THEY HAVE PLENTY OF ADJECTIVES TO DESCRIBE THE CURRENT CLIMATE: CHALLENGING. TIGHT. SLOW. BUT ALL THE WORDS ADD UP TO ONE THING — A PARTY RENTAL MARKET EAGER FOR A BUSINESS REBOUND.

The hurdles of 2001 — a slowing economy and the aftermath of 9/11 — have made many clients tighten their budgets. Indeed, taking the full-line party rental companies who appeared on this list last year as a group, overall revenue has grown an anemic 1.6 percent this year. In response, these top-tier players have streamlined business practices, improved customer service and added innovative inventory. Now with operations that are lean and light, a rebound in 2003 will have them flying high.

COMPANY HEADQUARTERS ESTIMATED 2002 RENTAL VOLUME (in millions) NUMBER OF LOCATIONS RANKING IN 2001
Classic Party Rentals Culver City, Calif. $31 5 1
Regal Rents El Segundo, Calif. $25 plus 3 2
Party Rental Ltd. Teterboro, N.J. $25 Special Events Magazine estimate* 5 3
Broadway Famous Party Rental Brooklyn, N.Y. $18-$19 Special Events Magazine estimate* 1 4
Kirby Rental Service Orlando, Fla. $15 3 5
Chicago Party Rental/Braun Event & Tent Countryside, Ill. $13 plus 2 13
Hall's Rental Service Niles, Ill. $13 1 9
Stamford Tent and Party Rental Stamford, Conn. $12 1 7
Ducky-Bob's Party & Tent Rentals** Carrollton, Texas $12 2 8
Abbey Event Services** Rancho Dominguez, Calif. $12 2 6
Raphael's Party Rentals San Diego $11.5-$12 Special Events Magazine estimate* 2 11
HSS RentX Special Events Knoxville, Tenn. $11 Special Events Magazine estimate* 7 10
Chair-Man Mills Toronto $10 plus 1 23
TriServe The Party Rental Co. New York $10 plus 3 12
Thorns Group London $10 plus 5 n/a
Tri Rentals Party Specialists Phoenix $ 9 plus 2 17
Rent-Rite West/The Wright Group Denver $8.10 5 15
Karl's Party Rental Oak Creek, Wis. $7.7 1 18
Panache Party Rentals Pompano Beach, Fla. $7-$8 Special Events Magazine estimate* 3 16
Select Event Rentals Beltsville, Md. $6.75 3 24
DC Rental Arlington, Va. $6.5 1 19
L.A. Party Rents Van Nuys, Calif. $6.5 1 20
Rooney's Harare, Zimbabwe, Africa $6.5 2 n/a
Butler Rents Denver $6.25 2 22
M&M The Special Events Co. Carol Stream, Ill. $5.8-$5.9 4 25


NOTES:




*All statistics are supplied by the companies interviewed unless otherwise noted. Special Events Magazine figures are estimates based on interviews by staff, industry experts and economic research. While every effort has been made to ensure accuracy, errors and omissions sometimes occur. All figures are in U.S. dollars.

**These operations are owned by Stellar Event & Presentation Resources, Houston; when its five party rental operations are taken together, Stellar's 2002 party rental revenue should total roughly $37 million, according to estimates from Special Events Magazine.

PARTY RENTAL PROS

PROFILES OF THE PLAYERS

ABBEY EVENT SERVICES

parent company: Stellar Event & Presentation Resources
Rancho Dominguez, Calif.

TOP OFFICER: Martin Hubbard

PHONE: 310/900-0099

WEB SITE: www.abbeyrents.com

NUMBER OF LOCATIONS: 2

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 210

COMPANY BASICS: Locations in Burbank and the South Bay/Long Beach areas of Southern California.

CURRENT EVENTS: “Shaq-tacular” fund-raiser with basketball great Shaquille O'Neal, Coachella Valley Music Festival, Orange County Museum of Art “Art of Dining” event and fund-raiser for MPI's Southern California Chapter.

HOT STUFF: Versatile items such as the “Descanso” (meaning “to rest”) line — consisting of platforms from four feet to eight feet long that can be used as benches, tables, room dividers, etc. — are making news for AES.

TRENDS, FORECASTS, PREDICTIONS: Client expectations remain high in the face of decreased budgets and a tighter market, but “most people are trying to handle this pressure through intelligent business practices,” the company says. “When ‘specialty' rental items are no longer that ‘special,’ there is still no substitute for the infrastructure and support a full-service rental company brings to an event.” AES has been streamlining operations to boost profits and serve clients better: “Happily, we are not alone — the industry has really grown up.”

