Making the most of your displays in the showroom is a great way to show off inventory and put items to use in various events. It’s also a way to begin repurposing items for rent that may be sitting stale in your inventory.
Almost every rental store has items that have more versatility than meets the eye. The challenge is finding the inspiration and ideas, then creating those ideas in displays in such a way as to draw customers in and to get rentals out the door.
Before deciding what displays to revamp or create, talk with your customers about what they have used in the past and what ideas they have had for their own events. Don’t be afraid to ask for photos of their events or to ask to take photos prior to their upcoming events. This can help create a “look book” for future customers.
Also, talk with your caterers and chefs to see what is new and hot in the food industry for food presentation and décor. For instance, caterers are using shooters for soup and dessert dishes, as well as making use of wine glasses for ice cream. Researching some of these untraditional uses for traditional inventory can help inspire more creative ideas for your displays and for your customers.
Charger plates are traditionally used for table settings, but you also can use them for displays of hors d’oeuvres or petite desserts. Likewise, dinner plates and salad plates can be stacked with wine glasses to present a striking display of china while communicating an idea for a dessert buffet. Flatware is another item that is being used in different ways. Many caterers are using large tablespoons to serve appetizers in, rather than using it as a soup spoon or traditional utensil. It’s just presenting items in a different way and that’s what makes it new again.
Another idea, which has been brought up by our customers, is a “living table.” Living tables are just that — a live person inside a table on casters, loaded with appetizers. The table person walks around the room with the table around them, offering a personal connection with party-goers, as well as serving a purpose of being a café table or buffet.
One element that is sure to bring customers back is customization. For instance, we have portable 6-ft. bars that normally come with black or white skirting. Instead, event planners use specialty linens on the bars to create an entirely different look. Combining items you have in inventory and having special covers or skirts made can completely change the look of an old piece of equipment.
For us, lounge furniture is becoming more popular, but we don’t have the demand yet to put new inventory into circulation. What we do is use staging at a lower height for lounge furniture. If you go to a local sewing store, you can buy a bolt of foam and cut it to fit. Then tap your specialty linen source to create a one-of-a-kind piece that is able to be revamped for various events.
To make the most of your new presentations and displays, consider starting a blog and presenting new ideas for customers. Those who go to your website could then have a better idea of how items can be used prior to coming in the store or calling in an order.
Above all, do whatever you can to come up with what customers want by using what you have on hand. For instance, we do not own a chuppah — a Jewish wedding canopy — but we built one with our available hardware and then used drapery to cover the frame.
Re-examining your current inventory can help you determine what can be used and what new items can be added to your inventory. By reusing inventory and building new items to suit, you will have more ideas about what kinds of products you can rent on a regular basis. This can help determine your plan for new purchases.
The Rental Show also can help you determine what to include in inventory. We are looking at Chiavari chairs, outdoor dance floors and other new items that will help with our inventory and events. While you are there, be sure to talk to other rental professionals about their ideas. Sharing information can help you put your inventory to the best use possible.
Louise Serpa, CERP, Bel-Ayre Rentals, Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, can be reached at 204-786-8975 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.