Two retailers are taking fresh approaches to the outdoor goods market with rental services. REI Co-Op is significantly expanding its existing program with the inclusion of snowshoes, skis, snowboards and fully equipped camping and backpacking kits at more than 115 stores, while newcomer Coozie Outdoors has launched with a purely e-Commerce rental model. The REI program aligns with the retailer’s commitment to sustainability, while Coozie Outdoors wants to emphasize the experiential nature of outdoors adventures.
REI reported 6% revenue growth for 2018, bringing the retailer’s total to just under $2.8 billion, while its membership grew by 1 million people to 18 million. The company also invested more than $8.4 million in 431 nonprofits, stewarding more than 5,000 outdoor places and more than 86,000 miles of trails.
The retailer attributes much of its success to these initiatives, alongside similar community-focused decisions like shutting down every Black Friday, and has framed the expansion of rentals as part of its overall advocacy efforts. Rentals will be part of a larger emphasis on re-using products, which will be complemented by an investment in used gear and trade-in options both in-store and online.
These efforts are designed to appeal to the 36% of Millennials who say they would rather rent than own a product. Rentals and trade-ins are also being tied in with REI’s focus on sustainability, by giving shoppers who don’t have the space to store their outdoor gear an alternative to throwing it away.
“In 2017 we made it possible to search for product sustainability attributes online, and in 2018 launched our Product Sustainability Standards to ensure that every product we sell meets a minimum set of expectations,” said Eric Artz, interim President and CEO of REI in a statement. “In 2019, we see the expanded rental and used gear program as keeping us moving toward a sustainable and accessible outdoor future by offering new models of access to great outdoor gear and apparel.”
Coozie Outdoors also sees potential for rentals to move the industry toward a more experience-driven market. The platform allows shoppers to rent outdoor gear online starting at 15% of the retail price, letting shoppers focus on the experience of their upcoming trip rather than the maintenance responsibilities of owning gear.
The emphasis on convenience is heightened with the inclusion of free return labels. Coozie Outdoors also offers one-on-one customer support to help shoppers select the right gear, along with packing tips and tools to help shoppers find the right destination for their adventure. Recommendations are based on data including travel dates, destination, activity type and the number of travelers, and can be further tailored to level of experience.