Trade Show TalesBlog

Posts Tagged ‘Classic Exhibits’

What to Look for in an LED Lightbox Manufacturer

January 15th, 2020 COMMENTS

Rental Exhibits
Stroll through any airport, mall, event, or trade show and you’ll see hundreds of colorful LED lightboxes in every shape and size. Over the past few years, most have switched to Backlit Tension Fabric SEG Graphics. The reasons are obvious. Not only is fabric more durable than direct print graphics, but it’s also cheaper to ship and easier to maintain. And depending on the print process, the colors are vibrant and the details nearly photographic. 

It’s easy to assume that all LED lightboxes and manufacturers are similar, and the only real difference is price. Price matters of course, but there are other factors to consider.

9 Factors to Consider When Purchasing an LED Lightbox 

#1. Hardness and Durability:  All LED Lightboxes start with an SEG aluminum frame. Every manufacturer engineers their frames using aluminum of varying hardness and durability. Less expensive lightboxes use softer aluminum because it’s cheaper. But cheaper aluminum scratches easily and tarnishes quickly. In addition, the wall thickness is often so thin that structural rigidity is compromised. For lightboxes mounted to a wall or assembled or disassembled at multiple trade shows, you will want aluminum with a 6063 specification. 6063 has better structural integrity and scratch resistant. If the supplier can’t answer that question, then you should be wary. 

#2. Availability: Does the manufacturer have the extrusion, LED lights, hardware, and accessories in stock? And are there extrusion options depending on the situation, such as one-sided vs two-sided, freestanding vs. wall mount. What if you need multiple quantities or quick ship options? Can individual parts be purchased if they are lost or damaged? You don’t want a manufacturer who dabbles in lightboxes. 

#3. Customization: Let’s say you need a width or height larger than the kits listed. Is it possible? If so, how complicated or expensive does it get? How about angles or shapes such as a hexagon? It’s easy to do squares and rectangles (for most manufacturers), but odd shapes and sizes are often a head-scratcher for those who only want to fulfill kits. 

#4. Print Quality: Asking the right questions is essential. 1. Dye-sublimation printing is the best. This ensures the colors are infused into fabric, not just printed on the surface. Many suppliers brag about “fabric printing” but it’s not always dye-sublimation, which requires two steps  — printing to a paper material and then heat fusing the image to fabric. 2. Ask about the age of the printer. The dye-sublimation printer shouldn’t be more than two years old. Anything older than that means the print resolution is just OK, not photographic. 3. Just like clothing, the fabric quality can vary, which may not matter if the graphic is a throwaway and the resolution doesn’t matter.    

#5. Sewing and Sizing:  Experienced manufacturers have this down to a science. They’ve done the calculations thousands of times with varying fabrics, and they know how to print, cut, and sew the fabric so it fits perfectly. Not too loose. Not too tight. Nothing is more frustrating than receiving a fabric graphic that doesn’t fit. 

#6. LED Lights:  This could be a college course. Just understand the various color temperatures, lens, UL and ETL certification, module construction, etc. requires some research and patience. Like fabric, there are multiple ways to make LED lights cheaper, if cheaper is the only criteria. Skipping UL/ETL certification is shortcut. Using exposed connections or alligator clips is another. Sadly, it’s nearly impossible to know what you are getting before you get the LED lightbox. However, in this case, the old adage rarely fails, “If it’s too good to be true, then it probably isn’t.” 

#7. Accessories: Most LED lightboxes are a one-trick pony. The are lightboxes.  That’s it. But what if you want to add shelves, an iPad, a literature holder, wings or headers? What if you want to connect it to other lightboxes or create a full inline or island display. That requires and exhibit builder who has engineered the extrusion to be multi-functional, stocks lightbox accessories, and has the in-house talent to customize. 

