Marquee Hire Websites

We’ve finally got round to something I’ve been meaning to sort out for a while now -we can now offer websites for start up hire businesses (or existing ones if you want to change your current site).

An example is here

Cost is likely to be £180 for the first year, £45 a year from then on which we think is very reasonable for what we’re offering:

Home page – supply your own text to fill the page, change the locations you cover, choose your own colour scheme. This will also be optimised for the search engines.
Photo Gallery – all photos are included for you to use, we’ll also add your own photos when you get them.
Marquee Planner – we’ll add whatever size DIY Marquees you stock.
Contact Page – If you want other details for people to fill in we can do it for you.
Webmail – log in to send & receive work emails.
Advice on getting up the search rankings – We’ll point out what you can do to get your website up the search rankings and links to tools to help you. It can be time consuming but very little expertise is required.

Any extras you would like adding we can arrange (price on application). Once the website is up and running any subsequent alterations we’d also have to charge for (except adding photographs).

A .co.uk domain name is included in the price so you can choose whatever name you like (subject to availability) and your email address would be yourname@yourdomain.co.uk.

As always , feedback appreciated.

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Marquee Hire & VAT

With a VAT cut due today it seems sensible to talk about VAT when running a marquee hire business.

On a personal note I’m not sure a ‘2.5% sale’ on everything in the UK is going to make much difference but apparently we’re not allowed by our EU friends to go lower than 15%. Thanks. For. That.

Anyway, marquees.

If your turnover is under a set figure (I don’t know the exact figure but it’s around 67k at the moment though there’s also a quarterly limit that affects hire companies more) then you don’t have to register for VAT, if you don’t have to register then don’t. I’ve heard some people think it makes their company appear bigger than it is, and it does mean you can claim the VAT back from any purchases. However, if you’re not registered then you don’t have to charge VAT on your hire prices so you’ve automatically got a sizeable and vital discount on your competitors.
For those charging VAT make sure you put in your terms and conditions ‘VAT charged at current rate’. This covers you if the VAT goes up between taking the booking and your customer paying the balance. Generally we’d have advance notice of any increase (this 2.5% cut is only temporary remember) so any customer who’s paid you a deposit can opt to pay in full in advance and take the lower rate applicable at time of payment. Does that make sense?

Here’s an example:

Jane Jones is marrying John Smith in June 2010. They book a marquee with you that’s priced at £5k + VAT by paying a 20% deposit in November 2009 (£1000 + VAT at 15% = £1150).
It’s announced that VAT will go back up to 17.5% from 1st January 2010 onwards.

You write to Jane & John saying they can either pay the balance before 1st January 2010 and pay VAT at 15%, or they can wait until their wedding and pay VAT at 17.5% (you see how adding that note about ‘current rate of VAT’ in your terms and conditions has covered you here?).

either a) pay £4000 + 15% VAT = £4600 before 1st January 2010

or b) pay £4000 + 17.5% VAT = £4700 at the time of their wedding.
Writing to your customer with this gives you goodwill and might help your cashflow while also helping the customer. Win-win 🙂

Cash jobs:

As it’s the VAT man you’re evading I think this is worth mentioning here. No matter who you are you’ll be offered to drop the VAT for cash. We used to lose around 8% of our business by not accepting cash jobs.

  • They’re illegal
  • It’s you who’s taking all the risk, not the customer.

You save by not paying income tax & national insurance but personally I prefer to sleep at night and not worry about VAT inspections (which are unpleasant even when you’ve got nothing to hide). It’s up to you.
Lastly
Geoff from www.roustabout.info has been in touch in case anyone wants to hire or buy big top style tents. Always worth remembering in case you have a customer who wants something different to clearspans.

Presenting your marquee hire quotations

Once again apologies for the screwed up fonts on some earlier posts. I’ve no idea how to fix them, I copy & pasted from Word and the blog doesn’t seem to like it in some browsers. I now write on here directly (spilling mistakes and all).

So, back to marquees.

Obviously we got most of our work by being charming, witty and handsome chaps when visiting customers 😉 Unbelievably some people weren’t bowled over by a flash of our pearly whites and actually wanted some substance to our lavish promises.

I talked before (and undoubtedly will again) about site visits so won’t cover that now, just assume that you’ve left a reasonable impression. Likewise if you’re supplying quotes over the phone without viewing the site, hopefully you’ve left on good terms and they’re now expecting a quote in the post.

