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The Evolution of the Rental Industry

Lisa Anhaiser, CPCE, founder and owner of Creating the Map for Success, shares her knowledge about wedding and event businesses. Lisa gives her perspective about event rentals, how the industry has changed over the years, and how it has adapted from the impacts of COVID-19:

As a 25-year veteran of the hospitality industry, it is not hard to see how rentals have evolved. Let’s take a look at where they’ve been, to better understand where we are going. 

Late 90s 

Party rentals in the late ’90s focused on tables, chairs, glass or white dinnerware, and chafers for tented events and rental halls. Hotel and club chairs were stained, torn and an advertisement for the chair covers hitting the market. Color selection was very basic with white, ivory, or black poplin and an accent of gold or silver lame in sashes, toppers, and runners.

Over the years, table and chair purchase pricing began to drop as more imports come from overseas. Purchasing from companies manufactured in the United States provided a better quality product, but the cost difference was becoming a factor. Imports allowed smaller rental companies to buy for their inventory and cut out the larger suppliers.

Warehouse stores would regularly have boxed glassware, dinnerware, and silverware that made inventory easily accessible for the smaller rental companies and planners, who were now carrying their own stock. Items that had been harder to locate were now available at restaurant supply stores.

Early 2000s

The same pricing discrepancies were occurring in the early 2000s in the linen sector. The fabric, now imported from China and Vietnam, is available for prices unmatched by US manufacturers. Traditional US mills were filing for bankruptcy, and raw goods were getting cheaper. Cheaper materials brought in more rental companies focused on linen rentals, and the industry began to explode.

The folding chairs cost slightly less than the decorative chairs and were far easier to transport. Venues chose to add one or the other to their facilities, allowing rental companies to bring in chairs for ceremony or reception. As the chairs became more attractive and required no coverings, tablecloth rentals became stronger. It was no longer acceptable to show bare table legs, and floor-length cloths were now a staple.

Late 2000s

From 2007 to the end of the decade, as more free-standing venues were built to accommodate weddings, hotels were forced to upgrade to maintain clients’ steady flow. Short of remodeling, hotels were forced to upgrade their equipment. The chairs purchased had to be decorative to compete with the Chiavari chairs owned by the rental companies but sturdy enough to stand up to constant use.

Changes are a compounding issue for rental companies, as they are forced to find the next big thing to remain relevant and continue to catch the imagination of the savvy client. Linen rental companies moved to spandex for cocktail table coverings and chair coverings to give clients a sleek, professional look.

Rental companies were trading out the metal frame, and fabric ballroom chairs for Bamboo look wood Chiavari chairs with cushions. The new chairs cut out the chair cover rentals because of the individual rental price. The light wood chairs were easy to transport but required extensive maintenance to maintain structural integrity and keep an appearance worthy of the price tag.

Decorative chairs, like the chameleon chair, X-back, and ghost chairs, were added to rental inventories. Hotels and venues were adding decorative burnished metal-top tables that required no linens were replacing standard wood folding tables. Smaller rental companies began renting the plastic folding tables carried by wholesalers, which were lighter to transport and required less maintenance. 

A Look at Rentals Today

As we look at the industry in 2021, we are seeing the changes that companies have made to weather COVID. Rentals companies are looking to narrow offerings and will rely on sub-rentals for additional styles, so they don’t have to carry too much product. This will be a great way for the industry to utilize strategic alliances with like-minded businesses. We will see these businesses still be a one-stop-shop, but they will have a new and improved model. We have also seen smaller floral designers and planners looking to sell their inventory of rental items and planning on carrying less inventory moving forward.  

Due to the recent shutdowns and resulting losses suffered by the event industry, the landscape will change even more. Still, one thing is sure, new products will be developed, and rentals will continue to provide cutting-edge products to the event industry and the hosts and hostesses that product them.

Lisa Krumm Anhaiser, CPCE, graduate of Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses, is the founder and owner of Creating the Map for Success. She shares her knowledge with other businesses by educating via one-on-one consultations and speaking engagements. Lisa is also the founder of LBL Event Rentals in Houston, Texas, providing quality linen and event rentals to the area for over 20 years. 

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Lisa Krumm Anhaiser, is the founder and President of LBL Event Rentals based in Houston, Texas that has been providing quality linen and event rentals to the area for over 20 years. Lisa is also a graduate of the prestige Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses and she enjoys sharing her knowledge with other business owners through educating via one on one consultations and speaking engagements.

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