I admit I didn't know what to expect as I headed to Orlando for last week's Rental Show. Those of you who read our January issue, in which rental companies, manufacturers and service providers to the rental industry offered their projections for 2010 -- which you can read online at http://rermag.com/business_technology/business_info_analysis/30-takes-new-year-20100101 -- you know that the outlook people expressed was, for the most part, quite pessimistic about the year ahead. “I'm heading down to Orlando to buy some new equipment because I have a lot of demand from my customers” was not a comment our staff frequently heard.
I'm not sure what, if anything, changed over the past month or two to create a more positive attitude, but there was, in general, a more positive feeling in the booths and aisles of the Rental Show (read our coverage of the show at http://rermag.com/trends_analysis/headlinenews/rental-show-report-021310). Maybe all the people who viewed things positively showed up at the show and everybody else stayed home, but most people I talked to there seemed to feel there was some hope. Maybe not a lot of hope, but hope nonetheless. Maybe they didn't see a light at the end of the tunnel, but most people I talked to at the show seemed to feel that at least it wasn't going to get worse and that if they couldn't see that proverbial light, at least they sensed that it is out there somewhere.
I'm sure those of you who attended last year remember the show as being a rather lonely place. It certainly was for exhibitors, unless they came to Atlanta just so they could hang out with people wearing the same shirts as they wore. The aisles on the exhibit floor this year in Orlando didn't have that deserted feel. Of course, smaller booth sizes and fewer square feet at the show this year contributed to the feeling that it was more crowded, but it clearly was. While buying on the show floor was nothing like the boom years, at least there was buying going on, and most exhibitors I spoke with said attendees were more upbeat, more seriously interested in investing, with more of a feeling that their customers had projects on the horizon and were looking for equipment to accommodate demand.
These impressions I'm offering are far from scientific. Attendance figures have not been announced yet, nor have we done an exhaustive study on equipment purchases on the show floor. But for an industry eager for any kind of sign of better times to come, this may have been a good beginning.