As Americans head outdoors for hikes and camping trips in record numbers, Eddie Bauer is launching a gear rental service to outfit them for their trips.
The program is the result of a tie-up with Arrive Outdoors, a gear rental startup that lets shoppers reserve items like tents, backpacks and hiking boots, have them shipped to any address within the contiguous U.S. and send them back at the end of the rental period with a pre-paid return label. On Rentals.EddieBauer.com, visitors can choose from items like the brand’s Mountain Ops Boots ($190 to buy, $9.50 per day to rent), Alchemist Pack ($249 to buy, $12.50 per day to rent) and Guide Pro Shorts ($65 to buy, $3 per day to rent), along with a range of hiking and camping sets that bundle several items together.
While Covid-19 wreaked havoc on clothing and accessories rental companies like Rent the Runway, they’ve started to bounce back as the U.S. economy has reopened. Still, footwear has so far been largely excluded from the services due to hygiene concerns and problems with wear-and-tear over repeated uses — though DSW parent Designer Brands Inc. said prior to the pandemic it was “exploring shoe rental and ways to bring this service to life in a way that delivers on customers’ expectations.”
For now, the outdoor market could be an interesting test case. A record 53% of Americans, or 7.1 million more than in the year prior, took part in physical activity outside in 2020, according to the Outdoor Industry Association.
In the first quarter of 2021, sales of hiking footwear increased 60% year-over-year, according to the NPD Group’s retail tracking service. Earlier this year, Matt Powell, the market research firm’s senior sports industry adviser, noted that these rookie outdoor adventurers have different needs than seasoned hikers and campers from a merchandising perspective.
“The new participants are not pinnacle users, these are not the folks who are going out for a three-week pack-in. These are people who are walking around the neighborhood, walking maybe in the park,” he told FN. “The bottom line is these folks don’t need pinnacle product. They need much more moderate product, opening price point products that will meet their needs.”
Eddie Bauer was acquired by SPARC Group — the joint venture between Authentic Brands Group and Simon Property Group — in June of this year, just over a month prior to ABG’s initial public offering filing.