#8. Packaging: It’s easy to assume that your display will ship in high-quality cases and packaging. Sadly, that’s rarely true. Most manufacturers use disposable one-way shipping materials. Your lightbox arrives undamaged. Now you have to ship it to the next show or to another location, but there’s nothing to protect it or keep it organized. Insist on reusable shipping materials, which precludes cardboard, shrink wrap, and thin foam. All three will be destroyed after one use. See examples. While you may have to pay a little more, it’s an investment that keeps giving show after show, assembly after assembly.  

#9. Assembly:  It’s easy to overlook how the lightbox will be assembled but that would be a HUGE MISTAKE. Some require tools and a bag of loose parts. Others have push-button connectors. Others are “mostly” tool-less, but the hardware is cumbersome and/or unnecessarily complicated. Ask to see the instructions or an assembly video. Even if you aren’t planning to assemble it, could you put it together based on the instructions in a reasonable amount of time? Remember, time is money, especially on the show floor. No one wants surprises at a trade show, and a well-designed lightbox won’t make you sweat, literally or figuratively. Do the research and trust your gut.

It’s important to remember that the pretty image you see on a website is just a rendering. What you receive is not. Ask the right questions and purchase your lightbox from a vendor you trust. Remember, you “may” be able to return the hardware, but the graphics, it’s yours whether you like it or not. Finally, keep in mind that you are buying a design, a marketing structure that represents your brand. It’s more than just an aluminum frame with graphics. 

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

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Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, hybrid, and custom exhibit solutions, including SuperNova LED Lightboxes. 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.

 

After 10 Years… | Harold Mintz

January 10th, 2020 7 COMMENTS

I was mindlessly scrolling through Facebook the other day when I came upon one of those “what if” questions an old high school buddy posted: “If you could go back in time and give your younger self advice, what would you say?”

Personally, I’m not a fan of these “what if” posts. What’s the point? Facebook is for showing others how sunsets look from your backyard, not for turning the clock back 10 years to address things you have no ability to change.

And then destiny stepped in… “Ding!” It’s an email from Mel White.

Harold –

You have a unique perspective regarding your visits with Distributors because of your 10 year gap in the industry. What would you say are the biggest differences between your meetings 10 years ago and your meetings now?

I am very curious.

When destiny speaks, Harold listens. Time to look back 10 years and identify “What’s Different.”

Harold Who?

Most of the folks I’m meeting don’t know me. Maybe they’ve heard my name, but most are unaware of me or my experience in the industry. This is a constant reminder of the old axiom, “What have you done for me lately?”

I have minimal street cred with many Classic’s Distribution Partners so I am often starting off new. It’s up to me to build those relationships and earn their trust, confidence, and business.

I Swear… You’re the Only One!

It’s 2020. Dedicated Distribution is a thing of the past. Back in the old days when I visited a city, it was to meet with our sole distributor who represented that territory.

Times have changed, and I understand why but it requires a mental adjustment for me.

Today I plan my visits to see multiple Classic Distributors that either sell our products or that might sell our products in that territory. Some are primarily custom houses. Others portable modular. And then there are agencies who tap into Classic for special projects.

The Person Who Said, “You Only Get One Chance to Make a First Impression” Wasn’t a Regional Sales Manager.

When I visited Distributors ten years ago, I’d share our latest headlines: “What’s new? Check out our new widget! Cool, right?” Show and telling our newest products and services was of prime importance to keep our extended sales force informed and up to date.

And while I still do that, there is greater emphasis placed on discussing all of the things Classic provides rather than simply the newest toys in our box. Faster and constant turnover of Distributor employees is one of the primary reasons. “Where’s Jim?” “Jim? Get with the program. Jim left 3 months ago. But meet Billy. Billy’s the new Jim.”

It’s like I’m starting all over with every visit. So I get LOTS of chances to make a first impression for better or for worse.

I Love the Pix my New iPhone Takes. Wait a Minute… Are You Telling Me It Can Make a Phone Call Too?

Vintage iPhone

That tiny little computer I carry around in my back pocket does SO much more than make phone calls. It’s a robust and multi-faceted tool. Same with Classic. Many Distributors think of us as the company that only provides whatever it is they last purchased from us.

