Trade Show TalesBlog

Posts Tagged ‘Exhibit Rentals’

The 7 Truths about Renting a Trade Show Exhibit

January 20th, 2020 COMMENTS

Renting vs. Buying a Trade Show Exhibit

You’ve probably read articles about renting a trade show exhibit. Most are innocuous, some helpful, but others are just plain wrong. Frankly, that annoys me, but I understand why. Exhibit Rentals are growing rapidly. And exhibit companies are positioning themselves based on their individual strengths.

So what does positioning mean? In our industry, there are one (1) person companies to (2500) person companies. Some build. Many do not. Some have large rental inventories. Others have little to none. Is their rental inventory metal, wood, modular walls, portable components? And how much of it is new, newer, or beat to hell? How does it assemble? Does it come with detailed setup instructions? What about design support?

These are questions the average exhibitor never asks. It’s not because they don’t care, but because those questions would never occur to them.

Let’s untangle the 7 Most Common Misconceptions.

#1. Renting is An Option. Not THE ONLY Option

Rental ExhibitSome rental-only exhibit companies are touting renting as the only solution. They say, “Why buy when you can rent? No more storage fees. You can change the display for every show. The cost is less.”

It sounds attractive, and might make sense for many exhibitors. However, renting an exhibit, just like leasing a car, can be more expensive than purchasing. It depends on usage, lifespan, ongoing modifications, etc. It’s not as cut-and-dry as it appears at first glance. It’s important to run the numbers.

It’s not an either/or choice. Sometimes it makes sense to purchase a portion of the exhibit, say the main tower or overhead sign, and rent the components, like the counters, workstations, and charging stations. It depends on what you might want to change from show to show. But, again, you have to run the numbers and have a vision of your short- and long-term trade show marketing goals.

Finally, sometimes it’s not about the numbers. Some exhibitors want to own their display. Others do not. Cost has little to do with their decision.

Trade Show Island Exhibit Rentals#2. Rentals Can Be Customized, Which Isn’t the Same as Custom

Whenever someone tells you your rental exhibit is “custom,” you might want to dig deeper on what “custom” means. It might mean the design is custom, but the components come from stock inventory. Or there are several custom elements which are unique to your exhibit and are being depreciated over multiple rentals, either yours or other future rental clients. Or you are basically “purchasing” the custom element, but everyone is calling it a rental since you won’t own it.

While it’s true, you can technically get a custom exhibit as a rental, there are always strings attached such as a commitment to multiple rentals or a higher price for the one-time rental.

In most cases, a rental exhibit is a “customized” display using stock components, based on a preexisting or “customized” design, and client-specific graphics.

#3. You Rent the Structure, But You Own the Graphics

Remember you are renting the structure, but you own the graphics. Each time you change the messaging, you are buying new graphics. Be realistic about how often you plan to update your graphics. Clients often assume they will reuse the graphics 3-4 times, but marketing campaigns aren’t like a pair of jeans. They change. Sometimes every single show.

#4. Your Rental Components May Be Used for Another Client’s Rental

Recently, I read a blog post where the rental exhibit supplier said that your rental property would never be used for another rental. If that’s true, it’s either the smartest or the dumbest business model I’ve ever heard.

Now, in the real world, rental components are reused. That’s why rental exhibits can be less expensive. Duh?! Does that mean another exhibitor will have exactly the same design as you? Perhaps, but it’s very unlikely since every exhibit has unique needs and distinctive graphics. However, the modular aluminum wall used in Job ABC will get reused two months later on Job XYZ. And then again, until it’s no longer serviceable as a rental component. To pretend otherwise is disingenuous. 

#5. Size Matters. Inventory Matters. Design Matters.

Do you remember when I said that there are companies ranging from one employee to several thousand employees? Those companies all have different rental capabilities, either in-house or through a strategic partner like Classic Exhibits. No one has an unlimited budget to stock every possible rental design.

Ask yourself this… Is the proposed design guided by their limited rental inventory or by your trade show design requirements? Whatever rental company you choose, they should treat the process as if you were purchasing a display, and the final display should look visually indistinguishable from a new exhibit.

#6. Packaging Matters. Instructions Matter. Quality Matters. 

