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The Higher Costs of Exhibiting at USA Trade Shows

  • Published by Ozgur Tore

Bob Dallmeyer, president, RD International, notes that it is generally accepted that the cost of exhibiting is higher in the U.S. than in many other areas of the world.

iltm-americas13"However," says Dallmeyer, "this cost is always worth it when considering the access to the impressive U.S. marketplace it ensures."

With exhibiting, again depending on the scenario, the main difference Chad Beckrich, project manager, Skyline Exhibits, hears from international companies exhibiting in the U.S. is how many different entities are involved in making it all happen. Between the show association, show decorator, building services (electrical and rigging), transportation, audio video and I&D there are a lot of companies that need to have their services coordinated in the U.S. - and all those layers of companies adds to the cost to exhibit in the U.S.

"To my understanding the show regulations make it possible for a display builder to be more turnkey in nature overseas. We have an extensive dealer network that can make the trade show experience less chaotic and more like the experience they are accustomed to," Beckrich says.

Compare that to in Germany, where the Messes can provide many of these same functions in one place.

Also, exhibitor costs at U.S. shows for additional, but necessary items such as carpeting, cleaning, electrical, etc., often cost more than at shows overseas.

For instance, Skyline Exhibits research found a prevalence of sticker shock for exhibitors coming from overseas to U.S. shows. The three "unexpected costs" that exhibitors most often mentioned in regard to U.S. exhibitions are:

1.         Materials handling ("drayage"): 66 percent

2.         Installation & dismantle: 43 percent

3.         Exhibit transportation: 40 percent

"Drayage" is included with booth space in many other countries, so foreign exhibitors coming to the U.S. are often surprised to discover it. Also, in the U.S. "Installation & Dismantle" of exhibit booths is usually handled by unionized labor. Dallmeyer adds that many of the services provided by overseas stand builders are handled by U.S. events' official service contractor. "Always order these services in advance to avoid high surcharges when ordering at the show site."

Jenny Town, general manager assistant, Skyline Exhibit Systems (Shanghai ) Co. Ltd., in China, has helped many Chinese companies exhibit for the first time at U.S. trade shows. Town notes that Chinese exhibitors usually use exhibit rentals at U.S. shows. On one hand, rental is much cheaper than purchase; on the other hand, after the show, purchase items have to be stored which will be costly well.

She adds that credit card payment is very common in the U.S. when paying the show service fees to the organizer/official contractor, while in China the preferred method is wire transfer and check. "So when Chinese companies go to U.S. shows, they will often ask us to pay the show services for them.

In addition, in China, drayage fees are not common. The official forwarder usually combines the drayage and freight fees. "Or, if you don't use the official forwarder, we need to hire the forklift from the official forwarder, which costs based on the contractor and according to the different shows," she says."

Electrical rental in U.S. includes the electrical power but "we also need to hire the electrician from the show; while in China, when renting electrical from the organizer, there will be only the electrical box on site and you have to hire an electrician from your EAC (Exhibit Appointed Contractor) to do the electrical layout," Town says.

Electrical rental in U.S. includes the electrical power but "we also need to hire the electrician from the show; while in China, when renting electrical from the organizer, there will be only the electrical box on site and you have to hire an electrician from your EAC (Exhibit Appointed Contractor) to do the electrical layout," Town says.

In addition, the union and contractor regulations at U.S. trade shows are very different to most other places in the world.

Many things which seem normal (if irritating) to U.S. exhibitors, particularly drayage charges and separate and hideously expensive electrical and other services contracts, seem like rip-offs and scams to those who are not used to the market.

They are used to paying a single package price for everything in international shows and feel that they are being taken advantage of when they come to the U.S.

The most important objections to exhibiting in the U.S. are higher costs and perceived difficulties. "For instance, the cost of the floor space, higher labor costs, cost of special services, drayage, and the cost of the actual exhibits (portable, modular or custom booths) are much higher than in other countries. There is also a myriad of regulations and unfamiliar rules that foreign exhibitors are simply not used to."

"Consequently, exhibitors try to cut costs everywhere and they end up disregarding their look and image on the show floor when working with the local show provider," she says.

Which is why, in the next section, we will discuss how branding and design are more important at U.S. shows. To obtain a full copy of the white paper 'Avoiding Big Surprises When Exhibiting At U.S. Trade Shows', please contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or call us at 1-800-328-2725.

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