BROADWAY FAMOUS PARTY RENTAL

Brooklyn, N.Y.

TOP OFFICER: Stan Skriloff

PHONE: 718/821-4000

WEB SITE: www.broadwayfamous.com

NUMBER OF LOCATIONS: 1

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 135-150 (seasonal)

COMPANY BASICS: The importing background of company brass boosts inventory.

CURRENT EVENTS: Specializes in large events in the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut markets.

TRENDS, FORECASTS, PREDICTIONS: Working on developing company's Web site.

BUTLER RENTS

Denver

TOP OFFICER: Barry Reynolds

PHONE: 303/388-5971

WEB SITE: www.butlerrents.com

NUMBER OF LOCATIONS: 2

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 75-125 (seasonal)

COMPANY BASICS: Locations in Denver and Glenwood Springs, Colo.

CURRENT EVENTS: Aspen Food & Wine Classic, ESPN Winter X-Games and Scottish Highlands Festival.

HOT STUFF: Specialty china and linens are making news for Butler, along with tent accessories from leg and pole wraps to crystal chandeliers.

TRENDS, FORECASTS, PREDICTIONS: “After a significant slowdown last fall and a slow start this spring, business is on the upswing and we expect it to continue to recover, and even grow,” management predicts.

CHAIR-MAN MILLS

Toronto

TOP OFFICER: Mary Crothers

PHONE: 416/391-0400

WEB SITE: www.chairmanmills.com

NUMBER OF LOCATIONS: 1

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 60-100 plus (seasonal)

COMPANY BASICS: In business since 1911, serving special events and trade shows.

CURRENT EVENTS: World Youth Day 2002 for the Pope, Molson Indy, Royal Agricultural Winter Fair, Canada Blooms, Queen's Plate, Toronto International Film Festival and the Royal Ontario Museum Vatican exhibit.

HOT STUFF: It's hip to be square, with square shapes, as well as colored plates, plenty of reds and whites, and a combination of round and rectangular tables.

TRENDS, FORECASTS, PREDICTIONS: Thanks in part to robust trade show work, company management predicts continued growth.

CHICAGO PARTY RENTAL/BRAUN EVENT & TENT

Countryside, Ill.

TOP OFFICER: Ben Shipper III

PHONE: 800/322-5868

WEB SITE: www.chicagopartyrental.com

NUMBER OF LOCATIONS: 2

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 170

COMPANY BASICS: CPR merged with Braun Event & Tent this spring; the new entity will move into a new 100,000-square-foot facility now under construction in McCook, Ill.

CURRENT EVENTS: Sit-down dinner for 10,000 guests and full-service temporary kitchens for major golf tournaments including the John Deere Classic.

HOT STUFF: Broad line includes equipment for catering, corporate events, hotels and homeowners.

TRENDS, FORECASTS, PREDICTIONS: The company's mission statement is “Total Satisfaction; Whatever It Takes.” “We pride ourselves on our specialized services and prompt response to customer requests,” management says.

CLASSIC PARTY RENTALS

Culver City, Calif.

TOP OFFICER: John Moran

PHONE: 310/202-0011

WEB SITE: www.classicpartyrentals.com

NUMBER OF LOCATIONS: 5

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 450

COMPANY BASICS: Five locations in California: Los Angeles, Palm Desert, San Francisco, San Diego and Encinitas.

CURRENT EVENTS: Grammy Awards, Buick Invitational, San Francisco Ballet gala, Rancho La Quinta opening gala.

HOT STUFF: “Minimalist” china and flatware complemented by specialty linen.

TRENDS, FORECASTS, PREDICTIONS: Management points to continuing segmentation in the market and the “hourglass” effect, with success for mom-and-pop operations serving the homeowner and large-scale operations serving commercial clients. Companies caught in the middle will suffer “because you can't be everything to everybody.”

DC RENTAL

Arlington, Va.

TOP OFFICER: Joe Valente

PHONE: 703/671-7300

WEB SITE: www.dcrental.com

NUMBER OF LOCATIONS: 1

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 140

COMPANY BASICS: A fixture in the Washington area since 1986.

CURRENT EVENTS: Kentucky Derby Museum gala, Preakness Stakes, Kennedy Center Honors gala.

HOT STUFF: Colored glass base plates, contemporary flatware and glassware, and odd-shaped plates and glasses.

TRENDS, FORECASTS, PREDICTIONS: “As the economy turns for the better, companies that stayed focused on providing excellent customer service and also maintained ‘latest trend’ inventories will emerge stronger than ever,” management predicts. “We will see a strong fourth quarter and a strong 2003.”

