Over the past few years, there has been a dramatic increase in the demand for exhibit rentals. One of the primary drivers behind this evolution has been the need for exhibitors to reduce their trade show spending without jeopardizing impact.
In the current economic climate, renting rather than purchasing an exhibit can enable companies to trim their trade show budget—or to reallocate funds from display architecture to marketing and promotion. "Participating in trade shows is about generating measurable results, so many companies are turning to rental as a means of creating a strong presentation without having to cut back on pre-show promotion, post-show follow-up, and the other strategies that contribute to making face to face events successful," says Gwen Parsons, senior vice president of marketing at Nomadic Display, a manufacturer of custom modular and portable display solutions.
"Our rental business grew 27 percent in 2008, and is currently the biggest growth sector of our business," says Matt LaBruzza, vice president of Nomadic Display's exhibition services division. In response, Nomadic recently doubled the size of its facility in Las Vegas and increased the size of its rental inventory by 30 percent to service more clients and offer them a wider range of designs.
So how should your company decide whether to rent or purchase its exhibit? Parsons provides this food for thought:
Custom-tailored presentations. At one time, renting an exhibit meant settling for a generic-looking display with graphic signage applied to the surface. Not so anymore. Exhibitors can have the custom-tailored environment they need to reflect their company's unique brand and message with a rental display.
Modular exhibit systems are like building blocks. Components are mixed, matched, combined, and blended together with large-format digital and fabric printed graphics. The end result is a display solution designed to meet an exhibitor's aesthetic and functional requirements. Thus, rental exhibits can integrate the same features as a purchased exhibit—from theatre presentations, semi-private conference areas, and interactive demonstration stations to reception desks, storage towers, and lockable counters.
Reduced acquisition costs. At an average of 25 to 35 percent of the cost of a purchased display, rentals are a great solution for companies attending one or two shows a year. As a general rule, if you plan to take the same exhibit to three or more shows in an annual period, it makes economic sense to purchase the display.
A capital idea. Young companies, or those expanding into new markets, may not have the cash flow to support the capital expenditure of an exhibit. Renting an exhibit enables them to write their entire exhibit expenditure off as an expense on their operating budget.
Exhibit properties purchased as a capital expense are usually depreciated over three to five years, "a long time to commit to a size and style of exhibit architecture," says Parsons.
Eliminate ownership costs. The financial advantages of exhibit rental go even further. Parsons says, with exhibit rentals, there are no ongoing costs of exhibit ownership such as storage, exhibit repairs, maintenance, and (eventually) disposal.
Freight costs can be dramatically reduced if you rent in the city in which your show will take place. It is often less expensive to rent a custom lightweight modular exhibit than it would be to ship the heavy custom-built property that you own. Here's how much you could save in round-trip freight alone for an average 20 x 20 display weighing 1,800 lbs.:
Chicago to Las Vegas: $2,700
Washington, D.C. to Las Vegas: $2,948
New York City to Las Vegas: $2,948
Try before you buy. Companies have the flexibility to change their rental exhibit properties as fast as their business and markets demand. Exhibit rentals enable companies to exhibit in different space sizes and configure their display to suit different marketing strategies. "Many companies use a rental exhibit to try a new show or enter a new market, then purchase an exhibit once they understand what they need," says Parsons.
Modular exhibits can be expanded or reconfigured from show to show to accommodate variations in exhibit footprint size, or else to accommodate market-specific presentation needs (such as plasma screen monitors or interactive kiosks).
Expand on demand. For companies that have one show a year in which their exhibit space is larger than its other shows, rental can be the most cost-effective solution. "Many companies rent an island exhibit for their national event or add rental properties to expand their property for their larger shows," says Parsons.
Two places at one time. "Renting a second property is the most cost-effective way to handle two concurrent shows," says Parsons. Or when two shows are back to back, renting for one of the shows is often cheaper—and far less stressful—than rush shipping from one site to the next.