Trade Show TalesBlog

Posts Tagged ‘inlines’

A Humbling Lesson About 10 ft. Displays

July 23rd, 2014 COMMENTS

520-10X8-2Safety in Numbers

Over the years, I’ve learned a humbling lesson. There’s safety in numbers when it comes to 10 ft. inline trade show displays. Most exhibitors choose the predictable over the bold, the safe over the dramatic. And while I understand, I also don’t understand. Yes, budget is a factor. Fear too. No one wants to make the wrong decision when purchasing a display. It’s easier to choose something you’ve seen on the show floor rather than a design that’s unfamiliar.

Too often, I’m disappointed when I walk the trade show floor and review the inlines. I see banner stands pretending not to be banner stands. I see weak, pixelated graphics on pop up displays. I see boring pillowcase frames with fuzzy 4-color graphics and cheap hybrid displays with gaping parts and pieces. Sadly, most arts and craft fair exhibits are more creative than the typical corporate inline display.

Now before you think I’m picking on low-cost displays, I’m not. A similar trend can be found in more expensive displays, where the quality is better but design still takes a backseat to predictability.

Taking Chances

So, why the reluctance to take chances? Is it because, as someone once told me, “No one ever got fired for buying a pop up.” That said, I’m going to take a chance, albeit one that’s a bit self-promotional. Below are displays from Exhibit Design Search that do not fall within the “safe zone.” I’d enjoy hearing your thoughts about these designs, understanding that none are below $8000. Some considerably more. These design sell, but not in the same numbers as Sacagawea, Magellan Miracle, or a VK-1321.

Put your customer glasses on, share your thoughts from a buyer’s perspective, and vote for your favorites. In this election, it’s OK to vote for more than one. 😉


Please share your comments. Thanks.

–Mel White


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


My Predictions for Late Summer and Fall: Word on the Street — July 2nd thru July 6th

July 8th, 2012 COMMENTS
My Predictions for the Late Summer and Fall: Word on the Street -- May 28th thru June 1st

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Gaze into My Crystal Ball

For the past four weeks, while we have been very busy with lots of traditional trade show work, we have also been working a lot on alternative markets we service through some of traditional and non-traditional distribution channels.

And while that is great! I have been looking at the activity over the past four weeks to get an idea of what the next busy season will bring from a trade show-only perspective.

Some Things I have Noticed

Islands seem to be the topic of the day. Larger properties are on the plates of our in-house and contract design teams. In particular, people are looking to even incorporate more ClassicMODUL double decks.

Now, I know that this time of year probably invites more “spec” projects than any other time of year, meaning projects that may not be as “real” as others. But truly, the projects we are working on are more “real” than in the past at this time of year. The number one qualifier of that statement is budgets. They are proper and inline with what an island display costs.

On the inline side of things, “custom” really seems to be the key characteristic.  Visionary Design Hybrids that are far from the typical Sacagawea, SEGUE, Perfect 10 or Magellan. Again, with budgets that are inline with the customer’s vision for their display.

To say this is refreshing for this time of year is an understatement. Traditionally, this time of year, as I mentioned before, we get a lot of “spec” work that may not be totally realistic from a budgetary standpoint. J You know what I am talking about –the 40’ x 50’ island full of tension fabric SEG, ClassicMODUL extrusions, totally customized, and enough A/V to make Disney/Pixar jealous . . . with a $50k budget.

"We met online but haven't met in-person yet. Is there a future for our relationship?"

Five Predictions:

  1. Islands Exhibits will be abundant!
  2. Custom Hybrid Inlines will be the topic of the inline world.
  3. Rentals are not going anywhere. They are still growing at a double-digit pace and a viable option for many clients at fall shows.
  4. Cost-effective Hybrid Inlines have become the replacement for the traditional upscale pop-up and other historic 10 x 10 options. With Sacagawea and SEGUE Sunrise starting in the $4k price range, why would you ever want a pop-up? And this from a company that sells two pop-up lines.
  5. Alternative markets are on the rise. Retail, museum and semi-permanent displays are not only a great fit for what we all do, but they are a viable year-round market with fewer cycles. We may not get the quantity orders, but the prototypes and the custom orders have high margins. Also, what you learn in these markets is often very applicable to the trade show market. See Past Five Days for several recent examples.

How about you? What are the leading indicators in your market? Are there any specific trends you are seeing from your customer base? Please share with other distributors via the comments section.