DUCKY-BOB'S PARTY & TENT RENTALS

parent company: Stellar Event & Presentation Resources

Carrollton, Texas

TOP OFFICER: Bick Jones

PHONE: 972/381-8000

WEB SITE: www.duckybobs.com

NUMBER OF LOCATIONS: 2

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 140

COMPANY BASICS: Operations in Fort Worth and Carrollton, Texas.

CURRENT EVENTS: Southern Methodist University Meadows Museum dedication, Trinity Fest July Fourth.

HOT STUFF: Natural chairs, square plates and specialty linen are tops with clients.

TRENDS, FORECASTS, PREDICTIONS: Lack of consistent economic improvement is putting a drag on economic recovery, management warns.

HALL'S RENTAL SERVICE

Niles, Ill.

TOP OFFICERS: Jack Luft and Tom Luft

PHONE: 847/929-2222

WEB SITE: www.hallsrental.com

NUMBER OF LOCATIONS: 1

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 175

COMPANY BASICS: A Chicago institution, now under second generation of family management.

CURRENT EVENTS: Field Museum Cleopatra opening gala, U.S. Senior Open in Baltimore, Lincoln Park Zoo Ball, Ameritech Senior Open golf tournament.

HOT STUFF: Different shapes in china — square, triangle, “anything but round” — V-shaped cocktail glassware and sleek stainless steel flatware.

TRENDS, FORECASTS, PREDICTIONS: Wedding, bar/bat mitzvah and other social business remains strong, management notes, while corporate event spending is “gradually increasing.”

HSS RENTX SPECIAL EVENTS

parent company: HSS

Knoxville, Tenn.

TOP OFFICER: Terry Turner

PHONE: 865/584-8331

WEB SITE: www.hssrentx.com

NUMBER OF LOCATIONS: 7

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 120-150 (seasonal)

COMPANY BASICS: Party rental outlets in Georgia, Michigan, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.

CURRENT EVENTS: Events for NASCAR, University of Virginia and University of South Carolina, plus Colonial Cup Steeplechase, Foothills Fall Festival. The U.K.-based parent HSS supplied more than 10,000 chairs for Queen Elizabeth's Jubilee concerts in June.

HOT STUFF: Clear tents, large-frame tents, platinum-band china and the company's “Paris” chair.

TRENDS, FORECASTS, PREDICTIONS: Management predicts a return to event spending in certain sectors: “Activity has been suppressed for some time; there is a feeling that it is time to move on. We've seen the impact of a decrease in disposable income from the recession and have had to dig deeper to find the high-margin jobs. But the business is there.”

KARL'S PARTY RENTAL

Oak Creek, Wis.

TOP OFFICER: John K. Schlueter

PHONE: 414/831-7000

WEB SITE: www.karls.com

NUMBER OF LOCATIONS: 1

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 145

COMPANY BASICS: Locally owned since 1969.

CURRENT EVENTS: All-Star baseball game, GE Medical shareholders' meeting, presidential visits to Milwaukee.

HOT STUFF: Clear-span tents, upper end tableware, oversize candelabra and chiavari chairs on the equipment side, plus “full-service, turnkey event planning and installation.”

TRENDS, FORECASTS, PREDICTIONS: “Quality personnel will differentiate event rental companies more than any other factor,” management predicts. “Management that invests in its No. 1 resource will excel.”

KIRBY RENTAL SERVICE

Orlando, Fla.

TOP OFFICERS: Paul Weidner, vice president, and Jim “Smitty” Smith, general manager

PHONE: 407/422-1001

WEB SITE: www.kirbytent.com

NUMBER OF LOCATIONS: 3

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 185

COMPANY BASICS: Locations in Jacksonville, Orlando and Ormond Beach, Fla.

CURRENT EVENTS: Erected a 20,000-square-foot tent for the burned-out Straw Market in Nassau, Bahamas. Also added three new golf tournaments, including the John Deere Classic.

HOT STUFF: High-peaked tents remain high in popularity, along with sheer and multi-colored linens on lighted tables. Also hot: form-fitting linens.

TRENDS, FORECASTS, PREDICTIONS: Kirby has re-invented the way it does business, management says, “with an emphasis on watching the bottom line while ensuring the best possible service we can give. Anyone can deliver a product, but service is our reputation.”

L.A. PARTY RENTS

Van Nuys, Calif.

TOP OFFICER: Jerry Nehus

PHONE: 310/785-0000

WEB SITE: www.lapartyrents.com

NUMBER OF LOCATIONS: 1

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 100

COMPANY BASICS: Renting, designing and manufacturing event equipment since 1987.

