Hurricane season 2009 may have been relatively mild, but tent rental companies in the southeastern United States are dealing with a different kind of storm: the steep economic downturn.
Michael Tharpe, sales and marketing director at TopTec Products LLC, Laurens, S.C., says that companies are holding onto their inventory longer, making repairs instead of replacing equipment, and are looking at all jobs big and small. Making the tents they have in inventory work for the job at hand is especially prevalent.
“In prior years rental companies may have gone ahead and purchased new tent products if they had a rental to fulfill the need, but now they sell the job for less and entice the client to use a tent that may be different than [the client] originally wanted, because they have it in inventory.”
Tharpe says the subrental market is growing, which helps large companies keep their inventory turning and keeps smaller companies from having to purchase a tent for a one- or two-time rental.
Macon Tent Rentals Inc., Macon, Ga., is focused on treating each customer as if they are the most important person on the planet, says Roland Holloway.
“With a company such as ours … to continue to provide nice, clean equipment, we must keep our prices above our break-even point, which many times puts us at a disadvantage when competing on price alone,” he says. “So we have to emphasize value and the fact that we can indeed create the ‘picture perfect’ setting that their event requires.”
Dan Nolan III of Tents Unlimited Inc., Marietta, Ga., says his company has made good decisions with regard to overhead reduction and is running the business as lean as ever.
“This has allowed us to continue to compete even though many of our competitors have done the wrong thing and simply dropped prices to generate cash flow,” he says.
Jason Robbins of Snyder Event Rentals, North Charleston, S.C., says his company is reducing overhead by using existing personnel to perform previously outsourced services.
“We have also taken advantage of many of our vendors’ overstocks and incentive-laden terms to increase inventories and add several new products to our lines,” Robbins says.
Nolan says clients are approaching events from a minimalist perspective.
“Less is more, and they are still spending money but the money is for high quality products in much less quantity,” he says. “I see many of our clients making an effort to achieve a more European look.”