This is the time of year when I believe we have the greatest opportunity to carve out new trends and develop new products together that will ultimately help our clients trade show and event marketing experience.

Have a great week ahead! I’ll be in Chicago for the Red Diamond Congress.

–Kevin Carty

Word on the Street — November 15th thru November 19th

November 21st, 2010 3 COMMENTS
Why we participate in the TS2 Show

Word on the Street by Mel White

Trade Show Industry Predictions 2011 . . .

(Kevin Carty is on vacation, so Mel White has graciously agreed to substitute this week.)

As we head into the holidays, I thought I’d put on my clairvoyant hat and peer into a crystal ball. It doesn’t take a fortune teller to know that 2011 is already on your mind. You’re wondering if the exhibit industry will plod along like a Clydesdale, sprint like Quarter Horse, or remain stubborn and unpredictable like a mule.

To ensure my predictions are accurate, I’ve checked the astrological star charts, turned over the Tarot cards, and consulted the Magic 8 Ball. And to protect your sanity, I’ll spare you any doomsday or apocalyptic scenarios. Frankly, my psyche couldn’t handle it after the past two plus years.

Anyway . . . here goes.

Graphics – Many distributors survived on graphic orders in 2009 and 2010, a trend that’s unlikely to change in 2011 with 50% of your volume coming from new or replacement graphics. You will see, based on our trend the past nine months, more silicone edge graphics (SEG) in towers, inlines, and islands. We anticipate a continued downward pressure on basic systems graphics, such as pop up panels and banner stands, because there is no margin left in the hardware.

Table Tops – Oddly enough, table top orders tanked over the past 26 months, whether $400 or $2000 table tops. The budget TT’s have yet to show a pulse, but the higher priced units such as Aero are no longer on life support. We expect modest increases in TT orders with even an occasional multiple quantity order. You can’t make a living on TT’s, but when you get a multiple quantity order it’s a nice break from the Ramen noodles.

The Magic 8 Ball Says . . .

Banner Stands, Pop Ups, and Basic Curve Walls — No change. We don’t expect an increase in sales for these displays even as the economy improves. As more and more customers return to the market, we anticipate a more balanced approach between customers buying pop ups/banner stands and customers moving slightly upstream to hybrids. Many distributors have all but abandoned the entry level market where distributors (online or offline) are trading dollars. We would encourage you not to throw in the towel yet. There are still mainstream corporate clients who value quality at a fair price over the 30 feet or 30 second displays.

Until someone invents the “add one drop of water and poof you have a 10 ft. display,” many customers will still demand displays that require minimal effort even at the expense of marketing impact. If we believe the Marketing and HR Departments, the Sales AE’s at most companies are more likely to use an assembly tool for scratching and picking than for putting a display together.

Portable Hybrids and Modulars – Three years ago, there were few players in the $4000 to $8500 inline market. The field has gotten more crowded, but for inexplicable reasons, the players are repeating the mistakes of the pop up market. Lots of look-a-like displays with very little innovation. There are some exceptions in design and assembly (yes boys and girls, I’m talking about Classic), but by and large customers are being handed a bag of parts, a tool, and asked to assemble a square with two wings.

This segment will see double-digit growth in 2011, but distributors will have to decide whether to sell or to clerk. According to our distributors, sales conversations are migrating from price first and design second to a more balanced approach. We’re not quite back to the world of “I’ll find the money if I love the design,” but design is no longer playing second fiddle.

2011 Predictions

2011 Predictions

Over $10,000 Inlines – In our business, over $10,000 inlines are the “canary in the coal mine,” indicating whether there is an economic gas leak. Distributors will see more interest in >$10K designs in 2011 as clients talk more and more about what they need rather than what they can afford. Many will still decide to purchase a less expensive display, but others will invest in display solutions that more closely match their true marketing goals.

Islands – They’re back. (note the period rather than the exclamation mark) Unfortunately, islands may be the least profitable segment as the intersection between expectations and price points has shifted. Customers are willing to pay between $50,000 and $75,000 for a modular display, but they expect that to include EVERYTHING. Yikes. That’s a tough sell. More than any other segment, we’ll need to work together as partners to land these orders. Give and take is the key with both sides willing to take smaller margins or find creative solutions.

We’ve seen significant interest in SEG solutions in the past 6 months. In SEG islands, the graphics play a more dominant role in the design than the structure. Re-configurability will continue to be in the design mix, even if it compromises the overall design (sadly).