CURRENT EVENTS: Awards programs including Grammys, Golden Globes and People's Choice Awards, Mercedes Cup tennis tournament and “Snow Dogs” movie premiere.

HOT STUFF: Large tables — such as 72-inch rounds — are big with clients, along with silver chiavaris.

TRENDS, FORECASTS, PREDICTIONS: Management points to a rebound in commercial accounts.

M&M THE SPECIAL EVENTS CO.

Carol Stream, Ill.

TOP OFFICER: Mike Berk

PHONE: 630/871-9999

WEB SITE: www.mmspecialevents.com

NUMBER OF LOCATIONS: 4

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 70

COMPANY BASICS: Three showrooms (two in Chicago and one in Naperville, Ill.) along with 45,000-square-foot distribution center in Carol Stream, Ill.

CURRENT EVENTS: Miss USA Pageant, Ace Hardware Dealers Association convention.

HOT STUFF: Management points to segmentation in the market, with “themed events at one end and lavish events at the other; there doesn't seem to be as much middle ground as in the past.”

TRENDS, FORECASTS, PREDICTIONS: The key to success will be “real one-stop service from event planning to rentals, setup and event management with a single contact person,” management says. “Prepackaged events can be more cost-effective.”

PANACHE PARTY RENTALS

Pompano Beach, Fla.

TOP OFFICERS: Kelly Murphy and Bob DeFriest

PHONE: 954/781-5335, 800/30-PARTY

WEB SITE: www.linenswithpanache.com

NUMBER OF LOCATIONS: 3

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 100 plus

COMPANY BASICS: Locations in Orlando and Pompano Beach, Fla., and Colorado Springs, Colo.

CURRENT EVENTS: NASDAQ tennis tournament, celebrity weddings, and fund-raisers for politicians and Taste of the Nation.

HOT STUFF: Multi-layered tablecloths and coordinating chair accessories are making guests sit up and take notice.

TRENDS, FORECASTS, PREDICTIONS: Panache will be focusing on both internal and external education programs, improved customer communications and synergistic partnerships, company officials say.

PARTY RENTAL LTD.

Teterboro, N.J.

TOP OFFICERS: Mike and Sunny Halperin

PHONE: 888/774-4776

NUMBER OF LOCATIONS: 5

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 150-300 (seasonal, estimated)

COMPANY BASICS: Locations in New York (Manhattan and the Hamptons), New Jersey, Washington and Philadelphia.

CURRENT EVENTS: High-profile social and corporate events are staples, including the March of Dimes Beauty Ball at New York's Waldorf-Astoria in April.

HOT STUFF: Each showroom is tailored to its clientele; the Manhattan location features table settings “perfect for society galas,” while the Hamptons outlet offers “quiet elegance” for events held at home, according to company officials.

RAPHAEL'S PARTY RENTALS

San Diego

TOP OFFICER: Raphael Silverman

PHONE: 858/689-7368

WEB SITE: www.raphaelspartyrentals.com

NUMBER OF LOCATIONS: 2

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 150

COMPANY BASICS: Locations in San Diego and La Costa, Calif.

CURRENT EVENTS: Company relies on mix of social, corporate and trade show events, management says.

HOT STUFF: Mahogany folding chairs are a hit with clients.

TRENDS, FORECASTS, PREDICTIONS: The business forecast is tough to call, management says; “We keep working hard.”

REGAL RENTS

El Segundo, Calif.

TOP OFFICER: Michael Stern

PHONE: 310/535-3660

WEB SITE: www.regalrents.com

NUMBER OF LOCATIONS: 3

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 400 plus

COMPANY BASICS: Locations in Los Angeles, Santa Ana and Santa Barbara, Calif., including more than 150,000 square feet of warehouse space.

CURRENT EVENTS: Awards programs including the Oscars and Emmys, Macy's Passport, Wolfgang Puck's Meals on Wheels fund-raiser and “Spider-Man” premiere.

HOT STUFF: Square plates and bowls stay strong, along with specialty linens. A big hit: Regal's Chameleon chair, offering interchangeable backs and seats. Overall the trend is toward contemporary, upscale looks with earth tones in linens and chairs, company officials say.

TRENDS, FORECASTS, PREDICTIONS: Management is “cautiously optimistic” about the business outlook.

RENT-RITE WEST/THE WRIGHT GROUP

parent company: The Wright Group of Companies

Denver

TOP OFFICER: Tom Wright

PHONE: 303/399-9947

WEB SITE: www.thewrightgroupnow.com

NUMBER OF LOCATIONS: 5

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 70

COMPANY BASICS: Locations in Denver, Tucson, Ariz., Las Vegas, Fort Pierce, Fla., and Regina, Saskatchewan.

