Trade Show TalesBlog

Archive for August, 2010

Krazy Kevin’s Quadro Pop-Up Special

August 23rd, 2010 COMMENTS

Quadro EO Pop-Up SpecialBuy One. Get One.

Kevin Carty has lost his mind (again)! He’s decided to “break the bank” with an insane promotion.

Here’s the deal:

  • Purchase an EO-03 (8 ft.) or an EO-04 (10 ft.) pop up display.
  • Get an EO-01 table top for just $150 retail. That’s insane, frankly! The EO-01 retails for $950 msrp.

If that’s not crazy enough:

  • Purchase an EO-03C or EO-04C (w/o graphics).
  • Get an EO-01A table top (w/o graphics) for just $100 retail. The EO-01A retails for $870 msrp.

Quadro EO Features and Benefits

  • Easy Self-locking Aluminum Frame
  • One Piece Connecting Channel Bars
  • Durable Steel Pin Connectors
  • Convenient Monitor Mount Options
  • Lightweight Pop Up
  • Heavy-Duty Roto-molded Case with Wheels
  • Lifetime Frame Warranty

The Quadro EO Special is effective until 10/15/2010. Or until Kevin gets released from the State Hospital.

Krazy Kevin's Quadro EO Special

Word on the Street — August 16th thru August 20th

August 22nd, 2010 1 COMMENT
Why we participate in the TS2 Show

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Perception vs. Reality

One of my best friends travels quite a bit for his job. We often joke about who travels more, but he has me beat by quite a distance.

Approximately 30-32 weeks a year, he’s on the road, and most of his travel is to Events, Conferences, and Trade Shows. These can range from a small regional show in Alaska where he has a table top display to the industry hardware show in Chicago where he has a 20′ x 50′ island exhibit.

He asked to meet this week to talk about their up and coming trade show program and to get some advice. They go to over 35 events or shows a year.

Without identifying the company, they are the nation’s largest provider of products in their market, selling to retailers like Wal-mart, Kroger, and Target, as well as most local and regional grocery chains.

Over the past two years, their ROI has dropped significantly; yet, their sales have continued to increase. They analyzed the problem and determined that the ROI shrinkage was directly related to increases in their event/show costs. In particular, costs associated with labor, show services, and drayage.

As he puts it, “We are at the point where we must decide between continuing to participate in large shows or hold private regional events in four or five cities a year. At the regional events, we would bring our customers in and show them our products and services.”

The numbers are staggering. Their sales have increased on average of 15 percent each year since 2008; yet it isn’t keeping pace with increases in their drayage, labor, and show services expenses.

And it was stunning to see the costs related to certain venues when compared side by side. For example, they compared a large show in Chicago vs. the same show in Orlando. Trust me I know the obvious reasons why some costs were lower, but overall the show services, labor, and drayage costs were 23 percent less in Orlando. And like all exhibitors, they do not determine the venue, so they have to decide whether to attend the show in Chicago.

He asked me my opinion about switching to large, privately-hosted, regional events. I have to be honest. I found myself recommending that they do just that. It gives them the same (if not better access to their clients), and they don’t have to deal with competitors.

Now, if you’re thinking,  “What about the perception of them not being at the shows?” I agree, there is a risk there, but for some companies, such as those with a large foothold or who are the market leader, not participating may not matter.

I know certain cities and venues are trying to “fix” the costs associated with attending shows, but do they realize how much needs to be fixed? There is a perception that trade shows are too expensive, and that perception, even as the industry makes changes, will continue to linger.

How can we go about changing that perception as large cities and venues work on the reality?

Please share you comments and stories. Be well!

–Kevin Carty

Exhibit Design Search — Super Cool New Features!

August 20th, 2010 COMMENTS

Announcing Two New Features in Exhibit Design Search (EDS)

Frequently Asked Questions in EDS

1. Frequently Asked Questions

We created FAQ’s for all the galleries in Exhibit Design Search. These questions are intended for end-users, but there’s beneficial information for distributors as well.

Here’s an example (from the Counters and Pedestals FAQ):

Question:  Holy Moly! I just glanced through the Counters and Pedestals. There are almost 200 styles. How do I narrow it down?

