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2019 State of the Industry

Industry News, News | April 1, 2019 | By:

Clear-top tents, such as this 30-by-40-foot tent installed by Orlando Wedding and Party Rentals, Orlando, Fla., saw greater use in 2018. Photo by Ashley McCormick Photography.

EDITOR’S NOTE: A summary of IFAI’s State of the Industry report appeared in the March issue of Specialty Fabrics Review magazine. The tent industry summary is reprinted below. For the summary of all 11 market areas (awnings and canopies, marine, fabric graphics, fabric structures, tent rental, military, advanced textile products, narrow fabrics, geosynthetics, tarpaulins and truck covers, and equipment), visit The summary covers the U.S. and Canadian specialty fabrics marketplace, with an emphasis on the United States. To purchase the full report, visit IFAI members receive a 50 percent discount.


Economic growth in 2018 increased in the United States. GDP reached 3.0 percent for the first time since 2005. Unfortunately, growth is down in other advanced economies such as Canada, Japan and Europe. Growth in the emerging economy of China was also down in 2018—reaching 6.6 percent; China’s GDP is projected to decline to 6.2 percent in 2019.

Global growth (GDP) was 3.7 percent in 2017 and 2018; it is projected to be 3.7 percent again in 2019. In the United States, momentum from 2018 is still strong as fiscal stimulus continues to increase, but the forecast for year-end 2019 is expected to be down somewhat due to trade measures announced in 2018. The economic protectionist banter in the spring of 2018 has turned into action with the U.S. imposing tariffs on a variety of imports, including on $200 billion of imports from China and other trading partners promising retaliatory protective measures. 

The U.S. economy is above full employment—reaching an average unemployment rate of 3.9 percent in 2018. Consumer confidence in the United States is at a 17-year high. Entering 2019, consumers see a stronger economy than do businesses. Both believe the economy has room to grow. Executives perceive a riskier environment defined by cost pressures and higher interest rates. Yet, elevated confidence and tight labor market conditions are expected to unleash strong consumer demand. In terms of value, worldwide growth in the specialty fabrics market in 2019 is projected to reach 2.8 percent. Growth in the 2019 U.S. specialty fabrics market will be very similar to worldwide growth—also coming in at 2.8 percent.

2019 tent rental forecast

The U.S. and Canadian tent rental market grew in the mid-single digit figure range in 2018 and is projected to repeat this growth in 2019. Notable trends in the tent rental market in 2018 include:

  • More wedding clients are upgrading their events—for example, destination weddings.
  • Corporate events are growing.
  • Shortage of skilled labor remains a challenge for event operators.
  • Increased demand for custom flooring has helped increase revenues for event operators. 
  • Shorter lead times continue to be demanded by customers for their events.
  • Sailcloth tents continue to grow. Sailcloth tents are built from translucent sailcloth material that allows warm natural light to come into the tent during the day and at night when lights are added under the tent—adding a beautiful glow to the tent. 
  • Clear-top tents are in demand. The tent interior for clear-top tents is completely unobstructed and the clear top makes for an extraordinary view from inside and outside the tent.
  • Government regulations and building code permitting remain a challenge for event operators; they spend too much time obtaining permits that are inconsistent from municipality to municipality.

Special Events magazine’s 2019 Event Planner Forecast reports that: 

  • 80 percent of independent event planners expect to stage the same number or more special events in 2019 versus 2018.
  • 90 percent of in-house event planners expect to produce the same number or more special events in 2019 compared to 2018.
  • The 2019 outlook for corporate events is good, with 62 percent of independent event professionals expecting their corporate event revenue to increase.
  • Leading challenges facing independent event professionals in 2019 include increased competition, shorter lead times
    and reduced client budgets.

By Jeffrey C. Rasmussen, IFAI director of market research. He can be reached at


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