1st rule –dont leave your customer waiting. We’d always send our quotes out the same day or the following day. Any longer than that (problems can occur) and we’d phone to let them know.

2nd rule –always send a quote 1st class. Trust me, it’s worth the extra few pence.

Presentation is key. Send your quote out folded in 4 to fit into a small envelope and it looks cheap and not easy to lay out and read.

We sent all of our quotes our using A4 envelopes in a blue presentation folder (we actually had these printed with our logo as well but they’ve become more expensive since then). We then included:

  • Two copies of the quote with terms and conditions on the back. The customer would sign one and send it back with 20% deposit.
  • Stamped addressed envelope back to us (this can be a small envelope)
  • Colour diagram laminated
  • photocopy of the diagram for customer to draw all over

Short of including a pen for them to sign it with we tried to think of everything, it looked very impressive and professional.

If you’re just starting out I’d suggest all of this is a bit much but bear it in mind for the future as you expand. To keep it simple I’d just send out the quotes in an A4 envelope and clip a small diagram (courtesy of our shiny new marquee planner) to the top -remember to cut off our name. That way you’re getting most of the benefit without most of the expense (presentation folders & laminator).

Finally if your printer can handle A4 envelopes I always think it looks better having printed addresses (though that’s more personal opinion).

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Marquee layout planner, photo gallery & place any new orders sharpish.

As you may or may not have noticed our diy marquee website has changed slightly, we’ve added a few new features and improved on some old ones.

Marquee layout planner -this enables people to plan a marquee layout. It’s useful for people starting out to learn how much furniture they can fit into a marquee. It’s also useful for hire businesses who use it to send out with their quotes -design it, print it (right click, select ‘print’) cut out the required plan (cutting off the DIY Marquees bit at the bottom). It gives you a professional floorplan without having to buy expensive software.

New Photo gallery -shiny new gallery with plenty of new photos (many thanks to those who sent some in).

Our prices have also had to go up, anyone thinking of ordering get in quick (end of this week) and we’ll hold the old prices for you even if it’s something to be paid for and delivered early next year (although we don’t take a deposit we need the order in writing).
If anyone notices anything wrong anywhere on the website please do me a favour and tell me about it. Also if anybody thinks of new ideas or features for the planner send them over. I can’t promise anything but I’ll do my best -I can just about handle html but java & flash programming I struggle with a bit

Back to normal next week, after Xmas is normally a busy time for enquiries so i’ll write about presenting quotes etc (unless something else distracts me during the week).

Thanks for reading

Spencer

Marquee Heaters

If there’s one thing that you want to get right it’s heating, if people are cold it’ll ruin their night no matter what the marquee looks like.

So here are things to bear in mind with marquee heaters:

  • Always always use ones with a fan in, you need to be able to throw the heat around the marquee. Halogen heaters*, patio heaters, cabinet heaters, table heaters are all useless in a marquee. Indirect heaters and space heaters are the best.
  • Think about the layout of your marquee, heaters should be positioned near seating areas and pointing towards doors or anywhere heat will escape from. Don’t have them pointing towards a dance floor.
  • In April/May and September/October you will just need heaters to heat the marquee up before people arrive and at the end of the evening when the temperature drops
  • In Dec/Jan/Feb you need at least twice as many heaters to make sure it’s toasty all night. I always made sure there were enough heaters to make the marquee uncomfortably hot, that way you always know your customer is in complete control (assuming they’re all adjustable).
  • If there’s snow forecast make sure your customer knows to have the heaters on regularly to melt it off the roof. If it builds up that’s a lot of weight to be on top of your marquee. Even if it means you have to go out with more fuel it’s worth making sure no snow settles on your marquee.

It’s got to be said the ideal heaters are indirect ones, they’re large units that sit outside the marquee and are controlled by a thermostat so the customer has complete control. They can be powered by gas or diesel, we preferred gas as it’s easier but lots of people prefer diesel. The only problem is indirect heaters are very expensive.

