Skiset, the French franchising organization for rental skis, has added new partnerships in some other European countries to build up a network of about 250 stores outside France for the coming season, compared with about 150 non-French affiliates last year. The group’s target is to expand its international network to about 1,000 stores by 2010, including 550 outside France.

Specializing in services to reteilers located in ski resorts, Skiset remains by far the market leader in France with about 350 retail members in the country, up from 280 last year. To reach the target of 450 French members by 2010, the organization will focus on stores in smaller French ski resorts and rental outlets integrated into newly-built tourist complexes.

One major sticking point for the French company on the German market is the fact that there are only two major ski resorts there. Skiset, which had its own stand in a strategic location at a recent Winter ISPO show to promote its international initiatives, has thus teamed up with Add Cooperation, an agency based in Munich, whose assignment is to arrange partnerships with German tour operators that organize trips to the ski resorts of neighboring countries covered by Skiset. The agency will also strive to raise awareness of Skiset’s services among German consumers.

Since it launched its European expansion in earnest two years ago, Skiset has been most successful in Austria, where it is boasting about 105 affiliated stores for this season. Skiset’s network has also grown very rapidly in Italy this year, from 25 to 70 stores, while the Swiss tally should reach 50 stores.

Spain was added to the Skiset map last winter: the franchiser should have about 15 stores in the country this year, added to the 10 members it already had in Andorra. Given the Spanish market’s potential and the relatively low number of Spanish ski resorts, Skiset is only targeting five more stores in the country. The company is now moving into Southeastern Europe, exploring deals in Bulgaria and Slovenia with the aim to annex about 15 to 20 stores in each of these two countries.

The French company has bought the rights to the website, on which German skiers heading for Swiss, Austrian or Italian resorts may pre-book their rentals with a minimum discount of 20 percent, as in other countries. The website already generates about 25 percent of the Skiset organization’s centralized turnover, which reached about €25 million last year.

Partnerships with tour operators are still the most interesting way for Skiset to build up the sales of its members. For example in France, where Skiset has agreements with leading tour operators like Pierre & Vacances, it could be estimated that the business generated by Skiset makes up about 40 percent of the sales in the affiliated stores. This proportion stands at about 20 percent in Switzerland but at only 5 percent so far in Italy, where the franchising organization is still building up its relationships with tour operators.