By Jim Reyen
Q: How did the August 2011 storms on the U.S. East Coast affect the tent rental industry?
A: The industry on the East Coast was hit with a double whammy in late summer: Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. Hurricane Irene generated a panic and, although not as severe as predicted, the storm’s cost to the tent industry was dramatic. Immediately following Irene, the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee caused flooding throughout the Mid-Atlantic and New England, and months later many businesses are still recovering.
Once warned of the potential impact of Hurricane Irene, tent rental companies quickly began to take down installations, postpone jobs and protect inventory. Although necessary, these actions had a negative effect on profitability. The unscheduled removal of tents creates nonrevenue producing, unbudgeted costs such as overtime, vehicle rentals and temporary labor. Also, when a tent has to be removed quickly, it may require additional handling for cleaning, drying and refurbishment.
Once the storm passed, the financial climate for the rental companies changed, with significant tent rentals for disaster relief, recovery operations and construction/repair sites. Demand for generators and equipment rentals was also high.
Tropical Storm Lee created a slow-moving, widespread mass of heavy rainfall that affected the Mid-Atlantic and New England. Record-breaking rainfall leading up to the storm and multiple days of heavy rain during the storm resulted in ground saturation, flash flooding and breaches of flood walls. Tent rental companies prepared with similar actions as Irene: some tents were taken down, anchors were added to tents that stayed up and companies directly in the path braced for the impact. What was not expected was the extent of the flooding. Several tent rental companies had five to seven feet of water in their buildings. This threatens inventory and results in expensive repair costs.
The flip side to Lee was, again, the recovery efforts. Tents, generators and equipment were needed for property repairs. In the greater Binghamton area, where Eureka! is headquarted, large commercial tents are in use by businesses that are cleaning, rebuilding and recovering. These long-term, insurance-related rentals are profitable but still tie up inventory. This increased, unanticipated demand put the tent rental companies in the position of needing to split their time between normal operations, flood-related projects and their own flood recovery.
Each company has different insurance issues. Some have flood insurance; some do not. As we at Eureka! can attest, insurance claims take up a great deal of time and resources—one more task for a company that’s already at full capacity.
Tent rental companies on the East Coast will look at late summer 2011 as a time of incredible stress, when resources were pushed to capacity and, although business may have been generated, profitability took a hit. Every tent person knows that storms generate business, damage your equipment, eat your profits and keep you up at night. Just part of the tent business.