Trade Show TalesBlog

Posts Tagged ‘Lightboxes’

What to Look for in an LED Lightbox Manufacturer

June 6th, 2018 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, so the only real difference is price. Price matters of course, but there are other factors to consider.

8 Factors to Consider When Purchasing an LED Lightbox 

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. 

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. 

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. 

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.    

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. 

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.” 

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. 

Assembly and 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.  

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, your “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

**********************************************

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.

 

Who is Classic’s Biggest Competitor?

June 15th, 2017 4 COMMENTS

Who is Classic's Biggest Competitor?

Recently, I’ve been on the road, visiting Classic Distributors in the Midwest and South. We chat about industry trends, new products, and challenges in their market. Occasionally, they will ask me about competitors. That’s a topic that always makes me uncomfortable.

Now, why should talking about competitors be uncomfortable? Handled professionally, it can be instructive for both of us, and I am just as guilty of asking a distributor, “What are you hearing in the industry?”

Nevertheless, “Who is Your Biggest Competitor?” always makes me squirm. You would expect me to list a handful of systems manufacturers or internet resellers, but while they are competitors, they are not our biggest competitor. So, who is?

Our Biggest Competitor

You. You are our biggest competitor. Now don’t take that the wrong way. You are also our customers, colleagues, and friends. We like you. We respect you. Our business depends on you. We are honored to have you as part of the Classic Exhibits Family. And, yet, you are also our biggest competitor — day in and day out. That shouldn’t surprise you. If it does, it shouldn’t.

Every single day you listen to clients about their projects. Then you make a decision about who designs, manages, and builds that project. You? Another builder? Classic Exhibits? Let’s explore some examples together.

CustomBlogpostHeader

Custom Exhibits

Do you design and build it, assuming you have in-house custom capability? What’s the budget? What are the client’s expectations? Will it interfere with other projects or customers currently in the pipeline?

  • Will it keep my shop busy and/or happy?
  • Is the client’s budget realistic for our shop rate?
  • Can I make margin?
  • Is it within our skill-set or would it make more sense for someone else to build it?
  • Should I send it to Classic Exhibits for a quote?

Assuming you don’t have in-house capability, do you find a contract builder?

  • Do I have the in-house talent to project manage it?
  • Should I find someone local?
  • Do I trust that shop and do they have experience?
  • What if the client expects me to store the exhibit and prep it for each show?
  • Should I send it to Classic Exhibits for a quote?

Hybrid Exhibits

Aluminum extrusion systems seem, at first glance, an easier decision. What’s so challenging about designing and building a display from modular aluminum components. After all, it only requires:

  • Designing a hybrid solution using standard and customized engineered aluminum components
  • Ordering those components from an aluminum supplier at the correct size(s), angles, and finishes
  • Supplementing them with accessories from other manufacturers such as counters, lighting, graphics, and casing
  • Creating detailed setup instructions and numbered components
  • Creating re-usable packaging that protects the components
  • Completing all above within a 10-15 day time frame
  • Ensuring margins are acceptable, including time and materials and lost opportunities

chargingblogheader

Specialized Displays

Specialized displays include lightboxes, charging stations, retail fixtures, corporate environments, or anything outside your normal trade show or event world.

  • What is the client’s expectation of quality?
  • Is the budget realistic?
  • Is the time frame realistic?
  • Should you design, project management, and build it?
  • Do you have the capability to handle the project?
  • If not, what company has the inventory, technology, and capability to produce it?
  • Should it be handled locally or online?
  • Can you make margin, complete the order on time, and continue to pursue other opportunities?

blogheaderRentals

Rental Displays

The growth of rentals, especially customized rentals, has created a dilemma for many Classic Distributors. Building a rental inventory takes financial capital, warehouse space, and a steady order turn to be successful. And yet, rentals can be very profitable assuming there’s sufficient turn on your inventory and minimal damage.

  • Do you pull from your inventory, add to your inventory, send it to Classic, or send it somewhere else?
  • Do you have the physical space to warehouse a rental inventory?
  • How deep should that inventory be?
  • Are your designs limited by your in-house inventory?
  • What if the client requires multiple quantities of counters, monitor stands, or kiosks?
  • Do you have the time/talent to create detailed setup instructions for each project?
  • Does geography or the show location determine whether to use your rental inventory or rely on a supplier like Classic?
  • Are you accounting for the labor to design, build, pack, receive, and clean the rental? What about damage?