CURRENT EVENTS: Jazz Aspen 2002-2007, Salt Lake City Olympic Winter Games, Salomon Tour, Pike's Peak International Raceway.

HOT STUFF: Black-on-black chairs, custom tent systems and staging design.

TRENDS, FORECASTS, PREDICTIONS: Management predicts growth in large events in 2003.

ROONEY'S

Harare, Zimbabwe, Africa

TOP OFFICERS: J.P. Rooney, R.M. Rooney, M.J. Rooney and N.P. Rooney

PHONE: +263 4 748621 7

WEB SITE: www.rooneys.co.zw

NUMBER OF LOCATIONS: 2

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 150

COMPANY BASICS: In business in Africa for more than 45 years.

CURRENT EVENTS: OK Grand Challenge race, opening of Mozambique gas pipeline, Uganda SAID conference.

HOT STUFF: Chic linens, dramatic lighting, draped tents.

TRENDS, FORECASTS, PREDICTIONS: Company plans expansion into southern and central Africa.

SELECT EVENT RENTALS

Beltsville, Md.

TOP OFFICER: Martin Ortenzio

PHONE: 301/937-7600

WEB SITE: www.weparty.com

NUMBER OF LOCATIONS: 3

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 100 plus

COMPANY BASICS: Locations in Washington, Baltimore and Philadelphia.

CURRENT EVENTS: Company has been busy with high-end social events.

HOT STUFF: Colored plates, platters and glassware, geometric shapes and rich, vibrant fabrics, especially sheers.

TRENDS, FORECASTS, PREDICTIONS: Management vows to “bring the unusual to the table and go beyond the basics.”

STAMFORD TENT AND PARTY RENTAL

Stamford, Conn.

TOP OFFICER: Stephen Frost

PHONE: 203/324-6222

WEB SITE: www.stamfordtent.com

NUMBER OF LOCATIONS: 1

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 132

COMPANY BASICS: A fixture in the industry since 1953.

CURRENT EVENTS: Specializes in high-end private events.

HOT STUFF: White dance floors and white Astroturf are making news.

TRENDS, FORECASTS, PREDICTIONS: With some rare exceptions, “For the next 12 to 18 months, smaller events, lower budgets, more events going out to bid, less advance notice and fewer ‘over-the-top’ parties,” management predicts. It's “back to basics for most.”

THORNS GROUP

London

TOP OFFICER: Graham Langley-Jones

PHONE: +44 208 801 4444

WEB SITE: www.thorns.co.uk

NUMBER OF LOCATIONS: 5

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 105

COMPANY BASICS: Locations in London, Manchester and Birmingham, England. Operations include Thorns Furniture and Catering Hire, Camden Exhibition Services, Camden Special Events and Classic Technical Services.

CURRENT EVENTS: Wimbledon tennis championships, Henley Royal Regatta, Brit Awards.

HOT STUFF: Natural wood and cane furniture as well as aluminum furniture. Growing demand for “bespoke” (custom) furnishings with color schemes specifically linked to a particular theme or corporation.

TRENDS, FORECASTS, PREDICTIONS: Management sees growing client demand for single-source suppliers “able to offer a full range of services such as furniture and catering equipment hire, exhibition shell schemes, power and lighting services, and bespoke furnishings.”

TRI RENTALS PARTY SPECIALISTS

Phoenix

TOP OFFICER: Ralph Stern

PHONE: 602/232-9900

WEB SITE: www.trirentals.com

NUMBER OF LOCATIONS: 2

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 150-200 (seasonal)

COMPANY BASICS: Locations in Phoenix and Albuquerque, N.M.

CURRENT EVENTS: Fiesta Bowl, actress Julia Roberts' wedding.

HOT STUFF: White is white hot, especially white chiavaris.

TRISERVE THE PARTY RENTAL CO.

New York

TOP OFFICERS: Lance York, Raymond Duffy and John Dawson

PHONE: 212/288-7384

WEB SITE: www.triservepartyrentals.com

NUMBER OF LOCATIONS: 3

NUMBER OF EMPLOYEES: 125

COMPANY BASICS: Operations include two showrooms, in Manhattan and Southampton, N.Y., plus 75,000-square-foot warehouse.

CURRENT EVENTS: Society and celebrity weddings, National Breast Cancer Foundation fund-raiser, Pepsi event for 2,000.

HOT STUFF: Contemporary tabletop items such as square plates and modern stainless steel flatware. Taffetas, silks and 100-percent linen fabrics are strong sellers.

TRENDS, FORECASTS, PREDICTIONS: Company management expects moderate growth through 2003.