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Summer holidays impact Canada’s tent industry

Project Briefs | April 1, 2008 | By:

Canadians are proud of their multicultural heritage, but their cultural celebrations can be challenging for tent rental companies. For example, June 24 is Fete nationale du Québec—the Quebec national holiday—and July 1 is Canada Day.

“Because only seven days separate those holidays, we must plan and hire more employees for that time and pay double rate, too,” says Martin St. Hilaire, president of Location de Tentes M&M Tent Rental Inc., Ville St. Georges, Quebec.

And those holidays aren’t the only peculiarity about doing business in Quebec—the French-speaking province legislates a “construction holiday” during the last two weeks in July, when the construction industry and many others take a vacation.

“Not only does this create many issues with regard to supply of materials, but this also coincides with a noticeable reduction in tent rental activities,” says Alexandre Renaud, international sales manager with Fiesta Tents Ltd., Lachine, Quebec.

Several tent experts from the provinces report that clearspan tents are increasingly popular. “Clients are becoming more and more knowledgeable about the different tent models that exist and are requesting more elaborate concepts,” Renaud says.

Low unemployment and the seasonality of the tent rental business in the provinces make labor retention difficult. Location de Tentes offers a productivity bonus to combat high turnover.

Barrie Tent & Awning Co. Ltd. of Barrie, Ontario, boasts employees who have been on the payroll for decades. But the company depends on student labor for the summer months.

“We have had high school students work two or three years, go on to university and work summers for four or five years and then come back and work for us until they get a teaching position [or become a] police officer, security guard, etc.,” owner Bill O’Brien says.

Parabris Inc., Outremont-Montreal, Quebec, specializes in TopTent—an automated, rapid-deployment tent—which helps to keep its labor needs minimal. The tent requires only one operator and one assistant for setup.

“We don’t need the same type of employees as traditional tent companies,” Parabris marketing coordinator Nathalie Lastrade says. “It is not necessary to have experience in tent installation to work with TopTent. We are looking for employees with a technical background.”

Renaud and Lastrade believe that branding and customizing tents will be the “next big thing” for the tent industry in their markets.

“We would like to see the day where sponsorship visibility will have a higher value than the rental itself,” Lastrade says.

Jill C. Lafferty is a freelance writer based in Burnsville, Minn.

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