Sarah Wilper, CERP, executive vice president, Taylor Rental Center, Manchester, Conn., who serves as American Rental Association (ARA) Region One director, says that rental segments across the Northeast are, for the most part, heading into 2024 in a position of strength.
Of the heavy equipment segment, she says, “Things are always progressing. We still have a lot of municipal and state projects going on that are providing a lot of income on the construction side. I wouldn’t say it has slowed down. It maybe has plateaued for a hot second, but I don’t anticipate it staying that way for long.”
Event rentals also are robust. “We’ve seen a boom in a way that we haven’t seen since before COVID,” Wilper says, adding that she is encouraged by the emergence of new event rental companies joining the market that are filling spaces left by those who didn’t survive the pandemic. “Some big gaps were left by COVID, and we’ve definitely seen improvement in that.”
Wilper has seen a strong spirit of cooperation develop among many New England event rental operators in practices like subrentals and referrals. “Everybody is working together as a team better,” she says. “Rather than being super territorial or having a ‘get out of my way’ kind of attitude, everybody is willing to work more hand in hand regardless of geographic location or whether or not you are direct competitors.”
If there has been a recognizable shift in a rental segment’s dynamics across the region, it has been on the general tool/DIY side — at least from the independent operator standpoint.
“A lot of our smaller equipment companies have been purchased by larger ones,” Wilper says. “And in my area, I’ve seen a huge uptick in DIY stuff going to Home Depot and the big box-type companies. It’s mostly out of convenience — smaller businesses can’t always stay open seven days a week or 24 hours a day. You have your tried-and-trues who would rather go to the small mom and pops than give their money to a box store, but I think some newer DIY folks may be willing to pay more [at a big box store] just for the convenience of the hours.”
Wilper also details some state-level regulatory matters that are being watched closely heading into 2024.
“Maine is one of two states that still do income tax a certain way with rentals, and they have some tax statutes that we expect to come up designed to get them in line with everybody else. Then, Massachusetts is entertaining moving from $15 to $20 dollars an hour on minimum wage. Massachusetts also had some shortcomings in their unemployment fund during COVID for which the state has added an additional unemployment tax; businesses are paying extra fees to refill the coffers. The state also potentially overspent some COVID funds and may try to pass the repayment of that on to businesses. It is a wild time in New England,” Wilper says.