Answer:  Your first step is to identify what features you need. Do you need internal storage? How about graphics? Do you want laminate, aluminum, or fabric surfaces?

Next, narrow it down by price, if for no other reason than to see the differences between a $1200 pedestal and a $3500 counter. Don’t see exactly what you want? No problem. As you can tell, we love to design new ones.

The FAQ’s are organized in the same order as the EDS galleries to make searching easier. We also included a Frequently Asked Questions link on the Design Detail of every kit. These links connect to appropriate FAQ gallery.

Last but not least, we added an “Ask a Question” option so customers can contact you directly from your EDS website, or you can contact us from the Classic Exhibits EDS.

2. Thumbnail Magnifier

Hover over any thumbnail in EDS, except the thumbnails on the Home Page, and a larger, magnified image will now appear. The magnified image makes it easier to see details without having to click on the display thumbnail. It’s pretty darn cool, and it’s one more reason your customers will linger a little longer on your EDS website.

We encourage you to explore both of these new features in Exhibit Design Search. Let us know if there are questions you would like us to include in the FAQ, and we eagerly await your comments on the new thumbnail magnifier.

–Mel White
Classic Exhibits Network (LinkedIn)

Jumping on the Bandwagon: Imports are the Problem!

August 18th, 2010 2 COMMENTS

Let's Blame the Imports

It’s ALL their fault — those inexpensive imports of dubious quality. They are ruining the exhibit industry for everyone. How do we possibly compete?

If you shouted “Hurray!” or “You are SO right my friend!” you’re going to find this article disappointing. It’s easy to blame imports. They have lowered prices on many common display products, and they have introduced “disposable” banner stands, pop ups, signs, etc. to hundreds of thousands of customers. In short, they have changed expectations. I would contend, which many of you may disagree with, that that’s not such a bad thing. Here’s why:

1. Price: Lower prices on banner stands, pop ups, portable canopies, and outdoor signage have expanded the market for these products. Seven years ago, you saw them at trade shows and events. Now you see them everywhere:  retail stores, arts and crafts fairs, meetings, conventions, even churches. Lower prices means more customers who will buy more products and will have a better understanding of event and trade show marketing.

And, while you may bemoan that many of these products are coming from overseas, they are mostly being sold by domestic distributors.

In time, as their marketing goals change, these customers will explore other options – such as hybrid exhibits, modular displays, even custom exhibits.

2. Quality: Admit it. Not every imported display product is “junk.” Like any product, you get what you pay for. There are cheap, disposable banner stands, and there are high quality ones. How do customers know the difference? Customers don’t. They rely on exhibit professionals to explain the differences and their options. In the end, they are adults. They will make a decision based on their circumstances and their personality. Sometimes it’s a wise decision. Sometimes it’s a foolish one. All we can hope is that they learn from their mistakes.

Here’s a personal example. At Classic Exhibits, we offer two pop up display systems:  the Quadro EO and the Quadro S. We manufacture the Quadro S at our plant in Oregon. The Quadro S is a high quality pop up with literally hundreds of options and nearly 100 kits. It can do just about anything, including holding multiple monitors, shadowboxes, waterfalls, and shelves in curve and flat configurations. It will perform flawlessly in hundreds of shows, and it’s priced competively.

The Quadro EO is a self-locking pop up display that we import from China. To tell you we looked at quite a few models from quite a few manufacturers would be an understatement. We saw good pop ups, bad pop ups, and ridiculously bad pop ups. The EO was by far the best one. It’s a lightweight pop up with minimal accessories in three frame styles:  10 ft., 8 ft., and a 6 ft table top. We manufacture the fabric panels and roto-molded cases in the USA. So you may be asking . . . Why import a pop up when we already manufacture one? Simple, our customers requested a high-quality, lightweight system that could be sold for several hundred dollars less than the Quadro S. They’re our customers so we responded.

3. Innovation: I don’t need to tell you that competition sparks innovation. You already know that. Too often, the folks who grumble about unfair competition are the same ones who refuse to tinker and innovate. They may make superficial changes, but they resist rethinking the underlying premise of their products, their services, or the marketplace.

