Attendance Disappointing at Rental Show

March 6, 2009
Related Reading: Not ARA's Fault Attendance Lagged

Attendance dropped significantly at The Rental Show in Atlanta last week, with sources close to the American Rental Association saying attendance was down about 50 percent. Although ARA officials declined to comment on attendance figures, sources who were not authorized to speak for the association said pre-registration numbers declined around 40 percent and onsite registration declined significantly.

To a large degree, the decline in walk-up attendance was caused by a snowstorm on Sunday March 1, which caused Delta Airlines, the leading carrier serving Atlanta, to postpone or cancel more than 400 flights into the city. Many attendees and exhibitor personnel faced flight delays as long as two days, which caused a number of potential attendees to cancel their participation.

Many exhibitors interviewed by RER estimated an attendance drop-off of more than 50 percent. The consensus among exhibitors was that ARA was not to blame for the attendance decline, and the association received favorable reviews for a well-organized show. Quite a few exhibitors used the phrase “a perfect storm” (no pun intended) in describing several factors that contributed to the attendance drop. The recent steep economic decline has left many rental company owners hesitant to leave their businesses for a few days to travel to Atlanta. The economic decline coming on the heels of a boom period during which rental companies’ increased fleet sizes significantly has led a high percentage of rental companies looking to reduce the size of their inventory rather than acquire new equipment. The lack of interest in acquiring new equipment, coupled with weather problems that made travel to the city problematic, along with a deep uncertainty about economic prospects for the foreseeable future, conspired to lower attendance at the show.

Many exhibitors interviewed by RER said that while attendance and buying was disappointing, the quality of leads they generated at the show was strong.

RER will have more coverage of the products introduced and events at The Rental Show in the coming weeks.

Next year’s The Rental Show will be held at the Orange County Convention Center in Orlando, Fla., Feb. 8-11.