Trade Show Inline Exhibit RentalsHere’s the very sad truth. No exhibitor ever asks about packaging, setup instructions, or quality, particularly on a rental property. And aside from design capabilities and inventory, nothing distinguishes an OK rental supplier from an AMAZING one than packaging, instructions, and quality. Too often, exhibitors save money by renting an exhibit only to piss it all away during setup and assembly on the show floor.

You should expect detailed drawings, numbered or labeled components, photos (showing where the supplier pre-assembled it at their facility), jigged packaging/crating, and clean hardware. The hardware should appear new or newish, not like it just fell off the truck, rolled around in the dirt, and then was tossed into a crate. When you open the crate, it should make you smile, not cringe in fear.

#7. Rentals are a Long-term Partnership with Your Exhibit Supplier

Depending on the rental schedule, you are going to see each other a lot. And, based on that ongoing relationship, you are going to flourish or falter. Exhibit rentals require a communication commitment. What’s your show schedule? Does the design need to change? Were there any issues at the last show? How about new graphics? Is your next show an inline vs. an island? When do you want to booth to ship and are there any services you need such as rental furniture, I&D, electrical, flooring, etc.

Rentals force both sides to communicate, often far in advance. It doesn’t take long to decide whether it’s a fit or whether it’s time for you to start seeing other people. But, when it does work, it’s a beautiful thing.

One final piece of advice — not all suppliers are equally good at both. Your current supplier may be a magician at designing a custom exhibit but lack the skills, interest, or inventory to pull the rental rabbit out of a hat. Being good at one is no guarantee of being good at the other. Ask the hard questions and be willing to work with someone else if anything seems amiss.

In the end, your rental experience should be no different from a purchase, whether during the exploratory and design process or at the show. Always expect the best.

Have questions? Give us a call or send us an email. We would love to chat with you.

–Mel White


Classic Exhibits Inc. designs and manufacturers portable, modular, hybrid, custom, rental 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

Rental Exhibits and Accessories — Summer Sales Tips #6

July 5th, 2017 COMMENTS

Rentals Exhibit are the Smart Choice

Rental exhibits are the single fastest growing segment of trade shows and events. So what’s driving this? To no one’s surprise, exhibitors are being asked to do more with smaller budgets. In the past, that meant a smaller exhibit or a reduced trade show schedule. Not anymore. Rental designs are more flexible than ever. Exhibitors can now achieve a customized look without purchasing a custom exhibit, depending on the rental exhibit supplier.

Classic Rental Solutions has the largest rental inventory in North America with designs ranging from inlines to islands and from monitor stands to charging stations. All can be personalized to meet the most demanding marketing requirements.

To learn more, download the unbranded PDF version for Rental Exhibits here. To listen to the bonus audio tip, click here.



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

Our Five $200 Rental Rewards Winners

January 20th, 2015 COMMENTS


In July, Classic Rental Solutions (CRS) launched Rental Rewards, a program designed to reward our distributors for rental returns without damage or missing components.

We take a lot of pride in offering the highest quality rental exhibits and graphics in the industry. We stage and photograph every order before shipping. We also include packing photos, setup diagrams, and a complete inventory list, regardless of the size of the order. And we only ship quality components, because to us, it’s not just a rental, it’s a brand new exhibit experience for your customer. And we want them to be happy with it.

One of the biggest challenges has been the increasing cost for repairing and replacing damaged items from careless handling and poor re-packing of rental properties. So we decided to put a positive spin on a negative problem by offering a 2% Rental Rewards Credit for every successful return. Since July, we’ve issued 49 Rental Rewards Credits to 32 Classic Distributors. We’re thrilled with the early success of this program!

The 2% credit is based on the total invoice amount and is applied to your next rental order. And along with the 2% credit, the Rental Rewards Program offers a 15% discount off a future rental order once you receive six 2% credits. Plus, your name goes into our semi-annual drawing for every credit you earn (June & December).

classic-rentals-logoThe Five Winners for the First Drawing:

  • Dale Barger with Exhibit Concepts
  • David Hankin with Total Displays
  • Mark Bertelson with Atlantic Exhibits
  • Cindi Codi with Xzibits
  • Allison O’Neal with Apple Rock Displays

All five winners have received a $200 gift certificate.

“WOW! Thank you for the Amazon gift card winning! What a wonderful surprise! (I never win anything)
You guys are very generous and kind and I greatly appreciate it! I love working with you guys! Thank you so much!”

