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Operators of rental businesses face special challenges when it comes to the hours they keep.  From being open early in the morning to give construction contractors an early start, to being on call after hours for service and emergency equipment rentals, one could argue that rental operators do not keep regular store hours at all.


August 21, 2008
By Pat Bolan*

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Operators of rental businesses face special challenges when it comes to the hours they keep.  From being open early in the morning to give construction contractors an early start, to being on call after hours for service and emergency equipment rentals, one could argue that rental operators do not keep regular store hours at all.

Canadian Rental Service spoke to representatives of several companies across Canada to find out what their business hours are and how they came about choosing them.

Paul Dorion, regional vice-president for Hertz Equipment Rental in Edmonton, Alta., says the company keeps standard business hours; however, some branches are open earlier at 5:30 a.m and some do not close until 6 p.m., depending on the mix of customers they service. 

Dorion says industrial branches traditionally open earlier and branches that deal with small contractors and homeowners are open on Saturday. “Fort McMurray is open 24/7 and all of our branches have 24-hour emergency service.”

Dorion says of being open 24 hours, “There isn’t much increase in costs if you schedule the shifts in advance, if not, it’s all overtime, but if it is an emergency the customer is aware…with industrial customers the reason they deal with you is because they know they can sleep at night assured that you are only a phone call away no matter what time, Christmas Day included!”

“We have always had our customers’ needs in mind when setting hours. Now with the price of real estate it makes sense to put on a second or third shift at your facility to get the most use out of it.”

The busiest time of the day, says Dorion, is first thing in the morning with Monday and Friday mornings the busiest day in every season.

Renters get 24 hours of possession, with eight hours of use. Dorion says the mix of contractors to homeowners depends on the branch, ranging from zero per cent for homeowners at an industrial branch to 15 per cent at a general rental branch.

With locations throughout southern Ontario, Stephenson’s Rental Services Inc. is one of the leading construction equipment rental providers in the area and also specializes in heating and scaffolding rental equipment. Willie Swisher is chief executive officer for Stephenson’s and says their hours are 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. from Monday to Friday and 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Saturdays to meet the needs of professional contractors.

While the busiest hours of the day vary by location, Swisher says the average is 8:30 to 10:30 a.m. and Monday is the busiest day as contractors gear up.

He says the ratio of contractors to homeowners during the week is 90 per cent contractors. On the weekend the ratio is even between the two and Swisher says Stephenson’s offers an emergency response after-hours service to suit its large clients.

In Montreal, Quebec, Jean-Marc Turcotte, president of Turbo Rentals, says his hours are “7:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., and on Saturday it’s 7:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.”

“If you are committed to those hours, your customers get to know your hours and they make it in those hours.”

While Turbo is not open on Sundays, Turcotte says from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, the staff give the customers
the price of one day until Monday. “So we always fix it up that they are happy.”

Turcotte says it is busiest first thing in the morning when the store opens. “They are waiting in their cars for us to open, and then a little bit at the end of the day…but [during the summer], it’s regular all day long.”

Monday and Friday afternoons are also the busiest days of the week in Quebec, says Turcotte.

Returns are due back at 9 a.m. on Monday, or a 24-hour rental, says Turcotte, whatever time the equipment is rented.

Unlike some other companies, Turcotte says year-round his business is 70 per cent homeowners and on weekends it increases to 90 per cent homeowners. Turcotte says none of his locations are open 24 hours.

On the west coast in Victoria, Old Country Rentals includes everything from construction and industrial to home and garden rentals at two locations on Vancouver Island. Victoria branch general manager Wayne Chow says both stores are open Monday to Friday 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. and Saturdays 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

“It covers the scope of our clientele,” he says.

While it used to open at 7:30 a.m., Chow says Old Country found that with contractors having to travel further, they needed more time and it decided to adjust its hours to accommodate them.

While the contractors want to start early, Chow says any time of the day can be busy, especially over lunch.

Monday is busiest with equipment going out and Friday afternoon the rentals coming back in, says Chow. About 85 per cent of the company’s customers are construction contractors, but on the weekend 70 per cent of its business is done with homeowners.

Old Country offers a 24-hour after-hours call out on a pager for both service and rental. “What we try to say is we’ll take your page and we’ll answer you in 15 minutes.”

While Chow says some customers have asked why the company is not open 24 hours, he says it is not realistic. “You wouldn’t be able to staff it…it’s better to run some good hours,” he says, and adds that he has not heard of anyone in the vicinity staying open 24 hours.

From east to west patterns are emerging that are predictable when it comes to business hours, but the unpredictable nature of this business makes them tentative at best. As more than one rental operator has expressed, rental stores can put a closed sign on
the storefront, but when customers need them they are always open for business.

*Pat Bolan is a freelance writer based in Exeter, Ont.


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