Sportswear Rentals: A Market Opportunity

Sportswear rentals could be the sharing economy’s next big opportunity.

With the latest wellness trend sending people outdoors and key sportswear giants venturing into the rental market, there are positive signs of growth for this sector.

Most of us don’t have access to mountain or adventure sports on a weekly or even monthly basis. As our planet became highly urbanized, outdoor activities became less and less a part of our modern lifestyle. For urbanities, the great outdoors has become something only accessible on holidays or weekend trips.

The sportswear rentals phenomena

Whether your favorite sport is hiking, skiing, mountain biking or engaging in another form of adventure sport there is a specific uniform to be worn. Have you ever asked yourself if it makes any sense to buy all the needed equipment to wear it just few days a year?

Not are they just pricey but they are also bulky and for people who live in cities where storage is sparse, renting equipment is a no-brainer.

This isn’t just a consumer problem, it’s also a sustainability problem. The nature of technical gear quickly becomes dated with material innovations constantly emerging on the market. Which makes this dilemma not only expensive but also unsustainable. It’s almost certain that the clothing bought for infrequent use will be disposed of long before it’s actually unusable.
Retailers like Decathlon and Intersport know this and have been renting out equipment for years.

Eco-pioneer Houdini. The Swedish Sportswear Rental

Houdini is an eco-innovative Swedish specialty sportswear retail that has been offering clothing rentals in selected locations of their Sweden-based shops since 2012. The brand stays true to the Scandinavian culture of “Friluftsliv” which is about celebrating open-air living and spending time outdoors.

With the concept of Friluftsliv gaining attention across the globe, they decided to expand their rental offering to online. Opening up a responsible shopping option for outdoor curious individuals.

On their website, they underline the sustainability benefit offered through rentals:

“By sharing we can use natural resources in a smarter way and become a counterweight.”

While rentals are a great option to reduce environmental impact, it’s also good for the renter’s wallet and sports performance. For less than a third of the retail price, renters can hit the slopes or trails wearing some of the Houdini’s latest and most innovative sportswear.

Mass market sports retailers entering the sportswear rentals

Houdini is not the only retailer to see the potential in sportswear rentals. European sports retailer Decathlon, is experimenting this new phenomena with clothing rentals using their in-house brand Forclaz. Currently, the rentals are only available in selected areas of France where the retailer is headquartered.

Decathlon offering rentals has the potential to make rentals mainstream with the masses. With their low price points and market across 57 countries, their adoption creates widespread accessibility. A successful rental scheme from the retailer could curb the overconsumption of this growing market on a large scale.

The Growing Market Opportunity for Sportswear Rentals

The opportunity for sportswear rentals is largely untapped and growing. Recently there has been a huge trend towards nature holidays and it’s projected to grow.

Scientific research has underscored the benefits of spending time in green and blue spaces propelling a new wellness trend that involves spending time outdoors. As Mathew P. White from European Centre for Environment and Human Health put it:

“A growing body of epidemiological evidence indicates that greater exposure to, or ‘contact with’, natural environments (such as parks, woodlands, and beaches) is associated with better health and well-being, at least among populations in high income, largely urbanized, societies”

What is the future of outdoor activities?

Along with the science-backed wellness benefits, cabin fever is high from endless waves of lockdowns. People are eager to get out into the wild. A survey for Original Travel found that 48% of its clients wanted their first post-lockdown trip to be “somewhere outdoorsy to enjoy some wide-open spaces.” From forest bathing, trekking, and exploring remote far-off places more people will be heading outdoors.

As the interest in outdoor activities grows, brands have a sustainability-focused opportunity that can build brand loyalty from the sector’s newest customers.

The option to rent gives outdoor curious individuals low barrier access into the sportswear universe. Some may only end up renting once or on a yearly basis. Others could discover a passion for an adventure sport and become lifelong customers. Giving them the responsible option from the get-go will build trust and make them more likely to return.

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