Trade Show TalesBlog

Archive for October 17th, 2015

Is Your Display Supplier an Importer, an Assembler, or a Builder?

October 17th, 2015 2 COMMENTS

Trade Show Suppliers

An Alternate Approach

Recently, a distributor asked me about the capabilities of X, a trade show display supplier in our industry. We talked about X, which led to a conversation about A, D, and G. I realized after our call that the industry has shifted. The categories or labels we’ve always used to define exhibit suppliers/builders are no longer accurate.

Historically, we’ve talked about portable/modular, systems, or custom builders/suppliers, but those designations seem insufficient. For example, while Classic Exhibits has pre-configured and customized kits, we also build pure custom, corporate environments, and retail displays. Not to mention rental options. And we’re not alone.

So allow me to propose an alternative. It’s not intended to be definitive. Just one attempt to move the conversation along. What have I missed? [The stars do not reflect quality. That’s a whole different story. Rather an indication of capability and selection.]

Importers

blocksImports pre-configured portable displays. Little to no ability to customize displays, packaging, or instructions. Limited selection. Sells direct and through distributors.

  • Graphics: ★ to ★★
  • Hardware: ★ to ★★
  • Creative Design: ★
  • Problem Solving: ★★
  • Production Flexibility: ★
  • Rental Offerings: None

Assemblers

Works mostly with pre-cut metal and pre-installed locks on preconfigured kits. Basic machine shop tools. No CNC equipment. Minor kit customization if no engineering, bending, or CAD work is required. Some creative or problem-solving talent. Sells direct, mostly within region, or through a limited number of online distributors.

  • Graphics: ★ to ★★
  • Hardware: ★ to ★★
  • Creative Design: ★★
  • Problem Solving: ★★
  • Production Flexibility: ★★
  • Rental Offerings: None to ★

Systemizers

Exhibit SuppliersWorks within the framework of a display system. The system may be innovative, but the solution-based architecture has limitations. Because it lacks open-ended capability, the hardware, not the design dictates the solution. Has the same capabilities as assemblers (see above) with more external suppliers. Often resistant to solutions that require non-system solutions. Modest creative or problem-solving talent. Primarily sells through distributors, although direct sales are an option.

  •  Graphics: ★★
  • Hardware: ★★ to ★★★
  • Creative Design: ★★
  • Problem Solving: ★★★
  • Production Flexibility: ★★ to ★★★
  • Rental Offerings: ★★ to ★★★

Customizers

Historically, wood fabrication talent. Ability to work with engineered metal. Excellent creative and problem-solving talent depending on the size of the operation, including technology services. May or may not have CNC equipment. Outstanding build capability on isolated jobs, but the facility and cost-structure are not designed for repeatable and/or customizable inlines and islands. Very good packaging and CAD capabilities on specific jobs. Show and storage services may dictate build designs. Sells direct. May work with Importers, Assemblers, Systemizers, and Manufacturers/Builders on projects that don’t fit their capabilities or cost structure.

  • Graphics: ★★★★
  • Hardware: ★★★ to ★★★★
  • Creative Design: ★★★★★
  • Problem Solving: ★★★★
  • Production Flexibility: ★★★
  • Rental Offerings: ★★★

Renters

rentA small but a growing category. Renters evolved from a another category such as Customizers. While they may build custom displays and/or sell kits from Assemblers, Systemizers, or Manufacturers/builders, they concentrate on rental and custom rental solutions for their clients. Strong creative skills within self-imposed and pre-defined limitations. Those limitations force them to be nimble and cost-effective in order to be competitive. Typically a limited number of solutions, which can be modify depending on the customer and the circumstances. Storage and show services vary widely.

  • Graphics: ★★★
  • Hardware: ★★ to ★★★
  • Creative Design: ★★★
  • Problem Solving: ★★★
  • Production Flexibility: ★★ to ★★★
  • Rental Offerings: ★★★ to ★★★★

Manufacturers/Builders

Solid wood fabrication and engineered metal capabilities, including CNC equipment. Very good creative and problem-solving talent from tabletops to islands. Able to produce standard kits, customized kits, or fully custom displays within a predefined build schedule. Excellent packaging, CAD, and setup capabilities on well-defined systems and most customization projects. Not as concerned with show services or storage. Primarily works through distributors. May sell direct within region, depending on the business model.

  • Graphics: ★★ to ★★★★
  • Hardware: ★★★★
  • Creative Design: ★★★★
  • Problem Solving: ★★★★
  • Production Flexibility: ★★★★ to ★★★★★
  • Rental Offerings: ★★ to ★★★★

–Mel White
mel@classicexhibits.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/melmwhite
https://twitter.com/melmwhite

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Based in Portland, Oregon, Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, and custom-hybrid exhibit solutions. Classic Exhibits products are represented by an extensive distributor network in North America and in select International markets. For more information, contact us at 866-652-2100 or www.classicexhibits.com.