Clients can often be confused when it comes to renting items for an event. "Why does it cost that much?" they ask. "It's just sitting on your shelf." Or the perpetual favorite: "I could buy that at Ikea for the same price!"
After all, they buy flowers for their home dining room table. They shop for living room furniture. But when it comes to the cost of rentals, what they do not understand is what is really included in that price.
To clarify the issue, I asked a few colleagues around the industry to share their perspective on what they wish clients knew when it comes to renting.
What is in a sofa? There is some stuffing, some hardware, a frame and upholstery. But that's not what your client is paying for. Jack Scafidi of CORT Event Furnishings puts it this way: "We are an operations company. Our specialty is getting furniture first to, and then in and out of venues, tents, structures and event sites, anywhere in the country and sometimes at any hour of the day."
CORT also cleans and repairs the furniture and brings it back if you want to use it for another event. Other costs include storage and the constant need for furniture rental companies to research and reinvest to ensure quality products. Arthur Targontsidis, the owner/creative director of the Style Studio in Boston, says, "We fly all over the country and spend countless hours designing products we think are cutting edge. Then we have these pieces made to our specifications, brought to market and incorporated into specific environments for each client. This takes man hours that you cannot bill a client for, so it must be built into the cost of the product, including funds for further research and development so that we can continue to create new and worthwhile products."
Have you ever wonder why renting a beautiful table linen can cost so much? The answer probably lies in the fabric. So says Lily Yeung of Wildflower Linen. "It is not as easy and inexpensive as people may think to create one linen. Believe it or not, it can take about 10 yards of fabric to make just one 132-inch round cloth." Think of the last time you went to the fabric store and how much some fabric costs. Then think of how these 10 yards of fabric sewn into a large round tablecloth will be used: as the catch all for candle wax, spilled wine, dirty silverware and food particles mixed with flower petals. While obviously not every linen is destroyed every time, between use and cleaning, the turnover on a linen is not as high as a table or a chair. Add to that the constantly moving target of trend colors, textures and patterns, and it becomes easier to understand where the expense of particularly high-end linens comes from.
Lighting can certainly make your event décor sparkle, pop and transform, but not all lights are created the same. As LED technology has boomed, many products have flooded the market. But to get the color you want you have to learn the differences between beam angle and bulb wattage, or whether you need an RGB, RGBW, W, or RGBWA fixture. Or whether a traditional ellipsoidal do the job in a warmer, better way? Enter the lighting designer--a professional who can make your event shine.
Michael Murnane of Footcandle Lighting explains, "Lighting designers add value to your event by helping you determine how to best spend resources on what is necessary and important versus what is cool or happens to be in the inventory." The independent lighting designer's job is to understand the needs of the client and negotiate the best deal with vendors. It' a lot like event design--sourcing the best resources at the best price--something we do everyday.
So the next time a client questions the cost of rentals, use it as an opportunity to educate them about what really happens behind the scenes. It will make your job easier!