Great party rental showrooms do a lot more than simply display inventory. Instead, they show how rental elements go together to create the excitement that is the soul of special events.
All showrooms operate on the premise that no beautiful brochure or silver-tongued salesperson can do as much to sell the product as simply giving the client the chance to see it up close. But that's where the similarities stop.
For many party rental operators, the bigger the showroom, the better.
In October, Cleveland-based Event Source debuted its new 74,000-square-foot facility, which includes a 3,200-square-foot showroom with 18-foot ceilings. On display are 125 table linens and a variety of table settings with different themes and products.
“This new facility will enable us to do even more to serve and meet our customers' party and event rental needs,” says Event Source president John Bibbo Jr. “We want to be their complete one-stop rental source.”
And many operators believe that clients can't rent it if they can't see it. “Our showroom features approximately 75 percent of what we offer for rental either by actual display or by pictures on the walls or party picture albums,” says Karen May, marketing director of Phoenix-based Tri-Rentals. “People can move chairs, china, silverware, glassware and cloths to create the look they are looking for.”
But some party rental operators maintain that good things come in smaller packages.
With its move into a new building last spring, St. Louis-based Admiral Party and Tent Rentals gave up some showroom space to increase operating efficiencies. To make the most of its 800-square-foot showroom, Admiral uses half-rounds positioned against the walls to display eight unique table displays. Although his former showroom was two-and-a-half times the size of the new one, “The result is superior to what we had in our larger showroom in both appearance and efficiency,” notes president Paul C. Belmont.
“Although we have one of the most extensive inventories in the business, we do not overwhelm the client with an overpowering and confusing showroom,” notes Darin Phelps, operations manager of Culver City, Calif.-based Classic Party Rentals. The 450-square-foot showroom changes with the seasons and the arrival of new items. “Because we carefully select items for our showroom, clients are often excited to see us again and again to spark a new idea or theme for an event or party,” Phelps says.
TIME FOR A CHANGE
Whatever the size of the showroom, none remains static.
Virtually all operators change the items in their showrooms with the seasons, and Karl's Party Rental of Oak Creek, Wis., changes its showroom every two to three weeks. The constant change is needed for “keeping up with the themes of the upcoming holidays, seasons and events,” says event consultant Janet Fletcher. Karl's encourages clients to bring in their own centerpieces or accessories “to sample various table setting options for their event,” she adds.
Party Rental Ltd., with operations in New York, Long Island, N.Y., Teterboro, N.J., Philadelphia and Washington, targets each showroom to its specific clientele. “Our Manhattan location is filled with sophisticated, elegant table settings perfect for society galas held at one of New York's premiere event locations,” explains sales executive Debbie Barnes. “In contrast to that is our Hamptons [Long Island] showroom, which features quiet elegance— settings that are perfect for more casual, ‘easy living’ events at home.”
OFFERING THE EXTRAS
Several operators soup up their showrooms by offering extra services.
Tri-Rentals takes digital photos of sets and sends the images to clients via e-mail, CD or print-out. “That way they have photos to use for other vendors they may be working with, such as caterers, florists, photographers and so forth,” May notes. The Tri-Rentals showroom has been offering these features since May, “and we have seen an increase in people dropping in rather than calling.”
In its year-old facility, Niles, Ill.-based Hall's Rental Service offers cooking facilities and two private conference rooms adjacent to the showroom. Here client caterers can bring in their own clients for meetings and full tastings.
Carol Stream, Ill.-based M&M The Special Events Co. hosts table decorating seminars for clients. “We also encourage them to invite their customers for tastings and planning sessions,” notes president Michael Berk.
The showroom at Cincinnati-based Camargo Rental Center features computer workstations that give clients access to the company's complete rental database, along with high-speed Internet access “for the client's convenience in locating other goods and services related to their event,” according to general manager Todd Murphy.
Although showrooms can show off beautiful products, professional rental staff make the crucial customer connection.
L.A. Party Rents of Van Nuys, Calif., makes sure to have consultants on hand at all times to assist all customers, those with appointments and those who simply walk in.
“By visiting our showroom and meeting our team of experienced staff, clients can feel confident that when their chosen items are delivered, they will meet their exact requirements,” explains Bernadette Hammersley, joint managing director of London-based Camden Furniture Hire. “There will be no surprises!”
RESOURCES: Admiral Party and Tent Rentals, 314/993-3600; Camargo Rental Center, 513/271-6510; Camden Furniture Hire, +44 208 961 6161; Classic Party Rentals, 310/202-0011; Event Source, 866/901-6001, 216/901-0000; Hall's Rental Service, 847/929-2222; Karl's Party Rental, 414/831-7000; L.A. Party Rents, 310/785-0000; M&M The Special Events Co., 630/871-9999; Party Rental Ltd., 888/774-4776; Tri-Rentals, 602/232-9900