You get my point. If there was a way to measure lost opportunities for Classic, I suspect that we lose more business when you choose to build or rent something in-house than when the order is sent to another manufacturer. At Classic Exhibits, our job is to excel in design, customer service, production, packaging, instructions, and even marketing so you choose the easiest and most profitable path for your company. We have to win your approval, day after day. And that’s our goal since we don’t sell direct.

So, to you our competitor and our customer, while we don’t win them all, we win far more than we lose when we have the opportunity. All we ask is that we get the opportunity.

–Mel White
mel@classicexhibits.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/melmwhite
https://twitter.com/melmwhite
https://www.facebook.com/Classic-Exhibits-Inc-113601405319757


 

Some Thoughts… After Visiting Classic Exhibits Distributors

February 3rd, 2017 COMMENTS

MelBlog

Southwest Ohio and Chicago

ValleyExpoIn January, I had the pleasure of visiting Classic and Eco-systems distributors in Southwest Ohio and Chicago. Reid Sherwood was my tag team partner in Ohio (Thanks Reid). In Chicago, I met up with Jen LaBruzza, our Regional Sales Manager. On our last two days, we were joined by Colleen Crawford from Eco-Systems Sustainable. By that point, we were a pretty formidable superhero team.

It’s been a few years since I had to pack a suitcase for two weeks. I’ll be on the road again later this month. Then you’ll see me at EXHIBITOR. Oddly enough, my wife has been very encouraging. Let’s just say my suitcase was partially packed before I’d even checked my departure date and time.

So, what did I hear from these distributors? Industry trends, of course, which Jen covered in her excellent video post last week (I was the dude holding the camera). Allow me to share my perspective, while not stepping on Jen’s toes.

blogheaderRentals

Rentals

Honestly, I was a little surprised by this topic. But, then again, my perception is tainted by Classic Rental Solutions, which has been crazy busy for several years. Most distributors have embraced rentals, using internal stock and external vendors such as CRS. However, not everyone sees rentals as a viable alternative to purchase. Don’t misunderstand me. I get it. If your only experience with rentals is portables or General Show Contractor kits, then rentals are a lesser option.

If I had to guess, I would say that 20-25% of larger inline and island booths at major shows are rentals — extrusion, modular wall, or custom. And it makes sense. A trade show exhibit is a marketing vehicle, and just like a car, we often want to try it before we buy it. And in many cases, we don’t want to buy it at all. Leasing makes more sense. I read recently that nearly 40% of all vehicles are now leased.

With that in mind, I would encourage you to discover if your client prefers to purchase or to rent. Give them the pros and cons of both options, then they can make the best decision for their budget and their marketing goals.

Bull vs Bear Market

This topic was all over the board. Some distributors had more business than they could handle. Others were busy, but not overwhelmed. Others were chasing orders. However, there were no “boo hoo’s” about business in general. For many of us, the Great Recession is still visible in the rear view mirror (objects in the mirror are closer than they appear).

What I heard was a variation of two themes — “My clients are getting what they need. Not necessary what they want.” OR “My clients are finally getting what they want. Not just what they need.”

If I had to guess, and this is truly a guess, it has everything to do with a client’s commitment to trade show marketing. IMHO — When you know what you want to be successful, you get what you want. When you don’t, then you get what you need. Yes, that’s oversimplification. Clearly, every business is different. But you are either passionate about trade show marketing… or you are not.

chargingstation9-16The Other

Pat yourself on the back. You are a lot smarter than you used to be. Which means, you no longer focus all your efforts on trade shows. Some distributors are heavily into events. Others are designing corporate environments. Still others make as much on graphics, if not more, than selling or serving exhibits. More and more are storing crates. Or handling show services for their clients. You are selling lightboxes in retail or corporate environments, and pitching charging stations for lobbies and events. The list goes on and on.

It’s refreshing. Because as your business evolves, so does ours. We now do more retail, corporate, and event work than ever before. And we love it. Better yet, it rarely follows the same seasonality as the trade show business. June and July are busier. There’s a boost of business in September and October. We all win. Well, except for November which continues to suck.

