Will Gear Rental Sites Ever Take Hold?


It seems like a new gear rental site crops up pretty much every other day. The latest to come to my attention is GearUp–a Boston based startup that rents out ski apparel, GoPros, and drones. Founded by five Harvard Business School students this spring, GearUp’s success remains to be seen.

Just last year, GearCommons, a peer-to-peer gear rental site threw in the towel after close to three years trying to make it work. One of the founders, Mike Brown, wrote a brutally honest essay over on Medium on what went wrong with his company. Basically–outdoor enthusiasts aren’t interested in renting gear all that often. GearCommons found that the bulk of urban based outdoor enthusiasts (those most likely to rent gear) usually only go outside on the weekends. This means that they spend Mon/Tues/Wed coordinating trips with friends for the upcoming weekend and by Thursday, they perform a rental transaction. GearCommons made money one day a week…on Thursdays.

Additionally, people who rent gear typically only do so once or twice a year. This means that the company would only make money off a customer 1–2 times per year. In the 2.5 years they were in business, they only had a handful of repeat customers. That’s a problem if you’re trying to make money and keep your business alive.

So, what are all these new gear rental startups doing differently to address the business model problem, or are they eventually doomed to the same fate? Apart from bikes from a local bike shop or SUP on the beach when I travel, I don’t tend to rent gear. But then again, I am not the target market.

I am curious though–what are your thoughts on gear rental? Would you rather own the basics such as apparel rather than rent? What would you be willing to rent and how often? For me, it’s bikes. But even then, only a few times a year.

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