In this day and age, it seems one of the most common buzz words in the corporate world, is “branding.” Companies spend millions of dollars to increase their “brand awareness,” promoting the Nike swoosh, the Harley logo and sound and many others. That's why it seems strange to me that the local distributor for one of the manufacturers I buy equipment from recently made the decision to no longer sell to rental stores. The dealer for this company, which specializes in lawn-and-garden equipment, told us to take our equipment and parts business to retail dealers.
As it turns out, they really didn't mean all rental stores. They will continue to sell to some large rental companies. I find this to be an insult to the small rental companies that had a large hand in the success this company now enjoys. The corporate office of this manufacturer even chose not to be at the ARA Rental Show in Atlanta.
Yes, my rental store is small. No, I do not buy a great deal of equipment or parts from this company and I do not retail the equipment, but only use it for rental purposes. But, I put its brand of equipment in the hands of hundreds of potential buyers of that equipment. They get to use it under their conditions and demands. Just the fact that we have this company's equipment on our shelves conveys the idea of high-quality, durable equipment. What better promotion could it want than their equipment, their colors and their brand, in front of a lot of potential buyers.
Sometimes in our rental businesses, customers will make the decision to buy a piece of equipment, rather than renting it frequently. It's a fact of life. I believe that rental companies, both large and small, have given the vendors we use a definite edge to get that kind of sale. Many of the rental dealers I know in the Chicagoland/Northern Illinois area have used and promoted this company's equipment for decades.
The rental industry introduced the world to items such as string trimmers, leaf blowers, pole saws, powered brooms and more. Many landscapers and homeowners never knew some of this stuff existed. Yes, that was years ago. But we still offer new products and new models, even though some may be unproven.
As to the big picture, I am worried that this decision may be a sign of things to come. Will we be forced to buy our equipment from our competitor if he is larger than us? Will equipment vendors decide smaller rental operations just aren't worth the expense to maintain? I hope not. I believe there is a valuable partnership between equipment vendors and the rental industry, regardless of the size of the rental store. They provide us with quality equipment, parts availability and dealer pricing. We in return are a source of sales, both in rental use and retail, demonstration, promotion and image. Anyway, that's the way I see it.
I still attended the ARA Rental Show in Atlanta and spent time looking for alternate vendors who acknowledge and appreciate the contributions the rental industry has made, and will continue to make.
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