Trade Show Displays – Hidden Costs

Due to increased competition and the internet, prices on portable trade show displays have fallen 50% and more in the last ten years. While trade show exhibitors can save a bundle when buying trade show displays today, it is more important than ever to be aware of and avoid the hidden costs associated with buying and using a trade show display. There is no point in paying more than you should or have to, either now or down the road. You can put the savings toward other aspects of promoting your trade show booth, such as pre-show mailers or trade show giveways that are customized with your company name on them. Or you can just put the savings in your pocket. Whatever you do, watch for the hidden costs involved in buying a trade show display and save yourself some money!

Hidden costs show up in three general areas – one upfront and two long term. They are (1) the initial purchase, (2) long term shipping costs, and (3) maintenance and updating costs. Understanding these hidden costs is critical to avoiding them when you purchase your next trade show display.

1) Upfront Costs When Buying Trade Show Displays.

In the past, your local display dealer had a monopoly on selling trade show displays, and one could see this in the price. If your town only had one dealer, prices would be even higher. But now with the internet and on-line shopping, one can buy trade show displays off the web, often directly from the manufacturer, and bypass the local dealer and his markup. Even better, multiple trade show display companies are selling on the internet, and the resulting competition has driven prices down even more. Trade show display prices have dropped over 50% in the last ten years. Due to the internet, there is now an even wider selection of types of trade show displays to select from. Your local trade show display dealer showroom is still a good place to see the various styles of displays and get ideas, but unless your dealer will negotiate and offer a fair and reasonable price, I suggest purchasing your next trade show display on-line.

Search Google for the the phrase “trade show displays”. You may be surprised at the number of trade show display companies you see (6,170,000 listings at last count, but fortunately not all of them are trade show display companies!). The resulting fierce competition is a good thing for you. Some of the trade show display companies you will find on the internet also offer easy on-line ordering for their displays – no calling a sales person – just point, click, and purchase. When you buy a trade show display on the internet (or locally for that matter), it’s important to determine the true cost of the display. The following are some points to to consider.

CHEAP DISPLAYS – There are some downright cheap displays available, but the sayings “if it sounds too good to be true…” and “you get what you pay for” are just as true today as ever. Cheap displays tend to be low quality imported displays, and should be avoided. Your trade show display is a critical tool for your trade show exhibiting success, and you don’t want to be dealing with a broken or non-functional display at your show. You also don’t want fraying or wobbling display in the background of your trade show booth creating the image of your company (first impressions do matter!). Don’t buy cheap displays!

OVERPRICED DISPLAYS – There are also some companies out there selling the exact same specifications and quality of trade show displays for more than others. The great thing about the internet is that you can determine the display you want to get, check the specifications and features, and then comparison shop to find the best price.

PRODUCT QUALITY – You need to make sure that you are getting a trade show display that will get the job done. You need a display that will set you apart at the trade show, insuring more booth traffic and more business for your company. You also want a display that will be reliable. Several trade show display companies now offer lifetime warranties on their display frames.

COMPANY RELIABLITY – It’s important to buy from a reliable trade show display company that can back up their product. Many companies now post customer testimonials and reviews on their website, which are a must-read to judge the company. Many companies also offer toll-free 800 numbers, indicating that you’ll be able to get in touch with them if you have a problem. You will probably want to update your display down the road, and you’ll certainly want a reliable company if you need to get your trade show display fixed, so be sure to select a trade show display company that provides excellent customer service (again, read their customer testimonials).

ORDER SHIPPING – One of the biggest hidden costs when buying on-line can be “shipping and handling”. Some internet companies are notorious for gouging on shipping costs. You think you’re getting a good deal until you check out and see the “Shipping and Handling” charge. Yikes! Some companies won’t even show you the shipping cost until you’ve set up an account with them and given them your personal information. Fortunately, a few on-line companies selling trade show displays today take the hidden cost of shipping your order completely out of the equation. They provide free ground shipping. It’s hard to hide any cost when it’s free. Because of this, if all the other considerations are basically equal, one should go with the company that offers free shipping.

