option to reserve skis online for their winter vacation at an Intersport partner in Austria or Switzerland. Their specialty retailers at home are on hand for consultation during the booking. Alternatively, the customer can also make their reservation for their desired ski region online from home at www.intersportrent.de. Then the equipment is available right away when the customer arrives for their vacation.”
Philipp Giselbrecht is responsible for all marketing and communications tasks, as well as product management, at Kästle. The Kästle brand was founded in 1924, and ranks among the oldest ski brands in the world. It’s headquartered in Hohenems, Austria and has 40 employees.
Philipp Giselbrecht: “The trend is going to hold, and for us that means we need to design more rentable skis. Kästle has always placed high importance on high-quality, durable products. We are going to focus on more wear-resistant materials, in the surfaces especially, so they can also look good in the long-term.”
The Nidecker Group was founded in 1887 and includes Nidecker Snowboards / SUP, Yes Snowboards, Jones Snowboards, Now Bindings, and Flow Snowboards. In total, 50 employees work for Nidecker at the main headquarters in Switzerland and in the North American headquarters in Truckee, California. Thierry Kunz is CMO in Nidecker’s board and marketing chief for Nidecker and Flow. Kunz was a professional snowboarder in the early 1990s.
Thierry Kunz: “Rental is going to be the next big revolution in winter sports Why should we have to buy something that most users only use for five days out of the year ?”
Thomas Delago founded the snowboard brand Nitro together with Sepp Ardelt in Seattle in 1990. Nitro AG is now headquartered in Switzerland.
Thomas Delago: “Board rental is playing an increasingly major role in a society that’s evolving from ‘owners’ into ‘users.’ CD, DVD, and book collections are disappearing from living rooms; entertainment is streamed and reading is done via e-book. Thus there are also more and more snowboarders who don’t necessarily want to own a board in order to use it. Our approach here is to nevertheless offer an authentic snowboarder experience.
This first takes place through product technologies and design. People shouldn’t recognize our rental products as such at first glance, even if they’ve been developed in terms of durability and easy serviceability. The models on offer also shouldn’t just correspond to the classic beginner and all-round segments. We also offer exotics like powder and split boards as rental versions, in order to make it possible for those interested to explore the entire bandwidth of our sport.”
Rossignol Ski Germany is part of the French Rossignol Group. Ten employees work in Munich’s Germany office, including Florian Estermeier as Director of German Sales.
Florian Estermeier: “Rossignol also services this target group. We score points in all sectors with outstanding rental products, thanks to excellent models. Fundamentally, however, we want to point out that rental isn’t always cheaper compared to buying.”
Xavier Le Guen has been Vice President of Salomon Winter Sports Equipment since September 2017. Salomon has its headquarters with 400 employees in Annecy, France, is a market leader in the winter sports equipment sector, and is part of the Amer Sports Group.
Xavier Le Guen: “The interesting part is the expansion of the rental approach to include enthusiastic skiers. This applies above all for skis, as boots remain a personal piece of equipment (with customer-specific features) in many markets. As a consequence, the rental mix needs to expand towards high-end skis: Skiers expect high-performance equipment and they expect to rent the skies they’ve seen in the demos in their favorite magazines. That is why manufacturers need to consider how they can best combine high-end offers with the features of rental shelf life.”
Scott Sports is a Swiss sporting goods manufacturer with American roots. Important business areas are bicycles, winter sports, motor sports, and running. Founded in the year 1958, the company currently employs 270 workers. Reto Aeschenbacher is the Brand Manager at Scott Sports.
Reto Aeschenbacher: “Yes, we agree that the rental market is growing for several reasons. We’ve seen it in both our own business and in the entire industry. We’re continuing to look at this trend, and have invested correspondingly.”
Goodboards is a German board company headquartered on Lake Ammer, near Munich. The company was founded in 2010, produces exclusively in Europe, and has more than 50 employees. Josef Holub is the founder and co-owner of goodboards.
Josef Holub: “We are a premium manufacturer and with our quality, performance, and designs, we primarily address customers who buy their own boards.”
SPORT 2000 is a leading commercial association in the European sports market, with 1,000 independent specialty retailers and more than 1,300 specialty sports stores. Turnover in 2017: roughly €1.89 billion. The association group itself has 80 employees, among them Ralph Letzing, responsible for Hardware Purchasing.
Ralph Letzing: “Rentals remain a trend in the Alpine countries. Our partners in the German ski regions are also making relevant turnovers with the rental business. The majority of German retailers, however, are playing this topic more as a service package – in contrast to Austria and Switzerland, where rentals are part of the core business. We’ve primarily directed our business towards promoting topics that increase the revenues of our partners, in order to secure their right to exist in the long term.
Bootfitting is one of these success stories: Apart from the revenue and quantity, the much more important profits in sales of ski boots have also risen for our partners. As an association we implemented bootfitting early on and, most recently with the “Your Bootfitter On Site” campaign, pushed it forward in a very personal and authentically communicated way. It would be nice if skis could follow the boots in this trend.”