Trade Show Commentary

Posts Tagged ‘Trade Show Exhibitors’

When Pricing Really Gets Out of Wack!

In Trade Show Displays on March 10, 2011 at 2:05 pm

I was just reflecting the other day on where the next round of price increases would take us; by that I mean, does the spiral ever end? Which way? Well, if for some of us the spiral goes up, then for the other it goes down.

Here’s the point. A week ago, I had a long time client tell me that he’d had enough. Specifically, he said that it costs Sacagawea Displaymore to move his trade show displays from the dock to his booth than to ship them across the entire country; so that meant a new booth for him that has fabric graphics and can be packaged in one or two at the most, flat panel molded shipping cases. You win; right? Well noooo….

Things aren’t always what they seem to be. In response to trade shows becoming less and less wood and more and more plastic, guess what? Yesssss! The material handling rates go up again, or the rules change and what you once shipped as standard freight, is now “special handling,” and it soon costs just as much as before and probably more.

Another good example is trade show electrical. This one is a great example because the spiral has been going up for enough years that you can actually see the insanity in it.  Here’s the progression:

  • First we start with an exhibitor who purchases a 500 watt electrical outlet for his pop up lights and a small demo 200W_Halogen-Lightmachine in the front of the booth.  Price is reasonable, we pay it, and we’re good to go. What you paid for is the sum total of all the electricity you need for your equipment. (in some cities, the electrician had to screw in the incandescent light bulbs but that was included)
  • Now, the show contractor isn’t meeting their profit forecast so they increase prices by eliminating  the use of extension cords from all booths and make it mandatory that you plug into the electricians “electrical drop.” Now you have to order a 500 watt outlet for the front of the booth and one for the back of the booth. You still don’t use more than 500 watts, but you pay for 1,000.
  • Because revenue and thus profits are falling from other revenue sources, the electricians have to not only charge for the power, but also for “labor” to install it. Are they doing anything more than what they’ve done for years? No, they just need more money and the good news for them is that they can charge for installing it and for UN installing it if there even is such a thing.
  • Now it’s the exhibitors turn to strike back; you invest in LED lights because for each 200 watt light you now only use 24 watts of power and can finally save on the amount of electricity that you need for your booth.  Once again,L.E.D. Light life is good!
  • The Empire Strikes Back! Not so fast on those savings Mr. Exhibitor! You really don’t know how to plug-in a light properly without potentially inflicting damage to those around you, so the electricians will assist you for another $75-$100 per booth for each and every show they service. Do the math. Let’s say we have a 300 booth show times $100 minus direct labor to install those pesky pop up lights and they’ve had a pretty good day. Oh, you lose!

When is this all going to end? It won’t until a few people in the industry realize that the old business model isn’t what it used to be, and a new reality needs to be embraced so the industry can live the life span that it was meant to live. Profits just aren’t going to be what they used to be. I don’t really know what the net effect is going to be as prices keep spiraling up, but in my perspective, it has to be significant. I’m even seeing the small guys who have pop ups forgoing  the pleasure of using that product in favor of 3 banner stands lined up next to one another. That’s when you go from minimal exposure to the ridiculous!

Finally, I must say that it also has a lot to do with the union model of representing workers. If keeping your stewards job is always based on “what have you done for me lately” then is it any wonder that prices keep spiraling?

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by  Lowell Nickens, LinkedIn Profile