By Robert Dunne, President
Weddings are being scaled back to meet tighter budgets. Grand banquet halls are being replaced by firehouses and five-piece live bands are being replaced by solo DJs. Even designer Vera Wang has been compelled to cut prices on her famous wedding dresses. Clearly, there may be no better time to establish or expand a party and event rental business.
While you’ve no doubt invested countless hours in your equipment rental business over many years, building a loyal base of contractors, do-it-yourselfers and other construction equipment customers, you may be reaching a ceiling to the amount of revenue this customer base can provide, even in bustling economic conditions.
Many independent rental businesses have at least a small party and event section — if not a separate department or division. If your business is like most equipment rental businesses, this segment has most likely grown to provide a greater percentage of the company’s revenues over the past few years.
If you don’t offer party and event rental equipment, now may be the time to consider it. Building a party and event rental segment of your company enables you to continue doing business with your loyal customers even when they are between construction projects by cross-selling your party rentals.
These customers already know and trust you and your company. They would likely be willing or even grateful for the opportunity to involve you in their wedding and party planning. This is one way the intense effort put into customer service and dependability for so many years can pay off in your favor. Almost anyone would prefer to rely on a proven vendor to deliver his or her daughter’s wedding décor on time and intact than on an untested company found in the phone book or an online local search directory.
Further, this core of loyal customers not only offers a ready-made list of party and event rental prospects, but they also may serve as your loudest cheerleaders and provide an invaluable source of referrals.
A party and event rental division also enables you to attract and develop an entirely fresh, new group of customers beyond your core following, such as wedding and event planners, photographers and catering hall managers, in addition to those scrambling to host backyard weddings and their neighbors in the community. Then you have an opportunity to cross-sell construction rental equipment to these new customers.
Although today’s economy is flat at best, construction has stalled and construction equipment rentals have tumbled accordingly, people still get married and will continue to do so, but on a more modest scale. This is good news for many rental companies.
When epic event weddings are held in elegant banquet halls, the tables, chairs, silverware, table linens, food, décor and other products and services are typically included as a package. However, when these weddings are held instead at Elks Lodges or American Legion halls, at local firehouses or in homes and backyards, very few or none of these products are included.
In many cases, the bride, groom and their families — often completely lacking in wedding and party planning expertise — are left scrambling to figure out what is needed and how much, how to decorate an empty room, where to find everything and how they’re going to host the wedding that compares to what they had always envisioned at an affordable price.
Most brides would not turn to the local construction equipment rental shop for guidance, but many would turn to the local party and event rental shop. As a single-source destination offering everything needed to transform a home or empty party room into an elegant wedding, your party rental shop or division provides an important service to a growing number of would-be customers.
Yes, party and event equipment rental requires different skill sets, inventory and marketing, as well as increased labor costs, but the potential rewards can outweigh the risks. On the income statement, your party and event rentals provide an alternate revenue stream that helps stabilize cash flow and keeps profitability intact, offsetting the slowdown in equipment rentals. As winter weddings have grown in popularity and the traditional wedding season has lengthened, your party and event rentals also offer a hedge against any seasonal declines in other rentals.
Much emphasis is placed on the life cycle and maintenance of construction equipment, and rightly so. Now let’s consider the life cycle of your wedding customers. This concept illustrates how investing in your party rental division today and developing a loyal base of party rental customers can ensure you have a built-in base of rental opportunities for decades to come. For example, the bride and groom you helped in their time of need for their wedding are likely to buy a “starter” home, which typically needs some work both indoors and outdoors. If you’ve stayed in touch with this couple after the wedding and made them aware of your equipment rentals, then you may have created an opportunity to rent a power washer, floor sander, carpet cleaner or a range of lawn and landscape equipment.
Once the house becomes a home, this couple will want to entertain family and friends in the backyard and host grand holiday dinners. These are opportunities to rent some of the tables, chairs and other party and event products they rented for their wedding.
If they have children and you’ve stayed in touch with the family, then get ready to rent tents and games in addition to tables and chairs for birthday parties, graduations and other celebrations with multiple opportunities for each child. Each product line feeds off the success of the other product line to ultimately grow both segments of your business.
Sometimes you have to turn right to turn left. Investing in new products and offering expanded services today is what can pay off in the future.
Robert Dunne is president of MODRoto, La Mirada, Calif. The company manufactures colonnade arch systems, floral urns, stanchions and other decorative wedding products and props. For more information, call 888-724-1228.