Michael Tharpe, national sales manager of Rainier Industries Ltd. and chairman of IFAI’s Tent Rental Division, discussed the effects of COVID-19 on the tent rental industry supply chain during his presentation at the IFAI Fabricators Conference & Showcase on Friday, Feb. 19, 2021.
Before the pandemic, the 2020 forecast for the revenue, party and event industry was predicted to reach approximately $3.9 billion. But according to Tharpe, on Fri., March 13, 2020, the world turned upside down. Due to COVID-19, all planned events—weddings, graduations, state fairs, etc.—were cancelled, production capabilities were brought to a halt, and safety codes and legal regulations had to be addressed.
For Rainier Industries, the first three months of the pandemic included a demand for products that outweighed its capabilities to produce. But the company was able to pivot by manufacturing face masks, face shields, germ and counter shields, and social distancing decals. Rainier also made a jump to new markets, such as private and public schools, universities, restaurants and drive-thru COVID-19 testing sites.
Throughout the pandemic, the tent and event rental industry has faced numerous challenges related to safety measures and code enforcements. Top concerns for tents included snow loads during the winter months, heating options (open flames were not allowed) and sidewall placement or usage because fully enclosed spaces were not acceptable due to open air restrictions.
Looking ahead, Tharpe reports that most of the events for spring of 2021 are being pushed back and rescheduled for later in the year. “It’s making it difficult for our customers to make a decision on whether or not to purchase products from us. However, long-term installations are keeping those same customers in business.”