Ten years ago, most of our Distributors knew exactly what we offered. Today, some Distributors know us as the company that rents highly customized booths. Others think of us as an extension of their own shop floor during the busy season capable of building exhibits straight from their designers’ renderings. And yes, some of our Distributors think of Classic as the company to turn to for high quality, affordable portable/modular exhibits, charging stations, or iPad stands.

Regardless of which niche you put us in, we do more than that.

AE? AM? AP? Sure, I’ll Meet with You!

I used to meet almost exclusively with Account Executives when visiting a Distributor. Geez… how old am I?! Today decisions about which vendor to use are made by lots of folks in addition to Account Executives, like Account Managers, Purchasing Agents, Designers, and sometimes a guy named Joe with no title.

Our internal contacts at Distributors have not only increased but have also gotten a bit confusing. Sometimes the internal contact changes based on the client (which makes sense). Other times it changes because it’s a custom project or a rental or a portable modular order. All that makes my job both more challenging and interesting.

The Smithsonian Called… They Want Your Showroom

Trade Show Showrooms

Most Distributors used to have a showroom. Ha! Today there is more space for previewing a Client’s new booth than there is for a showroom. One of the obvious reasons is that most Distributors are selling to clients from all over the country and not just from ”the neighborhood.”

As I talk to Classic Distributors, they tell me a showroom isn’t as important anymore. And with square foot pricing always on the rise, space has to be allocated appropriately. When visiting Distributors. I regularly ask, “How many of your Clients are located within an hour of where we’re standing?” The answers are quite telling — less local, more national.

It’s worth noting here that I am regularly being asked for freebies, loaners, and BIG discounts on showroom units. Showrooms still exist. And some are stunningly beautiful. They’re just becoming an endangered species. #savetheshowrooms #givetoyourlocalshowroomfoundation

Extrusions are Like Opinions. Everyone’s Got One But Few are As Good as Mine

Aluminum Extrusion Systems for the Trade Show Industry

Ten years ago, Distributors were ramping up their rental inventory with pallets of metal extrusion. Octanorm. AGAM. beMatrix. Aluvision. All had a place on select shelves. Today I still see examples of all four with beMatix leading the way.

For obvious reasons, Distributors ask their sales teams to promote the system sitting on their shelves. But more and more Distributors wish they could turn the clock back on their extrusion investments. Their reasoning is quite simple. It’s tough to compete against other exhibit houses when everyone is using the same building blocks. We’re seeing design saturation on the show floor with many booths looking the same just with different graphics. And clients are noticing.

When I share info about Gravitee, Classic’s tool-less extrusion system, Distributors take notice. Tool-less means no tiny connectors to lose and best of all – much faster set up! When you combine the money saved on I&D with the refreshing look of unique designs, many Distributors are wishing they could turn the clock back 10 years.

Some Things Never Change

Cilantro
Why is Cilantro Still a Thing?

The last one has nothing to do with trade shows or exhibitions. But seriously, “Why is cilantro still a thing?” I would have hoped that this disgusting herb would have gone the way of dedicated distribution. But alas, it still thrives. Blecch.

Harold Mintz is a Regional Sales Manager at Classic Exhibits. You can contact Harold at harold@classicexhibits.com.

Classic Exhibits Corporate Profile in Exhibit City News

September 18th, 2019 COMMENTS

To many trade show folks, Classic Exhibits is still a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma. It’s time to untangle the mystery. This month, we’re featured in Exhibit City News, online and in print. In the article, we explain our unique “unbranded” business model.

See the article below and the link to the full ECN online version.

Classic Exhibits Inc.: An Industry Chameleon

There’s a good chance you’ve heard of Classic Exhibits but don’t know all they do. Mel White, VP for marketing and business development, describes the Portland, Ore.-based company “as a chameleon that not only changes its colors, but also its shape. Repeatedly.” Every four to five years the company morphs into something different based on the needs of its more than 200 distributor partners and their customers.

So, who is Classic Exhibits right now? That depends upon who you ask—and what they need.

