Snowboard rental boards and bindings used to be three-year-old designs sold to shops at super-cheap prices. But then prices on all products came down because of an oversupply in the market, quality went up, and the brands–god love them–decided that supplying rental boards to shops was a “marketing” expense. Believing that a renter was likely to buy their products after trying them, manufacturers began to make shops and resorts really good deals on much better equipment.

Now, whether or not the brands are creating customers or just long-term renters is a separate issue. But the result is that the retailer is in a good position for being able to make a few bucks and help customers have a better experience through rentals. Here’s how:

1. Work Your DealNo surprise, there are a lot of deals out there for the rental market. From big brands buying market share to small brands clearing inventory, savvy shops know how to get a good rental program started for less cash than ever before. “It’s no secret how good the rental deals Rossignol was offering were–they were offering pretty much the same deals to everyone,” says Powder Tools’ Chuck Mason.

With its multiple locations, Powder Tools is often offered attractive deals. “We were recently offered in-line boards part of the primary product offering from another brand at 129 dollars, which represents a 28-percent discount off wholesale, and boots at around 50 dollars,” says Mason.

But only offering rental boards people specifically request to ride, can cut out many angles to squeeze better pricing. “We’d like to be able to offer Burton Customs to our riders, but frankly Burton doesn’t need to cut us any deals,” says Mason. “But we view our program as product driven, not price driven, so we’re willingly to accept that.”

In fact, the ability to squeeze a deal may depend on who a rental program is designed to serve, and this determines which brands will be carried. Fairhaven Board and Mountain Sports, near Mount Baker, Washington, recently switched its entire rental feet to the relatively low-end Quest from Sims. This is because the majority of renters are local schoolchildren, so brands are less important than the prices.

Others, like Rocky Mountain Snowboards in Littleton, Colorado, offer only popular models and must be content with an eight- to ten-percent discount off the wholesale purchase price.

While popular brands may offer little price incentive, dating is often a fairly negotiable consideration. One common model is split pricing with a “pay half now and half later” type arrangement.

Lori Sherry, owner of Rocky Mountain Snowboards, doesn’t try to work her rental suppliers on price. But she successfully pushes for March or even April payment on rental boards. In-line boards are paid on normal terms.

In fact, many retailers seem surprisingly reticent about asking for extra discounts or deals. In Newport Beach, California, Surfside Sports Owner Duke Edukas says, “The Burton and K2 reps I work with are so supportive in supplying demo boards, I just don’t ask for rental discounts.”

But as Heelside’s Chris Nitzsche points out, “With the highly competitive market, retailers purchasing a decent volume who are not locked into a specific board can always put their requirement out for tender and let the interested manufacturers fight it out. Any company facing an oversupply may be ready to off-load product at a steep discount if they know it won’t end up at retail.”

2. Give kids as little choice as possible. Groms are fussy customers, make irrational decisions based on graphics and other cool factors, and will generally change their minds three times and be a pain in the ass. At Fairhaven Board and Mountain Sport, Owner Sarah Taylor says they primarily rent to schoolkidsnd only offer Sims Quests and Burton step-ins. No choice, no questions, put them on the board and get them out the door.

3. Size MattersIf you can’t secure enough volume to make money on your rental fleet, don’t offer rentals. Or, if you only have ten boards, think of rental business as purely a service, a way to secure your customer base and develop new customers.

4. Look at the whole deal. How much are small extras actually worth? Heelside’s two-year warranty on boots is attractive for high-turnover programs. Plus they will replace all laces and inserts on all boots after a year as part of the program.

5. Make Them Look CoolBe discreet in how you mark your product. It may be easier to keep your fleet organized if boots have sizes prominently written on them and boards have “rental” indelibly printed on the topsheet, but as Heelside’s Chris Nitzsche says, “No kid wants to be have a big ‘size seven’ written on the back of his boot to tell the world he’s the dorky one on the rental setup.”

6. Carry A Variety Of BootsPeople come in all shapes and sizes, but more importantly, so do their feet. Different boots fit different feet, so carry a couple of lines. Chose a line that fits narrower feet better and another for wider feet. Nothing will drive a rental customer away faster than poor-fitting boots.

7. Why rent when you can sell? At Mount Sport and Boardertown, Kennedy says they have two retail stores with two nearby outlets for closeouts. He puts his rental program in the outlets.

“People come in to rent and then they see that instead of paying 125 dollars to rent the board for a week, they can pay 200 dollars for a new closeout board. We shift a lot of overstock that way.”8. Don’t Count On ResalesDon’t plan on selling off used rental boards in the current market. At Rocky Mountain Snowboards, Sherry used to sell all her rental boards with bindings at the end of the season for as much as 275 dollars. Now, with so many new closeouts available, there’s no demand for the same package, even on top-quality boards.

“Even if we could sell the boards and bindings at that price, it would mean we would take a loss,” she says. “So instead of selling, we reuse the boards for a second year–which is fine because they are in good condition–but it changes the whole economics of our program.”

9. The New Rental ProductsRental these days isn’t just about boards, boots, and bindings. Powder Tools does a significant volume of helmet rentals at its outlets, as customers prefer to try riding with one before making a purchase.

Other increasingly rental popular products include two-way radios, but Mason caution against renting avalanche beepers because of liability issues.

10. Stock the daily necessities in your rental area. Socks, hats, goggles, and sunblock are all easily sellable add-ons, so display them as impulse buys. Beginners often don’t understand how important these things are; be sure to remind every renter that these are on-snow essentials.

11. Spell It OutMake your rental areas as customer friendly as possible. First-timers will be intimidated by a sparse workshop atmosphere and feel stupid asking basic questions. Try to put up signs and charts answering customers’ questions like, “How do I find the right size board?” or even “Am I a regular- or goofy-footed rider?”

Be sure you have sufficient sitting space to try on boots. A couple of old couches can be practical and make your rental area more welcoming.

12. Save Time On SetupsSave time by keeping your boot and binding setups together. This means that when someone wants a size twelve boot you can be sure the binding straps are already adjusted properly. The same is true with step-in systems: keep boots and bindings paired together.

13. Remember, It’s A Sales ToolYour rental and demo program is a vital sales tool. Conversion rates on rental boards vary from a reported 80 percent by Edukas at Surfside Sports to 40 percent at Mountain Sports and Boardertown. Renting step-ins also considerably eases the process of convincing riders to switch from straps.

14. Reservations, PleaseEncourage people to reserve boards as far in advance as possible, then have the boards set up and ready to go to cut time during peak congestion hours. Try some small incentives–a sticker, for example.

Keep a record of settings for customers who are likely to rent regularly.

15. The Final ChecklistIt seems obvious, but never let a rental out of the store unless every aspect of the setup is totally dialed. Have a final checklist that must be gone through step by step. A first-timer on a bad setup might never go boarding again, which means one less customer for the whole industry.: keep boots and bindings paired together.

13. Remember, It’s A Sales ToolYour rental and demo program is a vital sales tool. Conversion rates on rental boards vary from a reported 80 percent by Edukas at Surfside Sports to 40 percent at Mountain Sports and Boardertown. Renting step-ins also considerably eases the process of convincing riders to switch from straps.

14. Reservations, PleaseEncourage people to reserve boards as far in advance as possible, then have the boards set up and ready to go to cut time during peak congestion hours. Try some small incentives–a sticker, for example.

Keep a record of settings for customers who are likely to rent regularly.

15. The Final ChecklistIt seems obvious, but never let a rental out of the store unless every aspect of the setup is totally dialed. Have a final checklist that must be gone through step by step. A first-timer on a bad setup might never go boarding again, which means one less customer for the whole industry.