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Forming An Alliance

Forming An Alliance

Allies are important, and that goes for the rental industry as well. Case in point — the Global Rental Alliance, which was developed to meet a twofold mission: to improve information flow about rentals from country to country and to increase the profile of equipment and event rentals. Formed in 2003, the GRA meets yearly at the American Rental Association show, most recently held in Atlanta in February. There, the group extended an invitation for membership to DLR — an association based in Joinville le Pont, France — which represents rental companies and distributors in France — and the European Rental Association in Brussels, Belgium. Both accepted.

Chris Wehrman, CEO and executive vice president of Moline, Ill.-based ARA, has been key in the development of the Global Rental Alliance, which now includes seven organizations. Here she discusses rentals round the world.

SPECIAL EVENTS MAGAZINE: What problems might exist if there were no GRA?

CHRIS WEHRMAN: Certainly the level of communication and sharing would be lost, and also the opportunity for strong personal and business relationships between the associations would not exist if we didn't have this activity.

The value has been established in a short time — we can see results from the efforts of the alliance. One of the areas in particular is equipment theft. That is one that we are concentrating on this year — on registration of equipment, for instance, through a national database. Here in the United States, we have the National Equipment Register. Also, from a party and special event as well as general tool perspective, there's technology from DataDot [a commercial identification and anti-theft security system] that also allows registration of equipment, which means — for law enforcement — there is access to a database. So we're doing quite a lot on that issue and bringing each other up to speed faster on what the possibilities are.

SPECIAL EVENTS: Any noticeable differences in inventory, procedure, terms and policies for special event rental from country to country?

CHRIS WEHRMAN: Certainly the products and the suppliers that are available vary from country to country. The development of the industry in each country is at a different level. Consolidation and independent ownership are at different levels within each country. How they categorize different segments of different products within party and special events rental — such as audiovisual, for instance — does vary. The terminology is different. But that there is a lot of growth potential in every country for this segment of rental goes without saying.

SPECIAL EVENTS: What are some examples of rental products that vary from country to country?

CHRIS WEHRMAN: The type of tents, I think, varies, probably on the smaller end more than the larger. I think the use of chairs. What's available, what's “traditional” versus cutting edge. Color, shapes, sizes of china and even flatware and linens as well. And the suppliers — where do they source from? Even the transportation issues that abound in some of these countries are quite different. Portable kitchens are a real difference — [they're] probably a larger industry in some segments of Europe. Also portable restrooms and inflatables.

SPECIAL EVENTS: How are items categorized differently from country to country?

CHRIS WEHRMAN: In the United Kingdom, for instance, [audiovisual] is separated out as a rental category because of the size, magnitude and commonality of providing that service, whereas in the United States it is within the party and special event segment as a service.

SPECIAL EVENTS: What do you foresee for the future of the GRA?

CHRIS WEHRMAN: A continued commitment to looking at the industry — not only within individual countries but on a global level — and doing what we can to continue to build alliances and strong connections from rental association to rental association.

SPECIAL EVENTS: What haven't I asked that I should have?

CHRIS WEHRMAN: The one comment I would make is that this has been a very enjoyable process for all of the associations — the leadership and the staff — to better understand similarities that we have in this business and the opportunity for growth and development, within countries but also on a global level.

To find out more about the Global Rental Alliance, visit


The Global Rental Alliance brings the world of rentals closer together. Members include:

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