Indirect heaters typically cost £1500 and hire out for £150-£200.
Space heaters cost £100-£200 and hire out for £50-£90 but they’re quite noisy, not incredibly child friendly (a grate stops anyone touching the flame) and give off water vapour when burning gas.
* Knowing we’d be busy with the showmans show I wrote this 3 weeks ago, since then I’ve been to Paris (on business -which sounds good but really it was just an excuse to see my brother in law) and eaten outside under a halogen heater. I’ll concede that maybe in small (3m/4m) draughtless marquees they may be useful to take the chill off. In winter I’d still go with a fan heater.
Thanks for reading
Spencer

Marquee Hire in a recession & photos of The Showmans Show 2008

Showmans Show 2008 Entrance

I was too busy talking myself hoarse to see other exhibitors but the mood of hirers walking round was one of cautious optimism for the oncoming year.

I think people will always find the money for a wedding marquee but parties may suffer a bit. Expect a lot of late bookings and haggling as people don’t plan too far in advance for financial security reasons and make sure they get value when they do book. Don’t worry if you’re sat there early season and bookings are down on previous years, wait until the end of the season and it’ll probably be surpisingly healthy.
My only concern for hire companies is if you have a lot of equipment on finance. We don’t offer finance on any of our equipment as I think it’s similar to the irresponsible behaviour the bank-lenders went through to put us into this economic mess. When the return from hiring is 50% of the purchase price I just don’t see why you need to spread the costs over 12 months, delaying it using a credit card is fair enough -that way you could be in profit before you’ve even paid for the marquee!

Just my opinion, thousands of businesses are built using finance/overdrafts or loans I just don’t think they’re necessary for a marquee hire business if it’s run well.

With new equipment (new types of lighting for eg) I’d always try to get most or all of the money back on the first booking. Once you’ve got it in stock you can then discount it for future bookings. Often we were asked if we offered different styles of chandeliers, the reply would always be yes but they’re a lot more expensive -so you either get a return on your current chandelier or you get most of the capital for a new style. It’s an easy way to expand your stock and keep track of current trends without forcing people to have the same options again and again.
Thanks for reading

Spencer

DIY Marquees Stand 2008 our stand (pagoda & 6mx8m)
Customising Your DIY marquee customising your marquees

Customising your marquees

So you’ve just hired out your shiny new marquees, the customer’s really happy with them and the world’s a happy place. While you’re away though the customer spots the manufacturers website printed on the marquee and finds they could have bought them for the same price as they’ve just paid you for hiring it! The world is no longer a happy place. In fact it becomes a very awkward place that you’d be lucky to get out of with your reputation intact.

We have the solution! (warning, sales pitch coming..)

We can now personalise our DIY Marquees with your website details.

We’re launching several branding options at The Showmans Show, I’m not totally certain how much it will be yet (one of many things I need to sort out tomorrow) but we’ll try to keep it as low as possible as I really think this will help hire businesses.

I’ll also sort out prices for extra signs so that people can customise their existing stock.
We can of course still supply the marquee unbranded as we’ve always done.
Sorry for the mixed up fonts recently, depending on where I am sometimes I write in word or notepad rather than direct and it doesn’t always copy across well.

Thanks for reading, I’m genuinely grateful/shocked that people read my ramblings on here. Please pop in and say hello at The Showmans Show -stand 235 Avenue E next to Prima flooring who are giving away free burgers this year:)

Spencer

Marquee Linings

Some new satin linings have been making their way into the industry, I’m not keen and think people should be very wary before buying them. Here’s why:

 

We’ve been making marquee linings for 15-20 years -it’s how I originally got in to the marquee hire industry. We’re certainly nowhere near the biggest manufacturer but we do a good job and everything’s made by us in the UK. Basically, when it comes to marquee linings we like to think we know what we’re talking about.

 

For those who don’t know most marquee linings manufactured in the UK use an ivory polyester, although there’s seemingly 101 different shades of ivory an industry standard is slowly filtering through so they all match. Linings made in China use satin material and with the quantities made in China probably outnumber the polyester ones in the world.

 

But you’re not reading this for facts, you’re reading this for my opinion. And my opinion is satin marquee linings are crap. Shiny satin linings look cheap and just lack the class of their polyester counterparts.

 

Satin linings:

  • Are made from cheaper inferior material
  • Reflect the light (not a good thing appearance-wise)
  • Are made in the cheapest method possible, this generally means the walls are attached to the roofs and no finishing pelmet or swag is used.

 

If you do buy satin linings make make sure they satisfy BS 7837: 1996 for flammability, you should receive a certificate with any new marquee linings. A lot of marquees and linings made in China are intended for the US market, unfortunately their flammability test requirements are lower than British Standards.