Rentals — Without question, rentals have been the biggest beneficiary of the economic downturn. We saw double-digit growth in both 2009 and 2010, particularly in island rentals. And if the past two months are any indication, this trend is unlikely to change. Customers are turning to rentals as cost-effective answers to purchasing an exhibit and to maintaining their trade show presence. We suspect that many companies have now made the decision to never own an island exhibit again. And it makes sense in many circumstances. Rental designs have gotten more flexible and imaginative. Gone are the days when a rental had all the sexiness of granny panties.

Green Displays — You may find this surprising, but requests for Green Displays never went away. Just ask our sister company Eco-systems Sustainable Exhibits. The price points may have dropped but not the interest. Companies with a green focus or with green initiatives will choose an eco-friendly display every time as long as the price is somewhat comparable. We caution you not to ignore this category. You must be able to speak the language to sell these products. These customers can spot a fraud a mile away. Now is the time to learn the language before you get schooled by a knowledgeable client.

What are your predictions for 2011? Click on the Leave a Comment link (at the top of the page) to share your thoughts with your Classic colleagues. We’d love to hear from you.

On behalf of the entire Classic Family, have a safe and relaxing Holiday.

–Mel White
Classic Exhibits Network (LinkedIn)

FAQ — Design Monday Exhibits

November 17th, 2010 COMMENTS

Design Monday Exhibits

In Design Monday, you’ll see inlines and islands, portables and modulars, banner stands and hanging signs. Three new exciting designs each week from the best exhibit designers.

When it’s all about pushing the boundaries of creative design, everything is fair game. See what’s new every Monday.

Frequently Asked Questions . . .

1. What’s included in the Design Monday Gallery? There appears to be trade show displays of all sizes, shapes, and functions.

Design Monday is a very different gallery than the other galleries in Exhibit Design Search. Each Monday, we introduce two to three new exhibit designs. These can be islands, inlines, workstations, banner stands, or just about anything you would find in the other galleries.

Consider Design Monday our forum for launching new concepts. Many of these migrate to the other galleries and become kits, which is why you may see some duplication. If you want to see the newest trends, then Design Monday is the place to be.

2. Have these all been built?

By and large, yes . . . with some exceptions. Even if we haven’t built the display yet, no worries. We design them using standard components and engineer them to be structurally sound.

3. Are Design Monday designs more expensive?

Nope. We price them the same as standard kits.

Next, Counters and Pedestals FAQ.

FAQ — Intro Fabric Panel Displays

October 29th, 2010 COMMENTS

Intro Fabric Panel Displays

For nearly two decades, Intro Fabric Panel Displays have been the perfect choice for a flawless, re-configurable portable display.

Known for its strength, exceptional alignment, and customizable display panels, the “two-sided” Intro Fabric Panel Display performs beautifully in the most demanding trade show schedule. The Intro comes in 10 x 10, 10 x 20, and table top display configurations.

1. What are the unique benefits of the Intro Folding Fabric Display?

  1. There’s no more durable and versatile trade show display than the Intro. The Intro is perfect for exhibitors who require a reconfigurable fabric display that easily folds to a 10 ft., 8 ft., 6 ft., or even table top(s). The two-sided Velcro compatible fabric means one, two, or multiple colors are never a problem, the perfect solution when more than one division share an exhibit.
  2. After the show, the Intro can be folded into a tower for a lobby display, used as a colorful divider, or re-positioned as a backdrop.
  3. There are nearly 50 fabric color options in ribbed and flat fabrics.

2. What are the unique features of the Intro Fabric Panel Display?

  • 360 Hinge: The 360 panel hinges make the Intro remarkably versatile.
  • Independent Panels: Each panel is constructed independently, so panels can be separated and replaced in case of shipping damage.
  • Pack Flat: The panels pack flat, accordion-style, for easy shipping.
  • Adjustable Feet: The adjustable feet on every lower panel means you never have to worry about an uneven floor.
  • Reconfigurable: Easily turn the top or bottom sections into table tops.
  • Velcro Fabric: The Velcro-compatible fabric will withstand years of graphics attaching and detaching with minimal wear.

3. What components and accessories are available for the Intro?

There are literally hundreds of choices, each with multiple options. For example, choose from an array of stem lights, pedestals, counters, backlit headers, storage, slatwall, inlay fabric, lightboxes, and towers.

Give us a call to discuss. We’re here to assist you find the display and accessories that fit your exhibit marketing goals.

Next, Island Exhibits FAQ.