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Over the last three years, equipment rental operators have had to deal with a continuing pandemic, supply chain issues that have delayed delivery of equipment to add to inventory, increased costs and difficulties in finding people to hire.
Yet the equipment rental industry continues to grow and expand. In 2022, in fact, the latest American Rental Association (ARA) forecast calls for an 11.1 percent increase in equipment rental revenue, including the construction and general tool segments, to reach nearly $56 billion this year.
While the large, publicly traded equipment rental companies like United Rentals, Sunbelt Rentals and Herc Rentals help move the overall market due to their size and scale, there are scores of other independent rental companies that have found ways to thrive in a competitive marketplace and grow their businesses.
To recognize those who are making a difference, we are introducing Rental Management Market Movers as a way to feature equipment rental companies of all sizes who are making an impact in their respective markets and shine a light on how they are able to grow revenue at such a rapid pace between 2019 and 2021.
For many, 2019 was a record year for equipment rental revenue with expectations of continued growth into 2020 and beyond.
Then came a pandemic and lockdowns that decimated those in the event rental segment as both large corporate and personal celebrations to small gatherings were canceled or postponed. While equipment rental companies initially felt some of the same pinch, pivoting to contactless rentals and more resulted in many businesses growing revenue in 2020 with the momentum carrying over into 2021 and 2022.
Between 2019 and 2021, several smaller independent rental companies with annual revenue of less than $10 million submitted the form to be considered a Rental Management Market Mover and reported rental revenue growth of more than 100 percent. Many other independents with more than $10 million in annual rental revenue also reported more than 25 percent increases when comparing 2019 performances with 2021.
How did they do it? Larger independents, the same as the large publicly traded equipment rental companies, cited acquisitions, opening additional locations and/or specialty rental branches. Others credit growth to the efforts of their employees and creating a better customer service and rental experience.
The following pages will feature a look at the largest publicly traded companies, the fastest-growing independent rental businesses with annual revenue of less than $10 million and those with rental revenue greater than $10 million. In addition, we found a few companies to highlight that started up a rental business in 2019, going from zero to millions.
While this issue focuses on those in the equipment rental segment, the August issue will feature Rental Management Market Movers that are in the event rental segment.
Note: Rental revenue numbers are rounded figures from those reported by the companies while percentage growth was determined by using total numbers reported.
Market Movers with under $10 million in annual revenue. Among those who submitted information to be considered a Rental Management Market Mover, none with more than $1 million in annual revenues have seen the type of growth achieved by Rental Men, Pell City, Ala. In 2019, the company reported $1,115,333 in rental revenue and then finished 2021 with $4,935,546 in rental revenue, an increase of 342.5 percent.
“I started Rental Men with some goals and a five-year growth plan. I exceeded my expectations by putting the right people in the right places and servicing the customers well,” says Harrison Abbott, president.
“We are currently on another growth spurt and should do more than $7.5 million this year in revenue. We are planning a company acquisition in addition to our current organic growth,” Abbott says.
The company has three locations and offers a variety of aerial, concrete, construction, earthmoving, flooring, forklift, homeowner, lawn care, pump, trailer and trencher equipment for rent as well as a variety of attachments.
Another example of a Market Mover listed in our chart is Rental Works, Greensboro, N.C., which has more than doubled its rental revenue between 2019 and 2021.
Andrew Freeman, manager, reports that his company generated about $1.85 million in revenue in 2019, grew to more than $2.3 million in 2020 and reached $3.8 million in rental revenue in 2021, which is 111.1 percent more than 2019.
“We were able to achieve significant growth through hiring the best people we could find and focusing a lot of effort on driving sales. We gained a lot of new customers in 2021. We also increased our fleet, which allowed for more growth, but our sales efforts and good people were the real drivers of the growth,” Freeman says.
The company, he says, is committed to supporting the long-term success of both its customers and employees so that it attracts customers and the highest quality employees.
“The hard-working, resourceful, and talented team at Rental Works has led the charge for unprecedented growth over recent years. We do not see the team letting up any time soon and expect continued growth in the coming years,” Freeman says.
Others making the Market Movers list with less than $10 million in annual revenue had similar stories and reasons for their success.
ChaseCo Rentals, Sullivan, Mo., for example, which increased equipment rental revenue by 148.6 percent from $3.5 million in 2019 to $8.7 million in 2021, cites employees for its rapid growth.