GraviteeBanner

Modular Wall Systems

This came up in every conversation with distributors. Of course, it didn’t hurt that I had a case full of Gravitee Modular Wall panels and connectors. 😉 Modular walls are becoming the backbone of rental displays and many modular designs. We’re not naive. There are several systems in the market with a head start. Gravitee will have to earn your business largely through creative purchase designs and Classic Rental Solutions orders.

That said… Every distributor felt that Gravitee was the smartest, easiest, and best engineered modular wall system on the market. Now, that may sound like boasting and hyperbole, but I heard it again and again and again during the visits. No tools. OK. No loose parts. Really OK. No holes. Really, really OK.

We’ll win you over in time. We know that. We encourage you to see us at EXHIBITORLIVE.  We will be featuring Gravitee. And if you are especially nice, you just might get a special treat. But, I’ll save that surprise news once we’re a little closer to the show.

Kick ass my friends. Business is good!

–Mel White
mel@classicexhibits.com
http://www.linkedin.com/in/melmwhite
https://twitter.com/melmwhite
https://www.facebook.com/Classic-Exhibits-Inc-113601405319757


 

5 Classic Tips x 5 Days = 25 All Right | Final Day

November 11th, 2016 COMMENTS

tipsday5

The Past is Not a Predictor of the Future.

Just ask Nokia and Blackberry. But that doesn’t mean you can ignore it. So, let’s end on a happy note and chat about trends. Namely, what we’ve seen in 2016 that (we believe) will continue in 2017.

Tip #21 — Charging Stations

Sometimes it’s good to be both lucky and smart. We’ve sold lots and lots and lots of charging tables and stations in 2016 by tapping into a design need. Exhibitors want charging options that don’t look like they stole them from the airport. They have to blend into the exhibit or event environment.

Charging stations say to clients, “Come into the booth and linger. Let’s talk about your business needs.” If you are a fishbowl exhibitor, then a charging option may not make sense, except for your staff. Which is OK too.

Tip #22 — Rental Displays and Accessories

Rental Displays are the fastest growing division of Classic Exhibits Inc. That’s not going to change in 2017. Exhibitors are looking for financial and design flexibility. Quality rentals are no longer a compromise either for the exhibitor or for the exhibit sales professional. And truth be told, there’s far more money to be made on repeat rentals than on a purchase.

When a client enters your door, your first question should be, “Are you looking to purchase or rent?” You can’t lose if you offer both at the get-go.

Tip #23 — Lightboxes and LED Lighting

I’m not telling you anything you don’t know. Lightboxes are on fire! Well, you know what I mean. What you may not realize is that LED lighting has become a hot add-on for counters, workstations, monitor stands, even perimeter graphics as well. The price is reasonable, and the visual effect is amazing.

We’ve become experts at RGB programmable LED lights. Tune them to the right color to match a logo or let them dance through the color spectrum.

Tip #24 — Events, Retail, and Corporate Environments

The change is noticeable. We are seeing a double-digit uptick in orders in events, retail, and corporate environments. The event business is evenly divided between rentals and purchase. Corporate environments and retail are all purchases, evenly divided between custom builds and SEG solutions. We would all be naive to think this trend is slowing any time soon.

Tip #25 — Rental Furniture

Rental Furniture Header

Is it just me or is there a lot more rental furniture on the trade show floor? I asked several Exhibit Appointed Contractors (EAC) last summer to estimate the percentage of booths with rental furniture. I expected them to say 20-30 percent. They told me 70-95%. Yowsa!

About 5 months ago, we partnered with CORT to add two Rental Furniture Galleries to Exhibit Design Search. We recognized that Classic distributors could make money on rental furniture by adding it to EDS with retail prices. Every time you don’t use it, you are giving money away to the General Service Contractors. Like they need any more money. Sheesh!

I hope you enjoyed these 25 tips. I know I did. Look for three new charging stations in Design Monday this week.

Have a terrific weekend.

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


 

Five (5) Sober Mid-Year Resolutions

July 12th, 2016 COMMENTS

New-Year

Perhaps it’s time to start a new tradition — Mid-Year Resolutions. Now, you’re probably saying to yourself, “I never keep my resolutions, so why should I make more in July.” Think back for a second. Did you make those 2016 resolutions around 11 pm December 31st? With a drink in your hand?

