China has been at the center of the world stage the last few months, bringing a great deal of exposure to what has been the world’s fastest-growing economy. The tent market in China has grown — along with the economy — over the last decade, according to industry experts.
“China has had a strong, growing market in the past 12 years, reaching a kind of saturation after the Olympics,” says Dirk Gruber, general manager of Losberger Shanghai Co. Ltd.
The high cost of import taxes means that tent production has to occur within the country in order to be cost-effective, and the market itself can be complex to navigate. “Market access is difficult and needs a well-planned and financed long-term approach,” Gruber says. “Strong competition among the 10 biggest players leads to a highly competitive price environment.”
The strong market in manufacturing is supported by healthy demand in the rental sector. “Compared to other countries, China has relatively high turnover frequencies of rental material, with extremely short setup and dismantling lead times in between,” Gruber says.
Before the Olympics, tent companies in China were preparing for what could possibly be the largest and most high-profile event they would work on. The sheer size of the event meant that there was plenty of work for everyone. “The requirements for the amount of tents for the Olympics are so large that no [one] company in China can satisfy the needs,” says Alex Zhang, managing director of Roder Tent Service (Shanghai) Co. Ltd.
Industry insiders say that the Beijing Organizing Committee for the Olympic Games (BOCOG) didn’t let the need for quantity get in the way of tent quality. “BOCOG has required the world’s highest tent standards and qualities for the games,” Gruber says, adding that the standard has been upheld among other high-profile events in China. “This is a quite interesting phenomenon: For most of the important, premium events in China, Chinese companies, authorities and institutions are not considering local ‘copycats’ and insist on using absolutely secure, premium-quality tents.”
The emphasis on quality extends to how tents are regulated in the country. According to Zhang, the temporary structures have very strict requirements for raw materials, engineering and quality control.
Zhang says tent companies are finding it relatively easy to access much-needed labor, though he foresees a need to increase employees’ wages over the next few years, with added benefits such as training helping to attract and retain the best employees. Zhang says Roder has found the character of Chinese employees to be a boon. “Chinese workers are honest, hardworking and open to learning,” Zhang says.