Cost is more than just the initial price.
As I reported in my last column, development of the “high end” staging projection systems didn’t slow down as the recession hit, although we heard less about them because of the manufacturer’s shift in advertising dollars to lower-cost models.
As we head to InfoComm 2010, we’ve come off a year-long period since InfoComm 2009 where a good deal of innovation has been taking place in the mid-lumen range, let’s say from 8-12K lumens. In this column, we’ll take a look some gear-buying criteria from a different angle. And we’ll ask if increasing client requests for “green” equipment affect the midrange more than the high end.
Obviously, in a tight economy the cost of acquisition will be more important than ever. With more and more manufacturers with credible entries in each category of product, all of the manufacturers and distributors will be sharpening their pencils to keep or increase market share. Because of the increased competition, list prices have been moving steadily downward this year. However, notice that I used the phrase “cost of acquisition,” because in a cash-tight economy, I believe that manufacturer’s financing and lease programs will become more important than in the past, allowing stagers to acquire equipment as they need it and pay for it as it pays for itself.
Overall cost of operations
I think that this year has caused me, and most of my colleagues, to assess cash flow and actual cost of operations more closely than we ever have before. So, while the number on the check we write to buy the machine will be important, so will the overall cost of operation of each piece of technology we buy this year. The cost and frequency of replacement of consumables such as lamps and filters will be more important than in the past, as will the comparative cost of items such as lamps and mounts that it takes to produce a complete rental system. Many manufacturers have assembled such comparisons in the past, although nobody has ever made it a primary sales feature. Those manufacturers and distributors who have such figures assembled (favorable ones) should give them a more prominent place in their collateral -- and, stagers, you should be asking about them. Lately, I’ve seen a lot of signs of the projector manufacturers adopting some of the proven sales techniques of the printer manufacturers, where the printer is cheap, but the ink cartridges are expensive. Let’s make it a point to look at REAL costs this year.
Service and assistance programs
Another type of program that stagers have not taken enough advantage of in the past are the various manufacturer’s “Rental Associate” programs. When buying into a new type of technology, an important safety blanket is the kind of program that lets a buyer borrow (or rent at reduced cost) similar equipment, or those programs that allow for loaner equipment if yours is in for service. “Uptime” is everything in rental, where “tomorrow” is often not an option. Since most of us will not be buying the number of machines this year that we have in the past, this type of program can be the final decision maker in many new purchases, especially in the upper end of the cost range.
I mention “green” once again, because it really is a factor for both the stager and the end client. We’re already observing clients asking for environmental impact information not just for the equipment they buy, but for equipment they rent, especially if it is used on company property. So far, I hear about it mostly in longer-term mid-range rentals, such as training programs, but you can bet we’ll be seeing it soon in larger shows as well, especially if venues start emphasizing it (as many are doing) with electrical surcharges. And for stagers, “green” operation goes hand-in-hand with reduced overall cost of ownership.
So, long story short, I believe that the shopping we do this year (and we will shop) will be more careful, with an eye toward its long-term consequences to our companies rather than just the wow factor. If you’re a stager, keep these things in mind as the din of the show distracts you. And, if you’re a manufacturer or distributor, have this kind of data ready and in the forefront.