Tool hire sector trends

Multiple different electrical tools with white background

(last updated July 2019)

What has been happening in the tool hire sector

Tool hire businesses large and small benefited during the early and mid 2000s from a strong economy and housing market. The construction industry had plenty of work, while home owners were prepared to spend large sums on DIY home and garden makeover projects.

Unfortunately the economy and the housing market suffered a sharp downturn in the late 2000s. Conditions remained difficult for many during the early 2010s. The tool hire industry felt the effects of the downturn, although hire businesses with the right tools at the right price and an excellent standard of customer service are likely to have found that demand stayed reasonably strong. There is also some evidence that the downturn prompted some trades-people to hire tools more often instead of buying them because they had less money to spend on purchasing and maintaining expensive equipment. Things began to pick up during 2013 and the economy continued to strengthen in 2014.

The economic recovery continued during the first half of 2015 but then slowed in the second half of the year and throughout 2016 and 2017. Growth in the construction industry was subdued during 2016 and 2017. Little change is expected for 2018 - the Construction Products Association forecast that the sector would remain flat, at best, during 2018. New private industrial orders have been falling and growth has been dependent on an increase in infrastructure activity and private housebuilding offsetting a sharp fall in the commercial and industrial sectors. This pattern is expected to continue in 2018. The government has put in place measures to boost new housing starts and facilitate home ownership. If successful, this is good news for tool hire businesses, which benefit from a strong housing market.

Tool hire businesses have also been badly affected by the fall in popularity of DIY. Many younger people rent a property or live at home and haven't developed the DIY skills that their parents took for granted. Many can't even do simple jobs like change a light bulb or bleed a radiator.

Independent tool hire shops face tough and growing competition from national and regional chains of hire outlets such as HSS Hire Shops and Brandon Hire. Economies of scale enable them to offer very competitive prices, which can be difficult for the independent to match. Also, they can afford to stock a very wide range of equipment and advertise extensively. As a result the number of independent tool hire outlets has fallen in recent years, with some being taken over by larger groups.

Keeping up to date with developments

Joining a trade association can help you to keep up to date with what is happening in the tool hire sector. The Hire Association Europe (HAE) represents the interests of all firms involved in hire and rental. Visit the HAE website to find out more about how they serve the industry.

The Construction Plant-hire Association (CPA) represents the UK plant hire industry. You can find out more about the CPA and get contact details on their website.

Trade shows

You can get a lot of useful information by visiting a trade show. You will be able to meet tool and equipment manufacturers, suppliers and importers. Information about forthcoming trade shows can be found on the exhibitions website.

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