Lesson From Napa: Rental Business Models

Diverse and unrelated industries can often learn from one another.

Wine room

As I discovered beautiful and delicious experiences in the California wine country, my mind kept coming back to event rental businesses. I particularly thought a lot about business models. Most wineries sell their products through distributors to retail stores and restaurants. Additionally, however, some wineries sell directly to consumers.

In Napa, this might mean having a tasting room where customers can taste wine and buy individual bottles. More frequently, however, the tasting will end with an offer to join the exclusive wine club of the winery. For a nominal fee, the winery will ship the best of their collection directly to the customer up to 4 times per year.

Joining the club allows access to the wine from the tasting as well as exclusive releases just for club members. Members get discounts when they buy additional bottles and purchasing membership also makes the tasting complimentary.

In some ways, I find it odd that almost every winery in the Napa Valley uses this model. I suppose, however, when you find something that works, you stick with it. Pondering this wine club model brought me back to the event rental industry though.

Most party rental businesses have inventory that they make available on a given date for a certain price. Instead of this retail-model, however, event rental businesses could explore many other options. Perhaps having packages rather than individual pieces would increase the average sale. Offering exclusive buy-outs for particular dates or VIP clients could raise the company’s bottom line. Preselling future inventory with a “Groupon”-type model could be an interesting way to gauge interest in upcoming pieces (customers may be motivated to encourage others to commit to pieces they want, social media campaigns, and turning-customers-into-marketers will ensue).

Many different models could work for your particular party rental business. As with the wineries of Napa, you get the make the rules for your own company. Don’t be constrained by your industry or region’s norms. Think critically and creatively about what could make your party rental business unique and successful.

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