It was a nice change walking around the Rental Show in New Orleans last week and seeing and hearing a far more optimistic rental industry than we've seen for the past few years. I spoke with a lot of exhibitors and the majority of them were reporting solid leads, some good sales at the show and a far more optimistic attitude among rental customers than in some time. As's Matt Fearon said, last year at this time there was a sense that they were turning the corner but this year clearly the corner had been turned and a new rental era was beginning.
Doosan Infracore Portable Power's veteran Joe Jabbour — who has been through 40 years of rental shows — noted that this year rental companies were buying to grow their fleets, as opposed to last year when people tended to buy because they had a specific project to supply.
Industry research is showing the optimism is not anecdotal. Baird, in partnership with RER, recently published the results of its fourth-quarter 2011 rental equipment industry survey, which showed rental revenue growth of 11.5 percent, with projections of about 11 percent for 2012 (see http://rermag.com/trends_analysis/headlinenews/baird-rer-q411-equipment-... .) IHS Global Insight, one of the world's leading economic forecasting firms, said at the Rental Show, that it projects at least a 6.9-percent increase in the industry in 2012. (http://rermag.com/trends_analysis/headlinenews/ihs-global-predicts-renta...) Noted equipment industry researcher Frank Manfredi, who writes an annual rental equipment industry forecast in RER, projects a 12-percent rental industry increase in 2012 to about $28.2 billion in the U.S. (http://rermag.com/trends_analysis/headlinenews/manfredi-predicts-12-perc... ).
And in an RER rental industry story in its January issue, most rental executives interviewed by RER predicted rental volume increases ranging from 5 to 15 percent for the coming year (http://rermag.com/business_technology/business_info_analysis/learning-le...).
There are always a few exceptions at a show, but for the most part the optimism was strong. And almost everyone we spoke to was happy to have the show back in New Orleans, from the late-night revelers on Bourbon Street to the early-morning coffee drinkers and beignet eaters at Café du Monde. Ok, not everybody loves New Orleans, just like not everybody enjoys oysters and crawfish etouffee, but I never heard anybody say, “Why are we coming to New Orleans, when can we go back to Atlanta?”
No offense to Georgians, but ARA members by and large prefer New Orleans and kudos to the association for listening to its membership.