“The No. 1 reason is our amazing team. We were able to achieve the revenue increase without adding any locations or expanding into any new geographical markets,” says Levi Dawson, CEO. “Our projected rental revenue in 2022 is $13 million without adding any new locations.”
Beth Hoff Blackmer, president, Aspen Rent-All, Basalt, Colo., says her equipment rental company has grown steadily since she purchased the business from her father in 2000, except for a decrease during the recession.
Over the last few years, the company has gone from $1.6 million in annual rental revenue in 2019 to $2.1 million in 2021, a 34.6 percent increase.
“There continues to be opportunity for more growth in our small market, which we are striving to get by offering more equipment choices and making the experience great for our customers,” Hoff Blackmer says.
Tom Butts, owner, Nor-Cal Equipment Rentals, Sacramento, Calif., credits his company’s equipment rental revenue growth of 81.3 percent from $3.2 million in 2019 to $5.8 million in 2021 to customer service as well.
“Our company provides old school customer service while doing it with style. We are kind of a Gas Monkey Garage in the equipment rental business,” Butts says.
Big Sky Rents, Kalispell, Mont., grew its revenue from $2.8 million in 2019 to $6.2 million in 2021, a 121.4 percent increase. The company cites its “superior customer service” as the key differentiator as well as expansive rental inventory for the increase in revenue.
Canadian companies also have shown significant growth, including Robertson Rent-All, Kanata, Ontario, Canada, which is celebrating its 30th year in business in 2022. The company grew 62.7 percent from $5.9 million in equipment rental revenue in 2019 to $9.6 million in 2021.
“We have been family owned and operated since 1992 and every year we have managed to grow our business,” says Cameron Robertson, vice president. “The majority of our growth has been over the last five years. We added our second location in 2014 and will be adding a third in 2022. We’ve managed to accelerate our growth by hiring the right people and making smart decisions with regard to equipment purchases and store locations.”
Adding locations is a key factor for Big Orange Rental, West Palm Beach, Fla. The company had three locations and $1.6 million in equipment rental revenue in 2019 and finished 2021 with nine locations and $4 million in revenue, a 150 percent increase.
Tag Eure, vice president, says that while the dealership side has expanded, Big Orange Rental has maintained same-store growth of 25 percent or more.
Note: Rental revenue numbers are rounded figures from those reported by the companies while percentage growth was determined by using total numbers reported.
Market Movers with more than $10 million in annual rental revenue. Larger independent equipment rental companies, the same as with the large national publicly traded rental companies, tend to move the market and grow fast via acquisitions or adding locations.
For example, Rental Equipment Investment Corp. (REIC), Miami, grew 38.8 percent between 2019 and 2021, growing equipment rental revenue from $60.3 million to $83.7 million. The company was founded in 2014 and currently has 33 locations in nine states.
Tejas Equipment Rental & Sales, San Antonio, has been in existence for 47 years, but has experienced its largest-ever growth over the last three years with equipment rental revenue growing from $10.7 million in 2019 to $14.8 million in 2021, a 38.8 percent increase.
RentalMax, Carol Stream, Ill., is celebrating its 25th anniversary in 2022 and already has made two significant acquisitions. The company added a rental store in Indiana and, most recently, another in Wisconsin. Between 2019 and 2021, the company’s equipment rental revenue jumped from $12.4 million to $16.1 million, an increase of 30.2 percent.
Bottom Line Equipment, Broussard, La., experienced 25.3 percent growth, going from $69.5 million in equipment rental revenue in 2019 to $87.1 million in 2021.
“Our growth is a result of increased demand in the industrial and commercial sectors. An augmented and diversified fleet also has allowed expansion into renewable energy projects within the geographical footprint,” says Hunter Patin, director.
Bottom Line Equipment also has achieved a safety milestone by exceeding one million man-hours worked without an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recordable incident.
ABLE Equipment Rental, Deer Park, N.Y., claims to be one of the largest independent family-owned equipment rental companies in the U.S. with plans to open three additional locations in 2022.
The company’s equipment rental revenue between 2019 and 2021 increased 23.1 percent, going from $63.1 million to $77.7 million, a result the company credits to its personalized customer service. You can learn more about ABLE and the company’s 25th anniversary in a store profile in this issue on Page 40.
