Building Momentum

Promising news reports indicate the tide is really turning for equipment rental businesses in 2011.

Can you feel it? The momentum kicking in? After enduring over two years of challenging economic conditions, we are finally receiving some optimistic reports that the tide is, in fact, turning and that 2011 will show significant improvement for the businesses that have struggled for so long to survive the worse recession in recent history.

Although most associated with the rental industry would still characterize their outlook as "cautiously optimistic," there is more evidence every day that things are looking up.

Take, for example, the latest quarterly American Rental Association (ARA) Economic Survey of members. According to that study, 80% of store owners and managers who took the survey expect 2011 to be better than 2010. Of those, 34% expect a double-digit increase in rental revenues this year compared to last year. That's significant, considering that only about half of respondents saw revenues increase in 2010 over 2009 levels, while 30% had revenues decline last year. Only 1% expect a drop in revenues this year.

This new confidence promises to translate into good news for equipment suppliers too. A total of 70% of survey respondents indicated they plan to spend more on new rental equipment purchases in 2011 compared to 2010.

And manufacturers have echoed this sentiment - 83% predict increased sales to the rental channel in 2011; 52% of them expect the increase to be in the double digits.

The ARA's survey isn't the only indicator of economic improvement this year. The largest rental companies have been reporting steadily increasing rental revenues for the past couple of quarters. United Rentals Inc., for example, showed a 10.4% increase in fourth quarter rental revenues in in 2010 vs. the same period in 2009. In addition, the company reported a 1.2% increase in rental rates. What's especially interesting is United achieved a record high for time utilization in the fourth quarter (69.3%) and for the full-year as well (65.6%).

Word on the street is that attendee registrations for The Rental Show were up 69% over last year, another sign that rental professionals are feeling better about where the industry is headed. Let's hope the momentum continues to build.