— Cindi Cody

“Oh wow – Jim, what a great prize! Very exciting. Thank you very much! Always a pleasure to work with you and your team!”

–Allison O’Neal

Rental_aRemember, the more Rental Rewards credits you receive, the more times your name goes in the bucket.

Our thanks to everyone who has received our Rental Rewards credits. We would encourage you to speak with your I & D teams about treating rentals with TLC during install and disassembly. Including packing. We both win when this happens. We save money, and you save money. Plus, you have a chance to win exciting prizes. Our next prize drawing will be in June.

Thank you for your continued business and have a Happy New Year!

–Jim Shelman & the Classic Rental Solutions Team

p.s. Look for Classic and Classic Rental Solutions at EXHIBITORLIVE. 


NEW Rental Rewards Program

July 9th, 2014 COMMENTS



Design Monday — Almost 6 Years (But Who’s Counting?!)

February 1st, 2011 COMMENTS
Design Monday by Classic Exhibits

Design Monday Gallery

When we launched Design Monday on April 18, 2005, our objective was simple (and perhaps a little naive): to transform the image of Classic Exhibits from a medium-sized systems manufacturer to a leader in innovative portable, modular, and hybrid displays. At the time, we were designing and building some of the industry’s most creative trade show solutions. However, as we joke about it now, the industry perception of Classic Exhibits was “five guys in a garage making folding panel and pop up displays.” We hadn’t been that company for many years, but we had done a lousy job of marketing our new designs and communicating the changes at Classic Exhibits.


Shortly after EXHIBITOR Show 2005, we decided to experiment with emailing two or three designs from our Design Library to our Distributor List. The email (via CoolerEmail) would show renderings with design details and prices. The designs generally fell into three categories:   Standard kits, modified kits, or more often, design requests from distributors for specific projects.

Consistency was the key. Once we started Design Monday, we knew we had to continue sending designs every week regardless of our schedule or other commitments. Our Design, Sales, Marketing, and Project Management teams all took ownership, which made the task easier, although no less time-consuming. We are proud to say that since 4/18/2005, we’ve only missed two weeks (when Christmas fell on a Weekend or Monday). During that time we have sent over 700 designs in five plus years.

Design Monday by Classic Exhibits

Design Monday

Design Monday has evolved over the years. We experimented with multiple templates and links to our website. There is a Design Monday Gallery on the Classic website as well as on our Distributors’ Exhibit Design Search sites. Design Monday was the inspiration for Exhibit Design Search when we needed an online tool to sort and filter the displays.

The repetition has allowed us to test new designs, launch new systems (Sacagawea, Perfect 10, Magellan, etc.), and promote services, such as our Rental Department. Classic Exhibits stays “top-of-mind” with our distributors since we’re in touch via email once a week.

If there is one oddity about Design Monday, it’s that we email it at noon PST on Sunday. Why? We want it to be one of first emails our distributors read Monday morning. Of course, we also benefit from those workaholic distributors who read and respond to Design Monday on Sunday. A distributor who lives on the East Coast once told us that his daughter always knows when it is 3 pm EST on Sunday. His phone chimes announcing an email, and she says, “Daddy, it’s Design Monday!”

Measurement and Results:

From a pure quantitative basis, Design Monday has been easy to measure. We use CoolerEmail. Cooler, like other email tracking programs such as Constant Contact, allows us to track usage by email address, by individual links, and by user. We know if someone has read Design Monday once, twice, or fifteen times. Over the past five years, our read rate has never fallen below 35 percent per week and typically hovers around 50 percent. In addition, our email database has grown 10X over that same period and our sales volume has increased 4X.

Anyone familiar with Classic Exhibits, as a distributor, supplier, or competitor, can attest to our transformation since 2005. Suffice to say, we are one of the leaders in portable, modular, and hybrid exhibit design and manufacturing. We’ll leave the praise of Classic to others, but we will acknowledge that it’s been a long time since anyone thought of us as “Five guys in a garage.”

To see Design Monday in Exhibit Design Search:

To see Design Monday on the Classic Home page, scroll to the Design Monday image on the left-hand menu:

Online Design Monday:

Currently, there are fewer than 700 designs in the Design Monday online database. As select designs have become standard kits, we have assigned them kit #’s and moved them into the appropriate product gallery. Keeping them in Design Monday would create duplicates and possible confusion with distributors and end-users.

–Mel White