If you take nothing else away from reading this blog take this:

Just because something states it’s flame rertardant doesn’t mean it satisfies british standards -always insist on a copy of the test report satisfying BS 7837: 1996

As always, thanks for reading

Spencer

Showmans Show

Only 16 days to the showmans show!

We can be found on stand 235, Avenue E.  When you come out of the large entrance marquee turn right then turn left alongside the arena. We’re halfway down on the right.

I’ve no idea what our stand will look like, it’s only 2 weeks away but we’re so busy with orders I don’t think we can make anything special or unique. It”ll probably just be a 6×8 and one of our new pagodas with us standing in the middle eating sweets.
If you’re serious about setting up your own marquee business then come round to our stand first and I’ll point out each stand that’s a must see. I try to be honest and as unbiased as possible.

As I’ve said before the showmans show is a really good show. As someone who has a fair bit of experience (we used to exhibit at 30-40 shows a year throughout my childhood) I appreciate how well organised it is for both exhibitors and visitors. For us it’s just 2 days of sitting round chatting to people 🙂
Thanks for reading, hope to see you at the show.

Spencer

Which marquees give the greatest return on investment?

A recent email exchange with someone in the industry annoyed me a little bit so I thought I’d explain on here -writing a blog is a form of therapy after all 🙂

 

For those who don’t realise there’s basically three types of marquee appropriate for marquee hire companies to use:

  • Traditional canvas marquees
  • Aluminium frame clearspan marquees
  • Steel pipe frame clearspan marquees (like our DIY marquees)

There’s other gazebos, pop-ups and party tents available but none of them are really suited to the hire industry.

 

-Neither of us like traditional canvas marquees. They have their place for some companies but neither of us wanted to get involved with them.

-Both of us like aluminium frame structures, no argument there the 9m & 12m wide stuff is very impressive.

-But he’s missing a trick by not using steep pipe marquees for his 6m wide stock.

 

When I ran our hire company we had 6m, 9m and 12m wide marquees. 6m wide steel pipe marquees are the most lucrative, offering the best return on investment (ROI) of any of the 3 sizes.

In fact about the only thing we had that offered a better ROI was fairy lights (buy for £30, hire out for £30).

 

So for all you entrepreneurs out there who don’t suffer from marquee snobbery, here’s some figures:

 

 

6m x 12m DIY Marquee

6m x 12m Aluminium frame marquee

Cost new (with linings)

£1350

Approx £8500

Expected rental (varies greatly with area)

£600+

£600+

Expected life span in the hire industry

Marquee: 2-4 years

Linings: 4-5 years

Windows 2-3 years

Linings: 4-5 years

PVC 5 years

Metalwork 20 years

 


 

I think it’s reasonable to assume:

-you have £8500 to spend

-you rent out a marquee for on average 20 weekends a year

-your profit is 50%

 

 

DIY Marquees

Aluminium frame marquee

Initial outlay

-£8,100 (6 lined marquees)

-£8,500 (1 lined marquee)

Return from 2 years hiring

£72,000 (6*2*20*£300)

£12,000 (2*20*£300)

Profit after 2 years

£63,900

£3,500

 

 

 

Replacement stock

-£5,100 (replace 6 marquees)

-£400 (replace 4 windows)

Return from further 2 years hiring

£72,000

£12,000

Profit after 4 years

£130,800

£15,100

 

£130,800 vs £15,100!! I really don’t see there’s any argument.

 

As anyone will recognise this is a simplified version of a business. You can’t rely on getting 20 bookings all paying full price if you’re starting up a new company, but then that’s the case no matter which style of marquee you use.

This doesn’t take in to consideration extras like flooring, lighting, furniture etc which are all lucrative in their own right –a lot of companies refuse to do an empty marquee. Surely having 6 marquees gives you greater opportunity to make money from extras than having one marquee?

 

If you’re starting a business or replenishing your 6m wide stock buying DIY Marquees gives you the best return on investment available.

 

I’ve tried to state the facts and figures in an unbiased manner, I just think there’s a few people out there who need to remember why we’re in this business -putting food on your children’s plate/putting beer in your pint glass, whatever’s your motivation.

 

Thanks for reading, I hope I’ve given some people something to think about.

 

Spencer.