Sizing Up the Industry. By David Keene

  • First things first: If you have not done so, log on to www.rentalandstaging.com and vote for the best new products for the rental and staging market introduced in 2005. Details about the nominated products can be found on the voting site at www.rentalandstaging.com (see the list of the nominated products on page 16-17 of this issue). Voting has been extended, but only until May 4, so vote now. And when you register for InfoComm be sure to sign up for the AV Awards Banquet, to take place Tuesday evening, June 6. The third annual InfoComm AV Awards Banquet, honoring the best AV products, people, and projects in the industry, kicks off the InfoComm Show (and wraps up Super Tuesday). Awards will be presented by Systems Contractor News, Rental & Staging Systems, ARCHI-TECH Magazine, and InfoComm International. (Reserve a table by calling InfoComm customer service at 703.273.7200 or 800.659.7469). This year the Awards ceremony will start a bit earlier (5:30 p.m.-7:30 p.m.), will be a more streamlined affair, and will lead into the InfoComm Party, which starts at 7:30 p.m.
  • As befitting an event for this crowd, the party will feature standout sound, lighting, and video systems (featuring display equipment from Barco and audio equipment from Telex), and a concert by national recording artists, The Smithereens.
  • I for one am anxious to get a broad-ranging industry update at InfoComm's Rental Staging Council Meeting, Wednesday, June 7, 10:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. Last year's Rental Staging Council Forum featured a stateof- the-art audience response system from Meridia Audience Response Services, and some of the results of immediate audience polling on hot topics was surprising.
  • With Tom Stimson of Alford Media as Chair of the Rental Staging Council, InfoComm has done a good job of addressing some of the industry's top concerns, including market research, training, and education. At this year's show, and rental and staging meetings and forums, I'll be interested taking the pulse of the industry and picking the brains of leaders like Stimson to better understand recent changes in market dynamics.
  • When we launched this magazine, I could see two strong trends in the market: a strong cross-rental/sub-rental dynamic that made natural competitors some-time collaborators and an emphasis within the InfoComm Rental Staging Council on the concerns of smaller companies. Have these trends changed? Are they related?
  • The rental and staging industry has traditionally been characterized by a crossrental/ sub-rental dynamic that is unusual to other AV markets. Because of the one-off nature of most events that we service, no one company can justify purchasing large highticket pieces of equipment for use for just one or two shows. Hence, many companies subrent that gear on a project basis, often from their cross-town competitors. A dynamic that leads to interesting relationships. But recently we have seen a trend toward a smaller number of very large wholesale equipment rental houses that specialize in providing that subrental gear. These are not staging companies, they only rent out gear. And so many staging companies are sourcing their gear from those houses, not from their cross-town staging competitors. Meanwhile, large well-established staging companies are buying more gear for inventory and creating their own sub-rental system among their own branch offices.
  • Does this mean the smaller staging company is increasingly operating independently, in terms of sharing of technology, contacts, and resources? And has the InfoComm Rental and Staging Council changed to reflect more of the concerns of the larger staging companies who now face growth challenges based more on traditional business models than on the peculiar sub-rental dynamic that previously defined the industry?
  • I'll be at InfoComm to find out. See you in Vegas.