2) Long Term Shipping Costs For Trade Show Displays.

Not too many people realize how much shipping a trade show display from show to show over the years can add up. Before you buy a new display, think about how many shows you expect to attend per year, and consider how you plan to get your new trade show display from show to show. Shipping displays is one of the biggest hidden costs in the trade show industry, and with high oil prices, it is getting worse.

The industry-standard “portable” trade show display today is the “pop-up” style trade show display, which was invented about 25 years ago. It consists of an easily expandable aluminum truss-work frame (also described by many people as an accordion or spider web frame). It generally has velcro-compatible fabric panels or custom-printed graphic panels. A pop-up display for a 10 foot wide booth space generally packs into a single shipping case. The shipping case when packed will usually weigh about 80 to 90 pounds (actual weight), but can have a dimensional weight of up to 100 pounds. Dimensional weight is calculated using the outside dimensions of the shipping container (length x width x height) divided by 196. It is used for calculating the shipping charge if one is shipping by air (such as Priority Overnight) and the dimensional weight is greater that the actual weight.

Shipping your display via ground service is fairly economical, but can take a week to get from the east coast to the west coast. If you have a last minute show, shipping the previously described trade show display from New York to Los Angeles via FedEx Priority Overnight would cost about $494 (March 2008). Imagine how the shipping costs would add up if you did this a couple times a year. And remember, you have to get your display TO the show, and the BACK from the show as well. If you take your trade show display with you on the airplane as baggage when you travel to the show, you will want to be aware of oversize and/or overweight baggage fees, which airlines have been raising and enforcing more vigorously lately.

Fortunately, there are more portable alternatives to pop-up type trade show displays. One alternative is the Signature trade show display from Pinnacle Displays, which is the same size as a traditional pop-up trade show display, but packs into a shipping case that is about both half actual shipping weight and half the dimensional size of a pop-up display’s shipping case. This can dramatically reduce long term shipping expenses. Other even more portable alternatives include pull-up or projector-screen-type banner stands, though they may not look as substantial. One does not want to go overboard on portability and end up looking less than professional at one’s show. The bottom line – always find out the shipping weight and dimensional weight of a trade show display and estimate your long-term shipping costs before making your purchase.

3) Other Long Term Costs For Trade Show Displays (updating, maintenance, expanding).

Besides shipping, there are three other long term cost associated with a trade show display that people often fail to take into consideration. They are updating your graphics, maintaining the display, and adding on to or expanding the display in the future.

Updating your graphics – One of the most important aspects of your trade show display is have great attention-grabbing graphics with a clear message. If your message changes (or, for instance, your company adds a new product), you will need to change some or all of your graphics. Find out upfront from your trade show display company if you can re-print just part of the graphics, or if you have to change out everything, and how much it will cost. Some companies charge more to replace graphics than the initial sale price once they’ve hooked you with the initial display.

Maintaining your display – Trade show displays can be handled roughly in the rush to pack up after a show, and FedEx and UPS don’t always handle shipments with kid gloves. This is why it’s important to get a well-built, high-quality display that will hold up to the rigors of trade show exhibiting. You also want to find out how you can get your display repaired if something does break on it. A few companies remove much of the worry of this by providing lifetime warranties on their display frames – a good indicator of a quality product and a reliable company.

Expanding your display – You may be buying a display for a standard 10 foot by 10 foot booth space, but you should plan ahead for the day you may get a 20 or 30 foot wide booth space. Many trade show displays are modular, and allow you to add on additional units seamlessly as your exhibiting requirements grow. If you don’t get all the accessories that come with the display, make sure that you can get them at a later date if you need them. As with many things, it pays to plan ahead.

In summary, there are many great deals to be had these days on trade show displays, especially if you buy on the internet. You want to be sure to get a display that will make your trade show booth stand out from all the other booths. You should pay what is necessary to get a professional display that will be effective. But there is no point in paying more than you should. Read and understand the three areas of hidden costs outlined above. Make a smart purchase when you buy your next trade show display. The money you save can be put towards other important aspects of promoting your trade show exhibit. Or you can just smile and put it in your pocket.