Now I’m not naïve. Unfair competition exists. Every government subsidizes certain industries, and many companies manipulate the market, suppliers, or governments to gain an unfair advantage over competitors – domestic or foreign.

You need to be realistic. You’re not going to stop the imports. And relentlessly cutting prices and your margins only gets you so far. You have to find a niche(s) where you excel, where you can move faster than the imports and faster than your competitors. At Classic, we’re never going to be cheaper than an identical Chinese import. But, we don’t have to be.

Sacagawea VK-1222 Portable Hybrid

Let’s take hybrid displays as an example. In the past two years, we’ve seen lots of basic extrusion backwalls. You know the ones: wings, canopy, large tension fabric or vinyl graphic, and workstation counter(s).  It’s a familiar shape, one that customers seem to like as an alternative to a pop up or curved push-button connector display. These basic hybrids used to be over $10K. You can now find imported versions for $2K to $5K.

Classic Exhibits specializes in hybrid displays, so you’d think we would be concerned. We are and we’re not. Six years ago, we recognized that we could manufacture designs that others couldn’t, and we could react much faster to the market. The Sacagawea System is a good example. The Sacagawea Portable Hybrid competes with the imported versions — very successfully. Why? It has five advantages over imports:

  1. Die-Cut Packaging:  Every piece has a home. There’s no guesswork, and packaging is upscale and reusable for years. Customers love our packaging.
  2. Knob Assembly:  About 85% of the connections are attached knobs for faster assembly.
  3. Curves:  The combination of straight and curve extrusion makes the designs distinctive.
  4. Options:  Counters, workstations, headers, canopies, monitors, shelves, literature holders, and an array of laminate, plex, and Sintra colors.
  5. Set-up Instructions: Every part is labeled, and the set-up instructions are unique to your configuration. Plus, the instructions are available online 24 hours a day/7 days a week.

Do imports make our lives tougher? “Hell Yes!” Are imports to blame for lower margins and lost sales? Perhaps. However, before we jump on the “evil import” bandwagon, consider the alternative in this difficult market. And, consider your opportunities as the market rebounds. You can be darn sure your competitors are – foreign and domestic.

–Mel White
Classic Exhibits Network (LinkedIn)

Word on the Street — August 9th thru August 13th

August 15th, 2010 COMMENTS
Why we participate in the TS2 Show

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

It’s That Time of Year . . . .

I have been doing this for 16 years now . . . same company . . . same trends. I hope!

Mel and I both joke about how every year, even the most seasoned Tradeshow Pro’s tend to forget that the business goes dormant in June, July, and early August — Only to be reminded that it always ramps back up around the 15th of August.

Each year like clockwork, we hear the questioning in the voices of distributors: “Is this normal? When will the business pick back up?”

Then BAM! Mid-August hits and we’re all “suddenly” reminded of what the busy season feels and looks like. People begin to feel overwhelmed with their work flow, forgetting that this is only about half as busy as late September and October.

It’s hard to get back into the swing of being BUSY. Both mentally and physically to be honest. Yet we all do it.

This is a cyclical business for sure. One with defined seasons, seasons that dictate our lives and schedules. We all know you don’t take long vacations in September in the trade show business.

Each year, we all remind our staffs that this is normal, the slowdown, and to prepare for the busy season that is coming. And each year, it proves to be true.

Magellan VK-1082 Hybrid

How about this year? Well, for me, I am sticking with the odds. Every year has proven to be true. And like year’s prior, we are gearing up for the fall season with new items and new twists to existing product lines. Take a moment to review Design Monday where you’ll see “New and Improved” Magellan Portable Hybrid designs. For a sneak peak at what’s coming over the next two weeks, check out the Magellan gallery in Exhibit Design Search.

Finally, what would the fall season be without a sales promotion? And not just a La-De-Dah, Ho-Hum, Roll Your Eyes promotion, but a Blow Your Socks Off, Are You Kidding Me, Have They Lost Their Minds promotion. Krazy Kevin is back with a deal on the Quadro EO Pop Up. Look for the “Krazy Kevin” email in your mailbox on Monday.

Hope you all had a safe and restful weekend.

Here’s to the start of yet another busy fall season!


–Kevin Carty