Adding new inflatables to your inventory can be exciting, but don’t do it on a whim. Here are some things to think about before making a purchase.
1) Is It Safe?
Not just safe if used correctly, but safe being used in the creative ways kids will think to use it. We know kids figure out ways of doing things they shouldn’t on inflatables. There is no way you can anticipate everything, but sometimes you can just look at an inflatable and see what could go wrong.
Other times you have no idea until you own it and see kids using it. Not much you can do at that point except train your employees to include a warning in the safety review with the customer. And then don’t purchase that design again in the future.
Safety is always a concern, but having inflatables in you inventory that you know could lead to problems will only raise your stress levels.
2) Is It Too Specific?
Depending on the size of your inventory, you may have no issue carrying an inflatable that doesn’t rent often because it is for a very specific, narrow audience. But I prefer an inventory full of inflatables that rent often.
My experience is that the gender specific inflatables tend to rent less often. Themes that would only appeal to very young kids will rent less often. Items designed for teens will probably only rent well around graduation time.
There’s nothing wrong with having some of these items in your inventory. I do. But it is something to think about when buying. Do you already have enough in your inventory for the broad target market of kids ages three through 10 to start adding narrowly focused items?
3) Is The Rental Rate High Enough?
Some items just don’t rent for enough money to be worth your time. They aren’t going to move the needle.
For example, standard bounce houses in some areas don’t bring in enough to be worth it. A bounce & slide combo will bring in more money for about the same effort.
I’m not saying you don’t need regular bounce houses in your inventory, but I haven’t added a new one to my inventory for several years for this reason. And I live in an area that actually gets good rates for a standard moon bounce.
4) Will It Be a Pain In Your Ass?
I try to avoid inflatables that I can tell will be a pain in my ass. Having said that, I still have a few of them in my inventory.
What makes something a pain in the ass?
You could say water slides are a pain in the ass, and it’s hard to argue. But the rental rate we get for them justifies the pain, so I don’t count them. But I really try my best to get water slides that are front loading to cut down on the mess. Rear loading water slides = muddy mess = pain in the ass.
An obstacle course that is three pieces but should be two pieces is a pain in the ass (think Adrenaline Rush II).
A water slide that gets water-logged because the seams aren’t sealed is a pain in the ass (I no longer have any with this problem).
Is it heavier than it should be...pain in the ass. Is it time consuming to set up related to the rental rate...pain in the ass. Does it have pieces or attachments that will get lost...pain in the ass.
You get the idea. Try to avoid obvious pains in the ass.
5) Does It Look Good In Pictures?
Most of your customers are going to be making their buying decision based on the pictures on your website. I’ve definitely noticed that the inflatables that look good in the pictures on my website tend to rent better.
An example would be the eInflatables Excalibur Combo versus the Ninja Castle Combo. The Excalibur rents out way more often even though in reality the are very comparable for all practical bouncing purposes.
6) Will Your Insurance Company Insure It? / Is It Approved In Your State?
When getting anything that is out of the ordinary, it is a good idea to run it by your insurance company first. You don’t want to spend a lot of money on an inflatable and find out that it is not covered when you try to add it to your policy.
Some states, such as Pennsylvania, have list of approved inflatables for use in the state. In the case of PA, the list is based on the manufacturer or distributor. In some cases, the exact same inflatable manufactured in the same factory (usually in China) may be approved if purchased from one distributor but not from another. If you operate in a state that regulates inflatables, be sure to check before buying.
7) Does this item go on sale? What is the IAAPA Show Price?
You don’t want to purchase an inflatable at what you thought was a good, negotiated price, only to get an email a week or two later showing it on sale for less.
I try to keep track of sale prices on anything I think I may buy in the future.
I especially make sure I keep a copy of each manufacturer’s IAAPA Show price list. I’m not usually ready to buy in late November, but knowing what the Show price was helps me negotiate a good price when I am ready to buy.
8) Is It Well Made?
I started my inflatable rental business in 2002 with two inflatables from eInflatables. So I started with high quality, but they weren’t cheap.
The next year when I was ready to add to my inventory I added two more from a company no longer around. They were about half the price. Unfortunately, for good reason. One of them I got rid of after the first year. The other I held onto for two years. But I had my original two from eInflatables in my inventory for about 8 years.
It’s not just that poorly made inflatables don’t last as long, they make your business look bad. A common problem with cheap inflatables is that they don’t hold the air well enough, making them flimsy and potentially dangerous.
With those cheap inflatables I had to warn the parents not to let the kids push into the columns or netting, because the column would buckle. Yes, the kids shouldn’t be doing that, but they will (see number 1 above). After showing up to pick up the inflatables a number times and seeing the kids intentionally making it buckle, getting all caught up in the netting, I had to get rid of them before someone got hurt.
9) Will This Inflatable Set You Apart From Your Competition?
Certainly not the most important factor, but something to think about. It’s nice to have things that your competition does not have. Even if only until they copy you.
10) Does This Just Look Cool In Theory, But Won’t Work Well In Real Life?
Will the inflatable actually work the way it is supposed to work. This really applies to inflatable interactive games.
We know a bounce house is going to work for bouncing, but some interactive inflatables might have been better if they never made it off the drawing board.
Maybe the best example I can think of is the Wrecking Ball game. I’m sure some of you reading this have it and it rents out great for you. I may buy one. I do get asked for it. But that’s because the consumer doesn’t know any better.
I was suspicious of how well it would work when the design was new. So I looked up some videos of it in action on Youtube, and sure enough, the person pushing the ball was the one falling off their pedestal, not the person they were throwing it at.
Hey, the bottom line is I’m sure the participants are laughing and having fun, but come on, it doesn’t really work the way it should.
I hope you found this list helpful. Let me know if you have anything to add to it in the comments below.
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