After several years of unprecedented setbacks and virtual events, the exhibit industry is once again thriving. Its invigorated resurgence isn’t quite back to pre-pandemic levels, but in-person trade shows and experiential activities are gaining promising momentum indicating a robust and rewarding future.
The exhibit industry’s return, however, is not immune to global labor and supply shortages. Exhibit fabricators and service vendors are actively supporting motivated trade show clients while navigating economic obstacles and waiting for the market to self-regulate.
What Challenges are Impacting the Exhibit industry?
It’s pretty much basic economics: Pent up demand and less product equals higher prices. This trickle-down or domino effect stems from a perfect storm of pandemic-related economic dilemmas. Within the past 18 months, product suppliers shut down or slowed down production and couldn’t rebound fast enough to keep up with economy’s surprisingly rapid turnaround. Backlog orders are now compounded by new ones. The result? A vicious cycle of exhibit supply shortages, high demand, lagging labor, long lead times, and sticker-shock prices for products and services.
How Do Supply Chain Shortages Influence Exhibiting Costs?
Higher prices for exhibit components and shipping are coming from the top, which is unfortunately passed on to trade show clients. Also, the struggle to buy certain exhibit materials and fixtures, such as furniture, plywood, specialized graphics, and shipping/storage containers extends delivery timelines. But the good news is that despite these economic hurdles, the exhibit industry has never lost its luster.
What’s the Best Way to Plan for Your Next Trade Show?
If exhibiting at a trade show is in your company’s budget, don’t procrastinate. Instead, think long-term planning, resiliency, unity and enthusiasm. Building or refurbishing an exhibit may be a bit bumpier than in the past, but with proper planning and the right partnership the potential for a successful comeback is immense.
Five Ways to Ensure Your Trade Show Plan is a Hit:
- Plan Early – Evaluate and refine your goals, budget, timeline and needs as early as possible while allowing time for possible setbacks. If you’re planning a new build, contact your exhibit account executive at least six to nine months ahead of your show to allow for brainstorming, design, ordering supplies, fabrication, delivery, and set-up. Even if you’re refurbishing an existing booth, start six months ahead of your show date to allow time to pull your existing product from storage, evaluate it, and complete the refurbishment.
- Bump Your Budget – Due to higher prices for supplies and services, it’s best to build a buffer into your budget for higher material costs, such as that imposed on plywood. Or, to help offset build costs without compromising impact or quality, try focusing on a lighter weight, minimalist exhibit design. This type of streamlined modification supports the population’s fundamental shift to a more environmentally smart and simplistic aesthetic, while lowering fabrication, shipping, drayage, and set-up/tear down costs.
- Be Flexible – If your exhibit ideas call for components that are hard to come by, be open to new ideas or changes that are more assessable. As exhibit fabricators, we always try to meet our clients’ demands, and in this market, flexibility is key to making that happen. We’re a creative industry so ideas and impactful solutions are endless.
- Be Patient – Even before the pandemic, being patient was essential. The trade show process is filled with unexpected challenges, and many of us have already had our patience tested due to constant supply chain hurdles. Eventually, life turns a corner so supply chain relief should be on the horizon.
- Enjoy the Journey – Despite cost changes, a lot of good has come out of the exhibit industry’s in-person, trade show crash. For one, it’s kicked our human adaptability into overdrive creating a new way to live, deal and accept an unpredictable future. For another, it’s made us appreciate the need and desire for human connection like never before. Maintaining a positive mind and enthusiasm during the exhibit process will help ensure successful returns on your investment.
Is This a Good Time to Re-Enter the Trade Show Circuit?
Despite ongoing challenges, the exhibit industry has proven it can sustain during the hardest times. It is still considered to be the best way to boost your brand, connect with existing and potential customers, launch new products, generate leads, and scope out the competition. The absence of in-person trade shows has spawned a plethora of unique and ambitious marketing opportunities for those ready to embrace the comeback and enjoy the ride.