ARA Show opens in New Orleans with all eyes on the future

The 2024 ARA Show returns to New Orleans with the theme ‘Shaping the Future of Rental,’ a vision that appears bright, thanks to steady demand and continuing expansion. To take a pulse of its membership going into the show, we spoke with ARA Vice President Josh Nickell, who has positive things to say about the current state of the industry and its ongoing evolution.

The world’s largest equipment and event rental exhibition, the ARA Show, returned to New Orleans, US this week for the first time since 2018, amid an atmosphere of both excitement and “cautious optimism.”

That’s according to Josh Nickell, vice president of equipment rental, ARA, who noted many of the trade association’s members experienced record years between 2021 and 2023, but now the industry is returning to “normal,” ultimately a positive message that dovetails with the ARA’s theme “Shaping the Future of Rental.” 

The 67th edition of the tradeshow event, which opened on Monday, Feb. 19 and runs through Wednesday, Feb. 21, is expected to draw more than 10,000 visitors to see some 650 exhibits. 

Josh Nickell Josh Nickell, vice president of equipment rental, American Rental Association

“Everybody’s pretty positive,” Nickell said of the atmosphere going into the show. “[Equipment] availability has improved in almost all categories, things are relatively good.”

That being said, higher interest rates are pinching equipment rental companies in the face of global economic uncertainties, so there remains a sense of restraint. 

“I think it’s a cautious optimism,” Nickell said, noting that as supply chain challenges began to clear up and interest rates took a pause from their rapid-fire increases from the past couple of years, ARA members’ concerns over the future were calmed at the same time that market demand cooled after a few record-breaking years. 

He described the vibe as, “it’s not 2022, but it’s good.”

One of the ways the equipment rental industry is leaning into the future is through the increased use of data and analytics when setting rates, Nickell said.

Across the board, rental rates seem to be holding steady or even increasing in most markets across North America. Companies facing rising equipment prices and higher interest rates have little choice but to pass some of those increases on to customers, but they’re doing so with discipline. 

“The industry is a lot more thoughtful,” Nickell said. “I don’t see a pullback in rates coming because equipment is still a lot more expensive because interest rates are higher, and because companies are using better analytics to make their decisions.”

Another trend impacting the future of rental is consolidation. Large rental chains are currently in acquisition mode, putting mid-size regionals in the spotlight, but the industry itself is growing. 

“Our membership is at record levels of company count, and has been for the past three years, so there are more equipment rental companies than there has been at any other time in history,” Nickell said. “The industry is still expanding, lots of new businesses are opening. There’s still so much opportunity.”

In the two days leading up the opening of the tradeshow portion of the event, ARA hosted numerous educational sessions centering on themes such as workforce development. Nickell hinted at a new campaign the ARA will release at the show with the hopes of cultivating a new generation of skilled workers for the industry. Stay tuned at IRN for more on this later this week. 

Digitalization was another predominant theme in the program. 

“All the research that we see, whether it’s small contractors or DIYers, people want to do more online,” Nickell said. “People expect digital, and it’s incredibly necessary for our members’ long-term success.”

Overall, Nickell said he expects good things from this year’s show. 

“Things continue to be good and that gives people more confidence. We’re going back to normal and I think people are settling into that and getting more comfortable with spending and buying more equipment.”

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Ollie Hodges Publisher Tel: +44 (0)1892 786253 E-mail: [email protected]
Lewis Tyler
Lewis Tyler Editor Tel: 44 (0)1892 786285 E-mail: [email protected]