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HomeNewsLocal
Published: Thursday, 6/10/2010

Local tool rentals hammered by sluggish economy

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

The last 12 months have been rough for the local tool rental industry. But as the economy starts to recover, so are retailers who specialize in renting tillers, floor sanders, augers, chainsaws, nail guns, and other professional-grade tools.

"It was a slow winter, but the summer is coming right along," said Howard Hochmuth, a co-owner of A Thru Z Rental in Toledo. "It seems like a lot of people are wanting to do their own lawn restoration rather than hiring landscapers. They're renting sod cutters, Bobcats [compact tractors], and tillers.

"To me, it seems like a lot of people are doing it themselves because money is tight and they're trying to save a little by doing it themselves," he said.

U.S. general tool rental industry revenues have been on a decline since 2007 when revenues peaked at $8.8 billion. They dropped in 2008 to $8.4 billion and last year to $8 billion, according to the American Rental Association of Moline, Ill.

Jennifer King, a spokesman for Home Depot Inc., said the home improvement retailer has begun to have more tool rentals by homeowners. "It makes sense with people doing more on their own to save some money," she said. "If you need a floor sander or table saw and you only plan to use it once, you don't want to have to buy it."

Doing work can be relatively inexpensive. For example, at Home Depot, a gas-powered lawn tiller rents for $55 for a day; a drum floor sander, $44; a pressure washer, $88, and a framing nail gun, $29.

Ken Hughes, a spokesman for the rental association, said the industry revenues vary by ge-ography. "Where I live, the local rental stores are having a great year," he said.

In Texas, general tool rentals are strong. However, in the Midwest, where the economy hit harder, the rental industry suffered because general construction was hurt by declining demand, and do-it-yourself consumers cut back on most home projects, he explained.

Industry forecasts call for 2010 and 2011 to be sluggish, followed by a strong rebound in 2012.

Marty Jones, manager of A&E Rental Center in Toledo, said his sales are flat compared to the same time last year. "As far as potential, I'm not seeing it yet in terms of future reservations," he said. "But we are getting more contractors and concrete guys coming. Some are saying they're getting jobs now, which is good."

Colleen Carbott, a spokesman for Lowe's Home Improvement stores, said the retailer has had a resurgence in do-it-yourself projects.

Contact Jon Chavez at:

jchavez@theblade.com

or 419-724-6128.



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