Attendees and exhibitors were not quite sure what to expect when they arrived in Las Vegas for The ARA Show™ 2021, the first time the equipment and event rental community would have had the opportunity to meet in person since February 2020.
However, once people arrived at the education sessions, the Keynote Session and the trade show, there was an initial euphoria to be able to interact, see old friends, get back to buying and selling, and prepare for a positive future.
“It is amazing to be back at The ARA Show. It’s great to see everyone’s faces. It’s great to connect. It’s great to catch up. That’s the one thing I’ve missed over the last 18 months is not being able to connect and tell stories and basically pick up where we all left off,” said Brittany Vruno, CERP, Crown Rental, Burnsville, Minn.
Dan Hooks, CERP, Party Reflections, Charlotte, N.C., and American Rental Association (ARA) president, also said a key positive was being able to see other people in person.
“You can talk on the phone or see people in a little box on a computer screen, but everybody is just glad to see everybody else. We can commiserate a little bit, but also celebrate and feel better about the business when you leave. We all are facing similar challenges and it is a lot more positive to be here together to talk about what’s next,” Hooks said.
Alex Bauman, In-A-Pinch? Rent-It!, Martinsville, Ind., closed his rental store in order to bring his employees and their spouses to the show this year.
“We do this because it gives everyone a chance to rest and recharge as well as see all the new equipment and help in the process of buying new equipment. Going as a group helps us work together as a team,” Bauman said.
“Our show experience was really good. It is always so good to see the equipment, not only the current stuff but also the up-and-coming equipment, like the electric and battery options. You have to stay on the cutting edge so you can keep up with your customers’ needs. That is why we love the show so much. ARA always does a great job. Even though we are coming off a pandemic, you couldn’t tell. The show was so well-organized and planned. It is always flawless,” he said.
Overall, foot traffic on the show floor was fairly steady throughout the three days, but also spread out across two floors and an outside area, allowing people to adhere to social distancing while also checking out new and different products and services available from the more than 600 exhibitors.
Several exhibitors said they were pleasantly surprised as many attendees were at the show specifically to make orders.
“It truly has been overwhelming. Everybody is excited to be back, to ask questions, to get information for things and solve problems. But they are mainly here to buy. It’s been a great buying show. We’ve loved it. It’s almost more than we can handle for people in the booth. That’s the problem you want to have,” said Chuck Shipp, Shipp Cleaning Systems, Conyers, Ga.
“We had a really great turnout this year. I walked into the show thinking we’ve been off living in a pandemic, thinking the event rental industry is not going to show up because everyone is too busy and man, was I surprised. There were a lot of people here,” said Alex Kouzmanoff, CERP, Aztec Tents, Torrance, Calif.
The ARA Industry Awards Lunch on Sunday, Oct. 17, started with ARA CEO Tony Conant welcoming the equipment and event rental industry back together.
“Welcome to The ARA Show 2021. I’ve been waiting for a while to say those words. It’s so good to be here,” Conant said.
Conant spoke about the strength of the industry and what ARA and its volunteer leaders have done to help ARA members navigate and make it through the pandemic. This includes Clean. Safe. Essential., an annual program focusing on safety, along with other training; the formation of the Economic Bridge Coalition; and the creation of social media groups that helped members share stories and advice throughout the pandemic.
The ARA Show has long been known as a “buying” show, but in today’s environment, it was difficult to know what to expect from the seller’s side although there were some clues when ARA, on Oct. 18, released its latest five-year forecast for equipment rental revenue, comprised of the construction/industrial and general tool segments.
The outlook remains very positive for 2021 and beyond as the updated third quarter forecast shows equipment rental revenue is expected to exceed $47.6 billion in 2021, a 3 percent increase over 2020. While that number is slightly less than the second quarter forecast, 2022 revenue now is expected to grow at a 9.9 percent clip to reach $52.4 billion, which will be a record for the equipment rental industry, topping the $50.9 billion recorded in 2019.
Equipment rental companies significantly cut investment in equipment in 2020 during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, as those in the construction and general tool segments spent 44.4 percent less in 2020, dropping investment in equipment to $7.64 billion.
However, the ARA forecast shows that investment in 2021 should grow by 36.2 percent to $10.4 billion, followed by another 36 percent increase in 2022 to total $14.2 billion, a signal that those in the industry were intending to make orders at the show.
For example, Lance Brown, Pilchuck Rentals, Marysville, Wash., who has attended the show in the past, said he came back this year for “the feeding frenzy and to buy stuff. You have to gear up and make sure your fleet is right. There are longer lead times and we need to order in advance. There is no more buying stuff today and getting it tomorrow. So, now you have to look at six to eight months down the road before you can get stuff. We’re here to buy, buy, buy.”
“We are ready to do some buying. Being at the show is a great opportunity for us to get out, look at what’s become available in the last 18 months and see what we can add to our inventory,” said Brittany Sherwood, owner, Tents Unlimited, Torrington, Conn.
“We’re definitely going to Orlando for the next show. Truthfully, since taking over our rental company four years ago, our involvement with the ARA has made our business easier — 100 percent. Between the insurance, the shows, the contacts, the magazine’s information — it totally helps us. As someone who is new to the industry, ARA is awesome,” said Christin Davis, FST Rentals, Sierra Vista, Ariz.
In addition to the trade show, ARA offered a day of education with 16 sessions on Sunday, Oct. 17, in four tracks including business management, leadership and culture, technology and HR, and event.
On Monday, Oct. 18, the Keynote Session featured Carey Lohrenz, who wowed the audience with her inspirational message before attendees headed to the Las Vegas Convention Center South Hall for the trade show.
The show also featured the ARA Industry Awards Lunch and the Young Professionals Network Reception on Sunday, Oct. 17. Monday evening included the Regional Receptions and the ARAPAC Reception: Vintage Vegas Starring the Rat Pack.
“We come every year because The ARA Show is the place to be if you’re in the rental business. It’s amazing to me that ARA pulled this off, being able to come to Las Vegas and the short time they were able to do it again. It’s been a great show. It’s a little bit less but that’s to be expected. I think, all in all, seeing so many people here, it’s definitely a big success,” said Craig Creamer, ABC Rental Center, Rosedale, Md.