New inventory can bring in new business
Taking risks on new items to rent is both a bane and blessing for the party and event equipment rental industry. For us at Bryant’s Rent-All in Lexington, Ky., we’ve had hits and misses, but one thing is certain: Taking risks takes guts. If done right, new inventory can bring in new business and create a new standard for your rental inventory.
Our adventure in party and event inventory began one summer many years ago. That year, my father, Terry Bryant, asked my grandfather, E.V. Bryant, for a part-time job in order to make a few bucks over the summer. Forty years later, that part-time job developed into a passionate career.
E.V. Bryant started out with a mix of general tools and only a few tables and chairs. Young and energetic, Terry asked him about stocking more items in the party rental section. His answer was clear. “When I am gone, you can do what you want, but I don’t want to grow in party rental,” E.V. said.
My father took note and as soon as my grandfather retired, he had the foresight and guts to venture out into new products for party rentals. Granted, I’m earning a few brownie points by pointing this out, but that single move has changed our entire business.
Each year, one of my favorite things to do at The Rental Show is find new items. However, not all of the items we take a risk on perform well. In the past, we have tried round tables with LED lights embedded into the top and a battery pack under the table. Expensive, but pretty, they turned out to be a disappointment when it came to renting them. The rental cost was too high for customers in our market, despite the “Wow” factor.
Another flighty item for us was a butterfly catching game. As it turned out, replacement butterflies were hard to come by. Who knew? We would have known this if we had done our homework before taking the risk.
The lessons learned included making sure our market could bear the rental cost and to check for the availability of parts and replacements ahead of time.
The biggest problem in taking a risk on a new rental item is the cost. Recently, my father bought some colored acrylic blocks and trays designed for sushi. I thought they were overpriced and would never rent, but apparently I am not as smart as I thought. The sushi blocks and trays became a favorite with our caterers and now I can admit that he had the right idea. Some other hot items that he took a successful risk on were electric food warmers and small tabletop convection ovens. Before we put these items in our inventory, I did not get many calls for them and did not see a need to put them into our arsenal. Now, I can’t imagine not having these items in our inventory.
One thing I love about my father’s business mind is his ability to take risks on these new items. This year, one risk is on a large propane convection oven. In past years, we had to sub-rent this oven from All Occasions Party Rental, 100 miles away in Cincinnati. Hopefully, the risk will have its benefits.
Within the next few years, when he retires, it will be my job to take risks on the big dollar items. I hope I can do as good of a job as he does and, because I am extremely frugal, this may prove to be a challenge.
For instance, I have quoted a few tent jobs with a sub-rented air conditioner, but so far, none of my clients have decided that the air-conditioning is justified. I look forward to the day we can book an event that needs an air-conditioned tent. It would be “cool” if I could find a client willing to do this. Perhaps this summer my dream will come true. However, would I be willing to buy an air conditioner rather than sub-rent one before that time comes? It remains to be seen.
How do you make a wise decision about adding a new item to your inventory? We ask caterers what items they would like to rent that we don’t have. Also, we network with other rental stores, which is a great way to discover something new. Our in-house Facebook guru, Nick Blevins, was at The Rental Show with us this year and he spent time posting new items on our Facebook page to get feedback from customers. This instant feedback helped us make a timely decision about whether to carry an item in our inventory.
Rental stores are full of risk and risk takers. Please share with the rental industry how you decide on new items. We all need new ideas to help customers have the event of their dreams.
Scott Bryant is the manager at Bryant’s Rent-All of Lexington, Lexington, Ky. He can be reached at 859-252-0408 or firstname.lastname@example.org.