The More Things Change... By David Keene

  • In our last issue, Tom Stimson outlined, in his "Competitor or Collaborator?" article, how the dynamics of marketing have changed in this industry. Stimson explained how there was a time when economics decided which companies could compete in which level of the industry. Companies that could afford the newest, high ticket equipment went after the high profile corporate events, and elaborate association meetings required owning hundreds of breakout room setups per every general session package. When these kinds of companies needed to sub-rent to meet this kind of spot demand, it was done from a competitor at a reasonable but not highly profitable rate.
  • Stimson went on to explore how the industry has now seen wholesale rental houses that offer deeper inventories, lower prices, and multiple locations. So that, at least theoretically, when an AV company can sub-rent all the extra gear they need, there is little strategic advantage in owning a lot of equipment. And small companies can compete on a higher level with less risk; furthermore, big companies can sell beyond their inventory with less planning. And the availability of wholesale gear has also fostered a growing independent stager market by providing an alternative to providing full service staging.
  • But Stimson (who is chair of the InfoComm Rental & Staging Council) concluded by observing: "the majority of Rental & Staging folks I visit with say that their first call goes to a cross-town rival rather than a wholesaler. They cite better service and point out the value of maintaining an ongoing dialogue with their peers."
  • So, after all the hand-wringing about the demise of the cross-rental business in recent years, a dynamic that made this a unique and vibrant industry with its own unique set of rules, it seems "the more things change, the more they stay the same." (And the big new wholesalers are indeed providing a good service to the industry, keeping prices competitive and growing the market as a whole.)
  • So as we head to InfoComm, its business as usual: talking to folks that are up to their necks in HD, widescreen, digital signage, networked digital audio, audience response systems, entertainment, digital lighting. The list of new markets and new technologies keeps growing. And best of all, stagers are still part of a tightly-knit industry, and the market as a whole is booming. As I have not seen since 99. This is great news for the industry, but it doesnt always make it easy to keep track of who is providing what to whom.
  • "The more things change, the more they stay the same," is our motto this summer, as we move publication of Rental & Staging Services Guide & Product Directory, to the July issue. Theres still time to list your company. The annual Rental & Staging Services Guide & Product Directory, to be published in July, together with a new on-line database, will be a valuable resource to match new equipment buyers with equipment manufacturers, and to match show producers, meeting planners, and end-users with rental and staging service providers. It is the industrys only comprehensive resource database that covers both the corporate meeting/corporate staging and entertainment staging industries.
  • The Guide will categorize the large number of rental and staging companies by state. And each rental and staging company will be described by equipment in inventory, staffing capabilities, and type of jobs performed in the past.
  • In addition to listing rental/staging companies, the directory will also include listings of key service providers such as Rental Equipment Suppliers; Set Designers, Scenic Service Providers, Content Providers, Event Planner, Show Producers, trucking companies, freight forwarders, insurers, and AV staffing companies.
  • Product providers will be listed under the categories of Audio Equipment, Video Equipment, Lighting Equipment, Cases, Accessories, Staging/Rigging Equipment, Digital Signage, Kiosks, Software, and Special Effects.
  • The online directory has been upgraded with a variety of new features that allow precise, comprehensive searches by product type or service category. Additional online features such as classified ads have also been added to the web site.
  • Be sure to submit, on the www.rentalandstaging.com web site, your listing for the 2006 Rental & Staging Services Guide & Product Directory.