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A Short Bit About me

I'm Spencer King, an ex-marquee erector. This blog is designed to help those running a hire business or thinking of starting. I don't claim to know everything, I'm just trying to help people avoid the mistakes I made! Check out our event planning section for advice on planning your own marquee event. Please contact us if we can help or offer advice in any way.


My suggested approach to running a marquee hire business

My original title for this was ‘how to think when running a marquee hire business’ but I thought two things

– I don’t want to tell anyone how to think
– If anyone told me how to think they wouldn’t get a very good reception!

I’m talking about what stock to buy and how to use it. My suggested approach is simply to look at every factor when you consider buying something.

Sound obvious? Well there’s a lot of hire businesses out there that don’t so I figured it was worth mentioning. Here are the main things I’d consider:

  • Initial price
  • Storage space (both in store and in transit)
  • Labour time and number of people (setting furniture up, connecting up electrics etc)
  • Life expectancy

Initial price

Pretty self explanatary, this is how much it costs (include delivery etc).

Be careful – a lot of salesman think you operate on a 100% profit basis. I remember someone selling me advertising once said ‘if you’re getting £1000 per hire then all you need is two bookings to make this £1600 advert worth it’. I then had to explain about labour. transport, insurance and every other cost you encounter when running a business. But then I can’t talk as even we do it! We advertise our marquees saying you’ll be in profit in 2 hires but realistically with the other costs involved it’ll actually be 3 or 4 hires (which I still think is quite impressive).

Storage space

It’s no good earning £20,000 a year if storage and transport costs you £25,000. It’s for this reason that if Iwas starting again I’d think twice about stocking furniture. It takes up a lot of room in storage, it can fill a van up on it’s own and isn’t that lucrative – if there’s a good furniture hire company nearby I’d negotiate a discount with them and get them to do all my furniture.

Labour time & number of people

Again pretty self explanatory and probably the easiest thing to dimiss when costing out a new product as it’s ‘only’ your own time. Take chandeliers as an example – our double chandelier package costs £280 + VAT currently and most hire companies will charge £100 to £150 per hire for them. Put in the fact that they take up very little space in storage and they seem a no-brainer BUT they take at least 30mins to set up (longer the first time or if the power source is awkward). If you’re putting marquees up in evenings then this could add on time you don’t have.

You also need to think about the number of people needed for anything. It doesn’t matter how organised you are at some point you’ll be out on site with only one other person -this is actually why we make our marquee frames out of 38mm pipe, if we made it out of the next size up (50mm) then 2 people just couldn’t put it up on their own, you’d need 3 or 4 people at least. Besides 38mm is very strong and we use vertical and horizontal roof braces to strengthen the structure so there’s no need to use 50mm -the best of both worlds 🙂
Life expectancy

What’s the thing going to be worth in a few years time? How many years/hires are you likely to get out of it? Going back to chandeliers we had chandeliers that were 10 years old and still worked and looked fine (make sure they’re not knocking about in the van). Something like carpet however you’ll only get a few hires out of.

I hope this is of interest to you guys, I realise it all sounds like common sense but it’s very easy to get carried away in any hire business thinking you must buy everything straight away or you must buy the strongest possible.

If you wanted the best possible finish for a wedding then you’d build something out of brick with bespoke furniture inside. Marquees are by their nature a compromise, it’s creating the inside outside in a way that looks great but can be packed up in a van and put up again for the following weekend.

Thanks for reading

Spencer.

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