Regardless of whether one owns a traditional floral shop or caters to an event and rental clientele, managing inventory of rental props to ensure one has enough of what he or she needs remains key to success.

Joe Mineo, AIFD, owner of the special-events company, Joe Mineo Creative and the traditional flower shop Something New Florist & Events, both in Canfield, Ohio, says for those just starting out, it’s hard to gauge how much one needs to buy, but having been in business for nearly 30 years, he knows the tricks of the trade.“What we find is that when we’re not sure about a product, we try not to push it too hard, but I ask the vendor what the leeway time for getting more of it is,” he says. “For example, if I am going to buy a vase and I don’t know if it will be a hit, I will rarely buy that item if I know the vendor can’t get me more in a certain amount of time.”What’s taken him a long time to learn is that when you do buy a smaller amount of something, not jumping on the bandwagon of buying too many just because they sold out immediately; Joe would rather run out of a product than have too much. Mandy Majerik, AIFD, PFCI, creative director of HotHouse Design Studio and PropHouse, both of Birmingham, Ala., transitioned from a traditional florist to a weddings-and-events-only company and operates a large rental company for wedding props, fixtures and equipment.For florists who want to start building or expand an inventory of party props, she suggests the first thing they need to do is come up with a list of inventory they prefer to invest in.

Inventory Management Staying on Top of What’s in Stock

To Buy or Not to Buy? That is the Question

There’s no shortage of items to buy, and new props and accessories hit the market regularly, so knowing the best things to buy – and just as importantly the things not to buy – is key to inventory management. This is where the savvy buyer has an advantage.

“You have to keep up with the ever-changing trends,” Majerik says. “As a buyer, you have to see the potential in an item. For example, can this chair go with a Boho set and then also be placed in a modern collection?”

Mineo says the No. 1 thing he would tell anyone going into the business today is to buy good-quality contemporary gold candelabra – classic in shape but more of an extended, longer pedestal that can be utilized for many occasions.

If hunting for vintage furniture, Majerik notes that antique malls or flea markets are the place to go, but they should be professionally reviewed to ensure you’re not renting out a chair that is possibly unstable.

“Also make note that some items you need in quantity, so purchasing from a vendor at market is a great option,” Majerik says. “Custom, in-house-made items are very popular. You always want to offer something that your competitor doesn’t have.”

Mineo finds himself buying from the Gift & Home Furnishings Markets at AmericasMart in Atlanta, mostly because these markets provide what he needs for both the retail store and his event business. He’s not much into thrift stores but understands why people do it.

“The nice thing about going to the gift market in Atlanta and buying something that looks old but is new is that in our industry you never just need one thing – you need four – so that’s the way to go for me,” he says. “There are some companies I rent from that can find odds and ends of authentic pieces, so I don’t have to store anything that I know won’t be going out at least once a month.”

A good way to clear space for new items is to hold a prop sale once or twice a year to liquidate items when they dwindle down to small quantities or their performance or popularity hasn’t been good.

Mineo will rid himself of items by offering items at 50 percent off to event clients or putting things in the retail store on sale.

Inventory Management Staying on Top of What’s in Stock

Joe Mineo, AIFD, designed and had manufactured versions of this versatile four-tiered fixture in multiple sizes. It has myriad uses from staging altar, aisle and table décor for weddings and parties to displaying merchandise in his retail store.

Challenges of the Job

Organization is the key to a prop rental business, but something like this takes time to become masterful when it comes to inventory control.

A challenge is keeping rental items clean and in good shape. Majerik says upholstered items are one of the hardest things to manage when it comes to rental for events, and cleaning candle wax off of hundreds of brass candlesticks takes time.

When renting products and props, a company should always have a solid contract and a payment source on file for damages. Mineo says contracts should state that the client is liable for any damage – even if the venue is responsible – and he charges the replacement cost for whatever is lost.

Inventory Management Staying on Top of What’s in Stock

This “Emerald Atara” collection of wedding and party furnishings is one of many styles available at Mandy Majerik, AIFD, PFCI’s PropHouse event rental company. Mandy has multiple of collections of rental items ranging from classic and traditional to vintage/retro to contemporary, many of which can be mixed to create unique settings for every type of client and event. Photo by J. Woodberry Photography