According to White, “Our customers come to us for a broad range of solutions. In short, we’re a job shop for over 200 distributor partners who assist their customers with tradeshows, retail displays, events and corporate environments, both for purchase and rental. We accomplish that as a ‘White Label, Unbranded’ designer and builder that’s largely invisible to end-users but not to the tradeshow and event industry. Our mission has always been to prioritize our customers’ brands in the marketplace, not only with unique designs, but also with brandable marketing tools.”

Founded in 1993, Classic started as a portable systems company, then a modular-hybrid supplier and now a design and builder of 3D structures. Currently, about 75 percent of what the company builds and ships can be classified as custom or customized. Nothing gets pulled from a shelf and shipped, even rentals. “We’re not that kind of company,” according to White. “We build to the order, stage each one, take extensive photos and create job-specific setup instructions and customized reusable packaging.”

Identifying Trends

Classic has been remarkably adept at identifying trends and creating tradeshow and event-specific solutions. Those include modular iPad and Surface stands, wireless charging stations, counters, pedestals and kiosks and tool-less LED lightboxes with accessories like tablet brackets, literature holders and adjustable shelves.

Wireless Charging Stations

Most recently, their evolution has included modular wall systems, like the tool-less Gravitee One-Step. “As modular wall systems have come to the forefront,” says White, “we’ve worked hard to introduce new designs on Exhibit Design Search. One of the benefits of a large distributor network is identifying successful designs quickly and making them available to our partners. For example, the blending of modular walls, custom components and LED lighting has been very popular. Every week we introduce new designs to our network through our Design Monday emails.”

Being Invisible

According to Executive VP Kevin Carty, “Invisibility often comes with misunderstandings and misconceptions about who we are and what we do. We’ve never been a Portland or Northwest-focused company. From the very beginning, we’ve relied on independent distributor partners for our sales since we don’t sell direct. This wasn’t unusual in the past, but the model has become less common as our competitors have either disappeared or chosen to sell direct to end-users. In some ways, we are the last company standing that honors that model.”

Classic’s “White Label” model includes, at the distributor’s request, branded crates, instructions and mailing labels with the distributor or end-user’s logo.

Carty, who has been with the company since its inception, has watched it grow to 85 employees across four divisions, encompassing 120,000 sq.ft. outside of Portland, Ore., that uses five internal web cameras to share the progress of exhibits from design to finish with customers.

Click HERE to read the full article in Exhibit City News.

Since 1993, Classic Exhibits has been North America’s leading builder of quality trade show exhibits for professional exhibitors. Browse through 1500 contemporary displays or request a custom design personalized to your trade show marketing goals.

Find success on the trade show floor with an exhibit that reflects your marketing message… at a price that will make your CFO giddy. For more information, see http://www.classicexhibits.com.

Why There’s No Such Thing as a Standard Wood Crate

September 16th, 2019 COMMENTS

No one designs and builds better crates than Classic Exhibits. No one! Our custom wood crates are fabric-lined and jigged to ensure your booth ships safe and secure. And not just the first time. Every time.

The exhibit and crate come with detailed assembly and packing instructions to save you time during installation and dismantle. The crates are sized, divided, layered, and even the doors built to ensure maximum efficiency. Every crate is a little different because every project is different.

You’ve made an investment in a booth. The crate should do everything possible to protect that investment at the show, during transit, and even during storage. See the difference that attention to detail can make.

Since 1993, Classic Exhibits has been North America’s leading builder of quality trade show exhibits for professional exhibitors. Browse through 1500 contemporary displays or request a custom design personalized to your trade show marketing goals.

Find success on the trade show floor with an exhibit that reflects your marketing message… at a price that will make your CFO giddy. For more information, see http://www.classicexhibits.com.

Up Your Game Newsletter ~ September 2019

September 16th, 2019 COMMENTS
Classic Exhibits -- Up Your Game Newsletter

Product launches can be terrifying, like our NEW SuperNova™ Tool-Less Lighboxes. Did we successfully communicate the features and benefits? Will customers embrace it? Will sales grow and how quickly?