We all make them. Lose weight. Get fit. Eat better. Read a book. Spend more time with the family. Who are you kidding? No one keeps those. There’s no financial incentive. Heck, it’s better to daydream about being skinny or how you’ll spend your $540M MegaMillions lottery winnings.

I’d like to propose five sober resolutions to my trade show friends. Each one represents a financial opportunity you may not be pursuing or maximizing.

Don’t expect a Tony Robbins you’re a winner speech or a No Money Down Guide to Flipping Displays. These are real mid-year resolutions. They require effort. But no one’s asking you to eat kale, do push ups, or spend time with your second cousin Crazy Sal. Be assured, I’m rooting for you to win the Powerball Jackpot, but until then, try these.

Ivey_3

LED Lightboxes

I know. You are showing lightboxes in island exhibit designs. Big deal. Islands are only the tip of the iceberg. There are inlines, which is a bigger market.

However, there are even bigger markets:  corporate environments, retail stores,  events, public spaces like airports, stadiums, museums. The potential is massive if you are willing to work with customers outside your comfort zone. Are you chatting with architects, event planners, marketing and advertising agencies? No one has more lightbox options than Classic Exhibits with our SuperNova line. Any size. Any shape. Very cost-effective solutions for single or double-sided lightboxes.

RentalRewards

Rental Exhibits

Don’t sigh or roll your eyes. Here’s a reality check and a prediction. Within the next three years, rentals will represent at least 40 to 50% of all exhibits at major trade shows. Of those, maybe 20% will be ho-hum kits. Those who win the long-term rental battle will approach rentals with the same design intensity as a new exhibit. You can quote me on this — “Creative rental exhibitors will recognize a better ROI because of their willingness to adapt to changing markets with targeted exhibits.”

Building a rental inventory is expensive. Classic Rental Solutions has already made that investment and will continue to invest in custom, hybrid, and Gravitee solutions. Unlike nearly everyone else, we have the luxury of a large distributor/customer base. That allows us to turn and depreciate those assets faster and add new designs. Bigger really is better when it comes to rentals.

Rental Furniture Header

Rental Furniture

This is a gift that will keep on giving. With the new Rental Furniture Galleries and our partnership with Cort, you can consult, sell, and make a healthy margin on Rental Furniture. Do you really want to “give” that business to a GSC. Of course not. You care about your customer, and you want them to make the best possible decision about their rental furniture options. You want their furniture to be functional, attractive, and cohesive with their exhibit design.

Most Exhibit-Appointed Contractors will tell you that 75-90% of their installs include rental furniture. And, it’s not just islands. Walk any major trade show and you’ll see a bistro table and chairs in a significant number of inline displays.

chargingblogheader

Charging Stations

Why do convention centers have bathrooms? Because people gotta go. Why are exhibitors increasingly adding charging stations to their booth spaces? Because people need juice for their phones and tablets. It’s no longer a need. It’s a necessity.

Don’t force attendees to linger in the reception area like electric beggars. Or worse, force them to hunt for an outlet along the perimeter of the hall. That’s humiliating and nasty. You want them in your booth space. Give them a reason to linger and talk about their business, their kids, and their favorite college football team. Make a friend instead of just exchanging business cards and trinkets.

Classic can install USB charging ports in almost any counter, pedestal, workstation, monitor stand, or table. And we design them all so they don’t look like an ugly airport charging tower. Plus, it’s very unlikely you’ll discover ABC gum under the countertop of a Classic Charging Station. Yuck!

BPAbanner

Non-Trade Show Projects

At Classic Exhibits, we’re no longer exclusively in the trade show business. We design and build whatever someone needs for their trade show, event, retail space, visitor’s center, or corporate environment. That should be your approach as well.

Why not? No one understands 3D marketing better than exhibit professionals. You may not be an expert in custom cash stands or corporate lobby desks, but if you have an open-mind and a solid partner, you’ll get there.

We get many projects that have little to no connection to trade shows. Yes, your client may need a new display, but what else do they need? Big lightboxes in the company conference room with corporate values statement. An employee recognition wall. Restaurant menu board. Tablet stands or kiosks. It’s there waiting for you to ask the right question and make a connection with the right source.

Embrace the mid-year resolution. It’s July, and there’s a surge of potential orders on the horizon. Share your comments and suggestions below. And no whining.

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

**********************************************

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.