The market for inflatables for events continues to grow
The demand for inflatables at events has grown substantially in the United Kingdom during the last 20 years. Prior to 1985 it was difficult to hire an inflatable for a private children’s party as they were mainly produced as giant inflatables for travelling funfairs by a handful of specialist manufacturers.
Nowadays there are around sixty manufacturers of inflatables in the United Kingdom providing a huge range of inflatables for events of all types.
Play Inflatables are the generic term for anything that is inflatable and used in the leisure industry. Inflatables in this context include Bouncy Castles, Bouncy Slides, Obstacle Courses, Sumo Wrestling, Bouncy Boxing, Inflatable Penalty Shoot-Outs, Inflatable Table Football, Inflatable Climbing Mountains, Bungee Runs and other ‘It’s A Knock-Out’ type items.
Other types of inflatables include Water Borne Inflatables such as swimming pools and lakes, Safety Inflatables, Novelty Inflatables and Blimps.
Safety Inflatables are inflatable mattresses or barriers used as cushions to protect against injury. Examples of this type of inflatable include mattresses used in conjunction with games such as ‘Bucking Bronco’ mechanical bulls where the participant falls from the ‘bull’ onto a inflatable safety mattress and inflatable barriers used in activities such as quad biking, similarly to protect the participants against injury. Safety inflatables are also used in the building trade with giant mattresses serving to protect workers falling from scaffolding from serious injury.
Novelty Inflatables are often used as props at corporate events where they can be used to promote products; for example a beverage manufacturer may choose to advertise its products with inflatable bottle versions of the company range.
Blimps are giant helium filled balloon inflatables used in advertising services and products. They are tethered and can be seen from afar hovering at heights of up to three hundred feet above venues such as car showrooms advertising the products available at the location above which they are placed.
Bouncy castles are the product generally associated in the public’s mind with play inflatables on account of their huge popularity at children’s parties. Indeed, a recent report by Virgin Credit Card on children's parties revealed that bouncy castles remain at the top of the list when it comes to organizing in entertainment with 42% of parents reporting having hired one during the last three years. A small 12 x 12’ children’s bouncy castle can be hired for between £40 to £75 per day; depending on the area in which it is being hired, the demand and the competitiveness of the market. Bouncy castles are also popular with adults. Adult bouncy castles, typically measuring between 18 x 18’ or 20’ x 20’, are a popular choice for people with larger garden areas holding kid’s parties where adults will be present they enable all attending the event to join in the inflatable fun, regardless of age. Adult bouncy castles are available from £80 per day and are also popular at events such as school fetes and fairs as they can accommodate more children, helping to increase the profits to be made.
Other events where bouncy castles are often to be seen include stag events held in gardens or halls, sponsored bounces, steam rallies, agricultural fairs and shows, vintage car rallies, bar mitzvahs, christenings, religious outreach events, public events such as Police Awareness days as well as corporate events such as family fun days and company open house days.
Bouncy slides are another of the more popular types of play inflatables; ranging in size from small slides for young children at private garden parties to huge mega slides of up to thirty feet in height more suited to public outdoor events.
Sumo wrestling involves two contestants, dressed in giant inflatable suits, wrestling each other on a 12’ mat. On a similar vein, bouncy boxing provides entertainment for two opponents, wearing giant boxing gloves – ten times the normal size – to box each other in an almost full size inflatable boxing ring.
Gladiator duels have two players standing four feet above the ground on opposing podiums, each armed with pugil stick resembling a giant broom handle with a giant inflatable, twice the size of a rugby ball, at each end. The idea of this form of inflatable entertainment being to strike your safety helmet protected opponent’s head with the inflatable end of the stick until he or she falls from the podium onto the inflatable mattress surrounding the podium. Pole jousting is a similar type of fun activity involving two opponents, sitting astride a log that is supported by an A-frame at each end, attempting to knock each other to the ground. The weapon of choice in log jousting is usually an inflatable pillow or pugil stick with the defeated player’s fall being softened by an inflatable safety mattress.
Surf simulators involve a surf board being placed above and attached to an electrical apparatus, causing the participant to experience the simulated sensation of surfing with the attendant challenge of remaining on the surf board; the penalty for failing to do so being to fall over a foot from the board onto a safety inflatable below.
Penalty shoot-outs involve players attempting to kick a football into between four to six holes contained within an inflatable goal; reward being dependent upon the number of goals scored. On a similar theme, Inflatable Human Table Football involves teams of fifteen to twenty with each player secured to a giant swivelling pole playing on a pitch surrounded by a 100’ x 35’ inflatable wall which forms the outside structure of the arena. With each team containing five to six poles strategically positioned in defence, midfield and attach, the object of the game is for players to pass and kick the ball towards the opposing team’s goalmouth with the intention of outscoring them.
Inflatable It’s A Knock-Out can utilize a wide range of play inflatables including slides, obstacle courses and climbing mountains.
An Inflatable Climbing Mountains is an inflatable structure resembling a cone, usually 30’ high, with footholds all around and to the summit together with climbing ropes. This type of inflatable is ideal as a team building activity are inflatable It’s A Knock Out obstacle courses and inflatable sumo wrestling; all of these activities having a competitive element.
The market for inflatables for events continues to grow. Whilst some undiscerning customers will be happy to be provided with a basic bouncy castle there are an increasing number of more discriminating individuals who, aware of the variety of inflatables available, will demand more imaginative service provision such as bouncy castles with slides bolted to them.
As with any event hire product, it is always sensible to be aware of the health and safety implications involved in use of the product. Injuries and fatalities are extremely rare and preventable with common sense and adherence to safety guidelines. The industry has several trade associations, organizations and publications including BIHA (British Inflatable Hirers Association, NAIH (National Association of Inflatable Hirers) – under the auspices of Performance Textile Association (PIPA), Association of Inflatable Manufactures, Operators, Designers and Suppliers (AIMODS) and Inflated News.
When choosing an inflatable supplier for an event always check that they are accredited with membership of BIHA, NAIH or AIMODS as well as preferably having passed the BIHA Safety Awareness Test and that the inflatable has been tested and tagged by PIPA.
For more information on the hire of inflatables for events in the UK, the following websites will be of interest : www.biha.org.uk, www.pipa.org.uk and www.inflatednews.co.uk.
This article was written by Jon Stebbings of the Partyoffers events directory
The author wishes to thank Mark Jerram of British Inflatable Hirers Association for his invaluable help in the research of this article.
© 2006 Party Offers