Drum roll please…. To date, SuperNova sales have FAR exceeded our aggressive expectations. It’s the first (and only) tool-free solution without compromises in durability, strength, or assembly. And it’s just as strong as our previous version but 80% faster to set up.

Thank you for your orders and your feedback. It’s been pleasantly terror-free. See the video to learn more about SuperNova.

2020 Portable Modular Awards (PMA)

EXHIBITOR Portable Modular Awards

In 2014, Classic Exhibits and other manufacturers urged EXHIBITOR Magazine to recognize portable modular design. Which they did in 2015. Since then, we have been a sponsor and advocate for the Portable Modular Awards (PMA), including the People’s Choice Award.

Over the past 5 years, the PMA has continued to grow, and the award program has become a must attend event at EXHIBITORLIVE.

  • Best 10-by-10-Foot Exhibit
  • Best Fabric Exhibit – An exhibit comprising predominantly fabric components
  • Best Use of Graphics – Graphics for the entire exhibit and/or individual applications or purposes, such as info graphics, way-finding systems, product-display graphics, overhead-signage design, large-format graphics, etc.
  • Best In-Line Exhibit (10-by-20s, 10-by-30s, etc.)
  • Best International Design – An exhibit designed by a company outside of North America or an exhibit designed by a North American firm but launched at a show outside of North America.
  • Best Island Exhibit Less Than 600 Square Feet
  • Best Island Exhibit 600 to 1,000 Square Feet
  • Best Island Exhibit More Than 1,000 Square Feet
  • Best Reconfigurable Exhibit – An exhibit that can be reconfigured to accommodate various footprints, goals, shows, etc. Entrants must submit photos of the booth in at least two different configurations.
  • Best Rental Exhibit – A portable, modular, or system exhibit comprising predominantly rented components.
  • Best Tabletop Exhibit – Any exhibit construction (e.g., panel, modular, pop-up, briefcase, etc.) displayed atop a table measuring 10 feet or less in length.
  • Best Use of Technology – Innovative and effective use of technology within a portable/modular exhibit

We are finalizing our entries and encourage you to do the same, especially on any Classic-built projects. The early entry date is 9/27, but you can submit as late as 10/11. Let us know how we can assist you.

Special Podcast about Show Services, NAB, and Trends

In a 22-minute podcast, Sue Huff, Director of Global Conventions at Medtronic, discusses rising material handling costs, attendee demographics, the impact of show organizers on rates based on a presentation HCEAConnect.

Other topics include: NAB material handling model, exclusive and non-exclusive rates, how associations can help, and how to impact change.

At one point, Sue described how many days it would take a forklift driver to move one single crate based on the drayage rate. If the material handling rate is $135 per hundred weight, the cost for a single crate was $1,500. Applying the union workers’ wage of $47 per hour against the crate cost, it worked out to be 32 hours to move one crate or 4 days.

Listen NOW to hear the full interview and her analysis.

Funky Rentals

As you know, Classic Rental Solutions has an extensive rental inventory of standard and customized inlines, islands. and accessories. What you may not know is how often we fulfill funky rental requests, like large quantities of counters, monitor stands, lightboxes, and charging stations.

As a division of Classics, CRS can easily accommodate most orders since the materials are “in-house” and not purchased from another supplier. A few recent examples:

  • Over 40 Counters with Storage (multiple times)
  • 45 Backlit Gravitee Counters
  • 14 Double-sided Monitor Kiosks
  • 18 Bistro Charging Tables
  • 12 LED Lightboxes (varying sizes)

The Power of a Design and Designers

We’ve said this before, but it bears repeating. Other than price, the single biggest factor in closing an exhibit sale is the design and the designer.

When a Classic Designer has direct access to the end-user, either as a Classic or a “Distributor Designer,” the closing percentage jumps significantly (to around 75%).

Designers ask different questions and are more likely to hit the mark on the first rendering when they participate in the discovery meeting. Including them saves time, saves money, and results in more sales.

Want to know more? Contact Katina Rigall Zipay at katina@classicexhibits.com.