One Stop Rental turns to the Internet and new niches for success
For One Stop Rental in West Chester and Hamilton, Ohio, it’s the company’s website that is helping grow the business these days. In fact, the company’s small showroom is dominated by a flat panel TV to the right of the front desk at the West Chester location that shows the website, current weather and rental specials.
“We use the website all the time,” says Drew Harris, One Stop Rental’s co-owner. “It’s mainly for the homeowners. We put spec sheets and manuals online, too, and we link to product videos. We also direct people to it after hours.”
While customers can build a quote online, “half the time, honestly, they don’t know what they’re looking for. They will put an inquiry in for a rental and we will respond to them to verify the order. We get many emails at 2, 3 and 4 in the morning,” he says.
Website reconstruction began in spring of 2009. Harris says they actually created the website more for the party and event end of things, but then found new uses to help expand general tool rentals and more.
“We did the party and event first. We put the digital catalog online. The website for us is invaluable. We put manuals online and we added the weather forecast button, which takes you to a weather radar,” he says.
Once the new website went up, website hits also went up. Harris says the amount of traffic on the website has gone up about 30 percent each year because of the work they have done with search engine optimization.
Harris also has used other high-tech options to build business, including a Groupon offering a propane discount.
“We had a major spike on the day we released the Groupon. Our website hits were up 1,000 percent on the release day and 500 percent the day after. We sold out the Groupon in 24 hours,” he says.
The Groupon ad was inspired by a Rental Management article about Darick Hemphill of General Rental Center in Springfield, Mo., who did a propane Groupon offer, and One Stop Rental did the same.
“We did 450 Groupon propane coupons this past fall and they were all gone in 24 hours. We had 202 redeemed by Oct. 31, all by homeowners. We had people driving in from Indiana. We’ll definitely do it again,” he says.
Other than the Groupon, advertising is mainly in the Yellow Pages, trade publications and local newspapers and media, Harris says. “Our Yellow Pages advertising is down 75 percent. We market the store primarily through the Internet, outside sales and by attending trade meetings.”
For Harris, the rental business became his career even before he graduated from Ohio State University in 1993. “A friend in Dayton was in the business and six months before I graduated, my brother and I signed the lease with him on the building. It took several months to get the shop ready. I came down the day after graduation and, with their help, opened the business.”
Today, One Stop Rental operates in two locations, with about 85 percent in tool and construction, and 15 percent in party rental. The current location in West Chester is 14,000 sq. ft. Originally 6,000 sq. ft., Harris added the warehouse, which is split between tool and party, and includes two bays recently added specifically for the party and event business. The extra space was built in by carving into the hillside in the back of the store. A 16-ft. retaining wall not only keeps dirt at bay, but provides storage space for ladders and lot space for machinery.
The 8,000-sq.-ft. Fairfield/Hamilton location is about 10 miles away from West Chester and is 100 percent tool rental. The West Chester location was built in 1995, after the business expanded from a 1,000-sq.-ft. location down the street.
“We started in party and event rental about five years ago in response to declining home building market and increased competition in the heavy construction market,” he says, adding that with the local economy down and competition up, it helped to diversify, something that has continued beyond adding party and event rentals.
Another element that has helped One Stop grow revenue is retail sales, including fasteners and safety materials. “You really do have to have a lot of safety items, nails and fasteners. We also sell propane in the winter for temporary heating,” he says.
“Two or three years ago, we started asking, ‘What else can we do?’ That’s when we began offering U-Haul trucks for rent, too. It can be very busy at certain times of the year. Our rentals are up this year and that’s good,” he says.
Overall, Harris is pleased with the recent growth and has a positive outlook for the future. “We have three guys who have been here 15 years or more. Total, we have about 25 full-time and seasonal employees and eight delivery trucks between the two stores. We’re in a really good residential area. The hits on our website are up. Things are going well,” he says.
Know your neighbors
The West Chester, Ohio, location of One Stop Rental is next door to the office of Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio), the current Speaker of the U.S. House of Representatives. Last fall, a bomb threat at Rep. Boehner’s office meant One Stop’s employees arriving at work that day were met with yellow police tape and several police cars on the scene. A briefcase was later found to contain only paper. RM
One Stop Rental has locations in West Chester and Fairfield/Hamilton, Ohio, and rents out space at both facilities to Domino’s Pizza. Drew Harris, One Stop Rental’s co-owner, says all of his employees took advantage of the pizza proximity at first, but have since slowed down, only eating at Domino’s from time to time these days.