Hitting the road: Travel and communication advances are changing our industry
I’m writing this in the car on the way down to Florida for a March Break trip with my family. Well, my family minus one, as my teenage daughter is on a school trip to Europe, where she’s touring palaces and cathedrals unlike anything we have over here.
By Patrick Flannery
We take this Florida trip every other year because my father has a condo in Fort Meyers where he and my stepmother stay most of the winter.
Thirty years ago, when I was the same age as my daughters, a family with the jobs my wife and I have would not have been taking such frequent trips or sending kids to such exotic destinations. Airfares are less expensive as a proportion of incomes. Dad bought his condo in the trough of the Florida real estate crash during the Great Recession. Gas is not exactly cheap, and the dollar is only middling, but still our level of personal wealth makes these activities feasible – just.
I think this is the case for most people in Canada today with steady employment. Overall, our money goes farther and serviceable credit is more easily available. Just look at the lines of credit that banks offer through their mortgage lending channels these days. If you have equity in your house, you can easily borrow tens of thousands of dollars at the same rate as your mortgage. In the past, this had to be tied to a very specific home renovation project to ensure the bank that the money lent would be funneled back into the security asset. Now, for some reason, they don’t care. Maybe they were just sick of being lied to all the time.
Whatever the reason, people are spending. And that includes rental people. Thirty years ago, Canadian Mom and Pop rental store were not taking an annual trip to the ARA Rental Show. They didn’t have the staff to leave the store for that long. They didn’t want to risk being out of touch in a foreign country. They worked long hours on tight margins – money and time were too precious to waste on anything not strictly necessary. It was in this environment that our present network of regional trade shows sprang up.
Today, Mom and Pop have been on a good business run for at least two years. And they are benefitting from all the same factors as my family. That’s likely enabled them to hire a full-time store manager who can mind the shop while they travel. The airfare and hotel costs are no big deal and a tax write-off anyway. And they’re never out of touch while away – in fact, business can continue almost as normal for the most part. How much of your day is spent on email, looking things up on the internet, or on the phone? Well, all of that can now be done almost as easily from the ARA show floor as it can from your office.
So given the logistical and financial feasibility of traveling, what’s your preferred destination? New Orleans? Or Mississauga?
Wait, don’t answer that.
No, on second thought, DO answer that. A survey is going to be hitting your inbox soon to collect information on what shows you attended this year. We’ll be using this information to guide future decisions about the Canadian Rental Mart and how to keep it relevant and useful to you.