As event marketing pros know, a trade show display plays an essential role in achieving your event goals. However, if you’ve had this display for a few years and it’s starting to look dated or show wear and tear, should you put a new shine on an old booth or purchase an entirely new one? If you opt to get a new exhibit, what do you with the old one?
Understand the life cycle of your trade show display.
Most trade show displays have a three- to five-year life cycle. After that timeframe, it becomes difficult to deliver a marketing message that feels fresh with an exhibit that looks old and dated. You don’t want attendees to see the same tired booth year after year.
Within those three to five years, if the exhibit is structurally sound, refurbishing is a good option. However, there are several factors to take into consideration. The first step is determining the net book value of your exhibit, which is its cost minus depreciation. To run this equation, you need to know the cost of the display when it was initially purchased and the value of its depreciation over the years (your accounting office should be able to help).
For example, if you purchased the exhibit for $75,000 and depreciation is $50,000, your net book value is $25,000. Next, decide how you would like to refurbish your exhibit and how much that would cost. If the modifications would cost more than your net book value ($25,000), then it would be wise to dispose of the exhibit and buy a new one. If the modifications are less than $25,000, it makes financial sense to keep the exhibit and refurbish it.
But there are still other factors to consider. A huge chunk of any trade show budget is shipping and drayage (on average: 12% for shipping and 16% for drayage). A new display is likely to be manufactured using lighter-weight materials, which could result in significant shipping and drayage savings and cut down on install and dismantle time as well. Call your exhibit house and find out what the difference in shipping and drayage would be with a newer, lighter exhibit.
Another consideration is storage fees. A larger, bulkier exhibit that is not easily broken down costs more to store. Modular and fabric exhibits break down much smaller and require less storage space, which reduces costs even more.
[Full disclosure: My company offers trade show booth refurbishment and dismantlement services.]
If you have decided to refurbish your exhibit, sit down with your exhibit house to discuss the components you currently have and how they could possibly be reskinned for a new booth. You can cover the bones of your display for a fresh new look and feel, as well as change out lighting, graphics, counters and more.
Displays that have an aluminum structure at their core are very easy to reskin, restructure and reconfigure. However, an exhibit with a wood frame is nearly impossible to change the actual structure or shape. You can relaminate it, and that’s about it.
If you determine that it makes more sense to purchase a new display, you now have to decide what to do with the old one.
Dispose of it immediately after a show: This is a popular choice because you don’t have to worry about shipping it back to the exhibit house or incurring additional storage costs. Disposal fees are generally per pound, with minimums, determined by the local municipal landfills. Be aware of the local laws and associated costs before you make this decision. Overall, it is generally more efficient for the exhibit house to dispose of the exhibit for you — it has the vehicles, equipment and staff to handle a large exhibit.
Dispose of it after returning from a show: This is a decision you can make if disposal fees in the local area are greater than the cost to ship it home. In general, it is better to dispose of the exhibit right after the show in order to avoid the cost of shipping back to the exhibit house and incurring additional storage fees.
Donate it to charity: Donating locally is always beneficial and shows support to the local community. If your exhibit is still in decent shape, donating it to a charity or church is a win-win. The charity receives assets they need and the company receives a tax credit. The tax credit will be based on fair market value, which can be verified by a third-party appraiser. Also, check with local hospitals and schools (these organizations often repurpose old exhibits into children’s areas, etc.). In addition, if your exhibit house provides shipping, those fees could also be written off as part of the donation.
Sell it: First, ask your exhibit house if it has a trade-in or buy-back program. It may be able to give you a trade-in price or a credit toward your next purchase. It can also estimate what the exhibit might bring on the open market. When you sell to an exhibit house, on average you can expect to receive 20 cents on the dollar. The pro is that it’s much easier to sell to an exhibit house, especially in terms of shipping. The con is that the exhibit could likely be sold privately for more money, but that requires time, resources and shipping costs.
Be kind To Mother Nature: When you are disposing of your exhibit, be aware of the components that can be recycled. When buying a new exhibit, it can be helpful to think about disposal and environmental friendliness in the early stages that can save you money and hassle down the line.
There are many factors to consider when deciding if you should refurbish or trash your trade show exhibit. Hopefully, these tips will help steer you in the right direction.