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AS A CHALLENGING business year winds to a close, pleasing patrons is paramount. To see what trends are shaping the party rental business, Special Events Magazine polled nearly 120 party rental companies from throughout the world to learn what counts with customers. Here is what we heard:

  1. Dramatic tents do well

    Far more than just a means to carve out an event space, tents are being used as dramatic event elements themselves. The striking silhouette created by high-peak tents is a hot trend for Kirby Rental Service, Orlando, Fla. Aarcee Party Rental of St. Louis Park, Minn., accents the peaks with lights. And black tents are news-makers for Partytime Productions, Addison, Ill.

  2. Linens are something special

    The standard stock is sitting on the shelf. Instead, top-tier tablecloths are hot, including silks, taffeta and even 100-percent linen, according to New York-based TriServe The Party Rental Co. Dressy looks such as iridescents, textured fabrics, multiple layers and floor-length drops are in demand, along with coordinating accents on chairs, according to Panache Party Rentals of Pompano Beach, Fla.

  3. Square stays strong

    Continuing the trend of the last few years, geometric forms — especially square shapes — are shaping plates and serving pieces. “It's anything but round,” notes Hall's Rental Service of Niles, Ill. The company says that its V-shaped cocktail glass is a special hit. Other operations, such as Be Our Guest of Boston and Chair-Man Mills of Toronto, note a new mix of squares and rounds with banquet table seating.

  4. Wooden chairs are winners

    London-based Thorns Group notes the popularity of natural wood and cane furniture. Customers of Raphael's Party Rentals, San Diego, are snapping up the company's mahogany folding chairs, while cherry wood folding chairs are making news at Celebration Party Rentals in Flemington, N.J. Bamboo chairs are big hits with clients of Abbey Event Services in Rancho Dominguez, Calif., Eventmakers International, Stuart, Fla., and New Orleans Event Rental, Metairie, La.

  5. Tent accessories are setting the stage

    Hand in hand with the trend toward establishing the tent itself as a dramatic event venue is the push to embellish the tented space. Tent liners — in particular satin liners — are lining up sales, according to several operations including Encore Party Rentals of Hudson, Mass., and Miller's Rental and Sales of Edison, N.J. Tent draping is big with clients of Rooney's, Harare, Zimbabwe; Aarcee Party Rental embellishes the draping with lights. Butler Rents of Denver points to an increased demand for tent leg and pole wraps, with a crystal chandelier topping off the tent ceiling.

  6. Black is big

    Although the glitter of metallics such as silver and gold stays strong, black is bearing down. Black-on-black chairs make a strong statement at Rent-Rite West in Denver. As noted above, black tents are a hit at Partytime Productions. At the same time, white is showing up in surprising places. Stamford Tent and Party Rental of Stamford, Conn., does well with its white Astroturf and white dance floors.

  7. Flatware has finesse

    Flatware with a contemporary, “minimalist” look continues strong, according to operators including Classic Party Rentals, Culver City, Calif., DC Rental, Arlington, Va., and TriServe.

  8. Specializing in service

    It's not an item in the inventory, but service is emerging as a crucial point of distinction between party rental operations. Not only does Austin RentAll Party of Austin, Texas, emphasize client consultation in developing custom set-up and strike plans for events, the company puts its personnel on site to bus dishes, flatware and glassware while event staff busses tables.

  9. Clients like customization

    Thorns Group points to a growing demand for “bespoke” (custom) furnishings with color schemes specifically linked to a particular theme or corporation, while El Segundo-based Regal Rents does well with its Chameleon chair, featuring interchangable backs and seats — putting customization directly in the hands of clients.

RESOURCES: Aarcee Party Rental, 952/922-7233; Abbey Event Services, 310/900-0099; Austin RentAll Party, 512/491-7368; Be Our Guest, 617/427-2700; Butler Rents, 303/388-5971; Celebration Party Rentals, 908/735-7368; Chair-Man Mills, 416/391-0400; Classic Party Rentals, 310/202-0011; DC Rental, 703/671-7300; Encore Party Rentals, 978/562-0022; Eventmakers International, 561/286-1841; Hall's Rental Service, 847/929-2222; Kirby Rental Service, 407/422-1001; Miller's Rental and Sales, 732/985-3050; New Orleans Event Rental, 504/368-9501; Panache Party Rentals, 954/781-5335, 800/30-PARTY; Partytime Productions, 630/261-1900; Raphael's Party Rentals, 858/689-7368; Regal Rents, 310/535-3660; Rent-Rite West, 303/399-9947; Rooney's, 011 263 4 748621 7; Stamford Tent and Party Rental, 203/324-6222; Thorns Group, 011 44 208 801 4444; TriServe The Party Rental Co., 212/288-7384

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