The “inflatable industry is headed in a good direction due to the launching of new and innovative products each year,” said Don Braunagel. Braunagel, the owner of Fun On The Run Amusements, Bismarck, N.D.,” sees the market as having “changed up.” There has been a shift from the demand for traditional bounces and slides for backyard parties to a demand for units where adults and children can play together. His main renters are schools, county fairs, corporate picnics and some backyard events, and his popular non-inflatable items are dunk tanks, mechanical bulls, gun smoke and a new game call ‘Balderdash.’ “Customers want more interactive and competitive games,” Braunagel said. The age group for core renters is 2 to 18 years but again, he said he sees adults getting more involved.
Brian Sparrow, owner of Inflatable Kingdom in Mississippi, carries a wide variety of inflatables from water slides to obstacle courses. His most popular inflatables in 2013 are seasonal with water slides leading the way in the summer and bouncy castles in the cooler months. Themed inflatables are popular all year long.
Water slides are becoming more popular, offering “bigger and better designs.” “It is hot in the South and it keeps everyone cool,” Sparrow said. His core inflatable market is 13 and younger and obstacle courses are growing in popularity. Children of all of ages like the challenge and rush of the obstacle course, which keeps everyone active.
In California, the Monster Wave Dueling Two Lane Water Slide “is by far the most popular inflatable,” said Dean Anastole, manager at Astro Jump of San Jose.” Water slides are always popular and a “best fit for every party,” along with an obstacle course and slide in one unit. “Kids are getting bored with just a classic bounce.” The company is moving from basic units to water slides and obstacles courses, according to Anastole. Astro Jump offers a variety of inflatables for a range of ages from children to adults. He observes that kids like to slide, teens like interactive units with “less jumping” and at corporate events, adults want something that is fun but not too intense.
“Bigger is better,” said Michael Hagan, owner at Parties Inc., located in Portland, Ore. Customers are looking for combos with slides attached. In his market, he said, inflatables customers are “leaning toward more interactivity.” There is increased demand for inflatables aimed at teens and adults and the overall market is “growing every year,” said Hagan. He still rents traditional bounce houses and castles for general backyard parties and finds that pirates, Toy Story and Disney princesses are the most popular themes.
Vick Casur, owner at Funtastix in Delaware, said the popularity of specific types of inflatables depends on the season. Water slides are most popular in the summer. “People can’t get enough,” Casur said. Throughout the year he rents more combo units because they offer “more to do.” Obstacle courses are also popular with middle school children.
Just4Jumps in Crown Points, Ind., stocks everything from small backyard bounce castles to large obstacles courses. Owner Anissa Gray said that “Water units are really big in hot weather and manufacturers keep coming out with new items.” Her other popular items this year are combo units designed for all age groups incorporating a bounce, basketball, slide and climber. “Larger units that include a bounce, jousting and boxing are really popular with older kids.” she said. Customers are renting for backyard parties and her customers in a non-metropolitan area can accommodate bigger units.
One of the trends she observes with inflatables are “something for everybody and everything.” Customers are renting inflatables for a broad spectrum of events such as graduation parties and after prom parties. She has even had a unit rented for a memorial. The family wanted the children to be entertained to allow the adults to have their space at the service.
Extreme Inflatable’s business focus is providing “cutting edge and premier inflatables for customers wanting uniqueness and the ‘Wow’ factor at events,” said Marcus Thomson, the company’s president. Based in North Carolina, the company does not rent for residential parties due to the size and scale of their inflatables and their focus on safety.
This year, one of his most popular units is the 25-foot tall Raptor Slide. It is bigger than most units on the market and the digital graphics enhances the experience. “Most companies carry generic units and customers are looking for unusual inflatables along with units that provide interactivity. “
The increase in the demand for inflatables that provide interactivity is being driven by corporate renters. Due to changes in safety policies, many companies are moving away from the big slides and want units with a competitive edge and that can be enjoyed by adults and children. At Extreme Inflatables, safety is at the core of their business and all the units are fully staffed by team members. “Too much can go wrong when staff is not there,” Thomson said.
In 2013, popularity for inflatable units continued to grow and diversify. Customers were looking for bigger units with interactivity that could be enjoyed by adults and children. The market for the traditional backyard bounce was still strong for younger children, but the generation who grew up with a bounce in the backyard wanted to continue the fun at graduation parties, church and corporate events with units designed for an evolved market that still offered a strong sense of nostalgia. –