In Canada, Cooper Equipment, Mississauga, Ontario, has expanded its operations into six provinces across Canada through acquisitions and greenfield locations to grow its revenue by 38.6 percent from $147.4 million in 2019 to $204.2 million in 2021.
In addition, the company is seeing significant growth through its specialty rentals as its trench safety, pump solutions and climate control operations are showing rapid expansion.
All Choice Rentals, Drayton Valley, Alberta, Canada, grew by 50 percent between 2019 to 2021 with revenues going from $7.2 million to $10.8 million.
Michael Doerksen, CEO, says the company had to endure a local recession from 2015 to 2021, which was compounded by the pandemic.
“We did not let that be an excuse. Instead, we used it as a reason to work smarter and harder. We made some strategic acquisitions, which allowed us to grow our full-service rental company into a major player in the local area. Our business model streamlines the rental experience for project managers on large projects and has allowed us to be successful on 80 percent of the bids that we have submitted,” Doerksen says.
When you start from a smaller revenue foundation of under $1 million and grow big, the percentage growth can be astronomical, which is exactly what has happened with companies like WestLift, Rapid Rentals & Sales, Thomas Brothers Equipment Rental Co., A1 Rent It and Rental Equipment Center.
In 2019, WestLift, Goldsboro, N.C., had rental revenue of $18,785. That total increased to $87,850 in 2020 and then mushroomed to $276,302 in 2021, which is up 1,371 percent.
Matthew West, one of the company’s owners, says WestLift has grown from having six employees in March 2020 to having 18 as of April 2022, fueled by the revenue growth over the last two years.
Then there is Rapid Rentals & Sales, Brookfield, Ill., which generated $16,500 in rental revenue in 2019 and then $78,768 in 2020. It was in 2021 that the company’s performance exploded with annual revenue jumping all the way to $1.3 million, a 1,779 percent increase over 2019.
Thomas Brothers Equipment Rental Co., Tracy, Calif., is another smaller family-owned-and-operated company to experience exponential growth of 200 percent between 2019 and 2021, going from $750,000 in revenue to $2.25 million, a 200 percent increase.
“Our team consists of two brothers, one wife, two sons, one cousin and one friend of more than 20 years making an impact as one of the last remaining independent rental companies in Northern California. We started in 2006 with six pieces of aerial equipment and have grown to more than 400 pieces of equipment ranging from 125-ft. boom lifts to homeowner/contractor rental items,” says Matthew Thomas, owner.
“We pride ourselves as being customer- and service-oriented, providing a one-of-a-kind rental experience. We are expanding our customer base and fleet size every month always moving forward to become one of the largest independent Genie dealers in California,” Thomas says.
A1 Rent It, Wayzata, Minn., is another company making a startling and significant jump of 219 percent from $816,000 in revenue in 2019 to $2.6 million in 2021 mostly through acquisitions. Chad Wagner, president, is the third-generation leader of the family-owned company that went from a single location with seven employees to three locations with more than 35 employees via the acquisitions of a single two-store operation. The company has rebranded the acquired stores, installed new rental software and invested more than $750,000 in new fleet since the June 2021 acquisition with the target of $6 million in annual rental revenue by 2023.
Since Rental Equipment Center (REC), Commerce City, Colo., did not exist in 2019, its percentage growth is infinity since the company went from zero to generating $11.1 million in rental revenue in 2021.
“We are doing more than just moving fast in the market. REC is creating a market shift as to what should be expected from an equipment rental company that dedicates its time, effort and focus to serving the customer,” says Troy Miller, chief financial officer.
The sheer size, scale and growth rates mean most of the large publicly traded equipment rental companies like United Rentals, Sunbelt Rentals and Herc Rentals should be considered Rental Management Market Movers.
United Rentals, Stamford, Conn., for example, finished 2021 with $9.72 billion in total revenue, up nearly 14 percent from 2020. Rental revenue for the year was $8.21 billion, up nearly 15 percent.
In 2022, the world’s largest equipment rental company now expects total revenue for 2022 to range from $11.1 billion to $11.5 billion.
