Canadian Rental Service

Everybody party!

By Steve Milcik   

Features Business Intelligence

The Funny Page: Tools are solid and pragmatic, and provide a steady revenue stream for many of you...

Bobcats. Circular saws. Floor sanders. Genie lifts. Tools are solid and pragmatic, and provide a steady revenue stream for many of you, but you must admit that while these inventory items make many a rental operator salivate, we can’t really consider them as ‘sexy’. Unless, of course, our Royal Highness Queen Mandy Maeren is holding one. On a polar bear rug. Wearing a bikini. But enough about the last trade show in Surrey, on with the column!

One of the fastest growing sectors of the rental industry is the party and special event side, where dreams are conceived and delivered to hungry customers. Everything from a wedding or bar mitzvah to corporate events and rock ‘n roll concerts, the emergence of the party and event rental operator as a vibrant and significant portion of the total rental market is impressive. A recent survey of in-house and independent event professionals points to continued confidence in the event market for 2008. Half of all in-house event pros and nearly 60 percent of independents predict they will stage more events this year than in 2007. But everyone will have to do more with less: The No. 1 challenge named by both in-house and independent pros is a smaller budget to work with.

Costs are rising for the rental operators, and so is the demand for their products. Party and event professionals face increased competition, a lack of qualified employees, rising insurance costs and the high expectations of their clients. Unlike the tool rental industry where inventory can be repaired, maintained and rented many times, most of the party products are perishable and have a short shelf life. Styles change, fabrics wear out and wine glasses shatter. Micro-managing one’s inventory has become an art form of its own.

Despite the challenges, the party and event industry is still growing and bringing smiles to many faces. There is a marked difference between an American Rental Association (ARA) and a Canadian Rental Association (CRA) trade show, and a party-specific show like the Special Event or Event Solutions. At these shows, the aisles are filled with balloons and people making goofy hats, snow machines are spewing a fake ice storm into the sky, the smell of popcorn wafts continuously through the hall and live acts perform on stage throughout the day. It’s a festive and joyous feel, and the visitors have wide smiles and wider eyes.

With the party and event industry becoming more and more lucrative, many people, including tool rental operators, are trying to cash in. It is not uncommon to enter a rental store these days and see pneumatic hammers standing alongside a lovely chocolate fountain. This cross pollination of inventory is allowing traditional tool rental stores to extend their offering to their customers, and continue to generate revenue even during the low seasons. For all of you considering getting into this market, here are a few pointers you need to remember to ensure your transition is as painless as possible:

* Consider hiring a professional DJ for your reception. Professional DJs are the only people specially licensed to play ‘The Chicken Dance’.
* Be sure all the Hooters girls fit comfortably inside the cake.
* Choose a reception hall that is large enough to meet your needs, but small enough to be adequately hosed down after Uncle Dennis vomits up his 14 brandy Old-Fashions.
* Instead of spending thousands on floral arrangements that wilt and die after a few days, consider decorating the tables with attractive, long-lasting cinderblock, which you probably already have in stock.

Interestingly enough, many party and event professionals are women. They bring a touch of class and elegance to the proceedings, and their keen eye for design, colours and fashion usually ensure that any event will be a classy and memorable one. That being said, it is not uncommon to find men in this arena as well, and not all of them are named Bruce. Still, there are some pitfalls associated with hiring men to plan an event such as a wedding. Weddings are the fabric that memories will be made of and much of the future depends upon this important life event.
Good weddings seem to pave the way for happy marriages. Male organized weddings can often start the whole thing off on the wrong foot:

  • There would be a ‘Rehearsal Dinner Kegger’ party, often held in a local strip bar.
  • Tuxes would have team logos on the back.
  • June weddings would be scheduled around basketball playoffs.
  • Outdoor weddings would be held during sporting events at half-time or between innings.
  • Men wouldn’t ask… ”Well, what do you think, Dear… the Burgundy or the Wine coloured napkins?” They’d just grab extras from their local pub or tavern.
  • The bridal bouquet could be recycled from a previous funeral.

So what have we learned from all this? Not much except that I’m very good at avoiding talking about what Really went on at the Surrey Canadian Rental Show. For all the gory details, you’ll have to ask Mandy yourself. I double-dare you. -end-

*Steve Milcik writes from Montreal, Quebec, and believes it’s not really a party until  someone puts out an eye. When he’s not wearing a lampshade and dancing in his underwear, he shills Sirius Rental Software for Orion. You can share your own rental stories with him at:

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