“We’re very pleased with our strong start to 2022, which delivered a number of first quarter records, including total revenue and rental revenue. The momentum we carried into the year accelerated quickly, and our markets are continuing to trend up. The most significant tailwind is the broad-based rental demand we’re seeing in our construction and industrial verticals as we approach our busy season,” said Matthew Flannery, CEO, United Rentals.
While some of the growth can be attributed to expansion in specialty rentals, in 2021 United Rentals resumed its activity in mergers and acquisitions with a $1 billion deal to acquire General Finance Corp., Pasadena, Calif., a provider of mobile storage and modular office space; and Franklin Equipment, Groveport, Ohio, a regional provider of equipment rentals, sales and related services with 20 locations in the Midwest and Southeast U.S.
Sunbelt Rentals, Fort Mill, S.C., is owned by Ashtead Group, London, and reports earnings on a fiscal year basis with fiscal year 2021 ending on April 30, 2021. For fiscal year 2021, the company’s rental revenue and total revenue in North America were nearly flat with fiscal 2020.
However, growth for Sunbelt in the U.S. and Canada has been quite robust for the first nine months of fiscal 2022 with double-digit revenue increases.
In a conference call with analysts on March 9, 2022, Brendan Horgan, Ashtead Group CEO, said he was pleased with the ongoing momentum across the group.
“Rental revenues for the nine months in North America were well ahead of last year’s pandemic-affected levels by 22 percent and an impressive 16 percent ahead of the 2019 and 2020 pre-pandemic levels,” Horgan said, citing a 19 percent increase in year-on-year growth for general tool rental and a 34 percent increase in specialty rental revenue.
“The supply and demand equation remains incredibly tight, an ongoing dynamic that has led to record levels of utilization throughout the business. Further, our industry, like any other, is experiencing inflation, ranging from equipment, to goods, to services, to wages. When you combine these supply and demand circumstances, inflation realities and focus on delivering leading service to our customers, you should be able to do it while increasing rental rates. We have done just that,” Horgan said, later adding that the company will likely finish its fiscal year with an average 5 percent year-on-year rate improvement.
In addition, Horgan touted the company’s faster-than-expected progress in terms of adding locations as part of the company’s Sunbelt 3.0 three-year plan to grow from 938 locations to more than 1,200.
“Sunbelt 3.0 is embedded in the business, and we are making good progress across all actionable components. In the nine months, we invested $1.7 billion in capital across existing locations and greenfields and $938 million on 19 bolt-on acquisitions, adding a combined total of 81 locations in North America. This significant investment takes advantage of the ongoing structural growth opportunity that we continue to see in the business as we seek to deliver on our strategic priorities to grow general tool and amplify specialty, all achieved while remaining at the lower end of our target leverage range,” he said.
Herc Holdings, Bonita Springs, Fla., parent company of Herc Rentals, reported earning total revenues of $2.07 billion in 2021, up 16.4 percent compared to $1.78 billion in 2020. Equipment rental revenue was $1.91 billion, up 23.8 percent compared to $1.54 billion in 2020.
“We continued our ‘shift into high gear’ with an excellent fourth quarter,” said Larry Silber, president and CEO. “Rental revenue increased 26.9 percent over the prior year and dollar utilization was a record 44.6 percent. Outstanding execution by our operations and field support team was enhanced by strong demand in our markets and a positive operating environment. The healthy momentum in volume and rate trends we closed within 2021 are expected to contribute to strong growth in 2022.”
The company also recently has been in mergers and acquisitions mode, acquiring Cloverdale Equipment Co.
“With three of its locations in major metropolitan markets, the addition of Cloverdale supports our long-term strategy to achieve greater density and scale in select urban markets across North America to better serve both our local and national customers. In addition, Cloverdale has deep relationships with key industrial customers whose unique construction and maintenance needs continue to grow, which Cloverdale serves through self-perform work and a suited-to-purpose rental fleet, including specialty aerial and material handling equipment,” Silber said.
* Totals for Sunbelt Rentals reflect the company’s fiscal year 2021 ending April 30, 2021.
Wayne Walley is the editor-in-chief for Rental Management and American Rental Association (ARA) vice president, publishing. He provides strategic direction for the editorial content of all Rental Management publications and products. In his career, he has profiled hundreds of celebrities and business leaders. Outside of his work, he is an avid long-time collector of breweriana and pop culture items that he sells through his wife’s retail gift shop in LeClaire, Iowa.
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