Trade Show TalesBlog

Posts Tagged ‘trade show rentals’

53 Reasons to Rent Your Trade Show Exhibit

May 13th, 2021 COMMENTS
Trade Show Rental Exhibit
RE-2042 Rental Exhibit

Classic Rental Solutions has the largest inventory of contemporary rental displays, exhibits, and accessories in North America. Our extensive rental program and creative design capabilities can be customized to fulfill any trade show, event, or sales meeting needs. Whether it’s a 20 x 20 island, a 10 x 10 portable display, or 50 counters with locking storage.

How about 300+ More Reasons?

With over 200 Classic Distributor Partners throughout North America, there’s an exhibit professional closer than you think. Give us a call or send an email to to learn more.

–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

Share, Rent, Borrow, or Buy Your Next Display?

September 2nd, 2015 2 COMMENTS


As a parent, you teach your children to share — share their toys, their candy, their whatever.

Sharing used to be a cultural necessity in America. Not every farmer could afford a harvester, nor every homeowner the latest tools. So the farmers and neighbors would share. It made sense. Then we saw less of that… until the recession. Suddenly, sharing became a necessity again. And the need to “own it” became less important.

Renting is a form of sharing, whether it’s a backhoe, banquet tables, or a trade show display. For example, I’m a suburbanite with a modest yard on a property with older trees. I use a chainsaw about twice a year. I could buy a new chainsaw for about $200 or a used one from Craigslist for about $90. But I rent it instead for about $35.

If you do the math, it doesn’t make sense. But it does for me. I don’t want to maintain it, store the oil, do the sharpening or the annual tune-up. Nor do I want another tool in my garage. I have enough. I could borrow one from a neighbor, which I do with some tools (and they in return), but certain items should be rented and not borrowed.

At Classic Exhibits, we’ve seen this rental trend since 2008. At first, it was driven by necessity. Exhibitors were committed to a show and/or committed to trade show marketing and their budgets were slashed. Now, however, that trend has less to do with slashed budgets and more to do with personalization, capacity, ownership, storage, and design.


Here’s what we’ve learned. Rentals can’t simply be a single function tool in the toolbox — practical but generic. Exhibitors have the same expectations for rentals as they do for purchase displays. They want it personalized. Rental exhibits should reflect their branding and their exhibit marketing requirements… and it needs to look new.


It’s difficult for a small exhibit house to make the necessary investment  and to maintain a large unblemished rental inventory. But when you are the manufacturer supporting 180 distributors the scale becomes easier to swallow. It’s very common for distributors to offer a modest selection of in-house rental designs and count on manufacturers to fulfill client requests beyond what they own. Exhibitors understand these partner relationships, and typically have no problem with it. In fact, they’re usually thrilled that they’re being offered a solid engineered solution.


A lot of exhibitors don’t want to own their exhibit. They prefer to have the flexibility that’s offered by renting. With rental exhibits, they can change the design from show to show to better match their target audience and market,  rather than feeling obligated to stick with the same design for multiple shows and/or multiple years. Less pressure. More flexibility.

From a cost standpoint, custom rental components are very affordable. Exhibit houses and manufacturers will often include custom elements below their cost, knowing they can re-rent them.


We can all relate to the challenges of not having enough storage space, whether it’s at home or at our business. Exhibitors have to consider whether it makes sense to storing their exhibit. Do they have the available space? Do they have someone with the time and experience to maintain the exhibit and arrange for potential repairs and updates? Or does it make more sense to pay their exhibit house a monthly storage fee, plus pull and prep fees to take care of everything for them? With rental exhibits none of that matters, because all of that’s taken care of, and they start fresh for every show.


It’s amazing how far we’ve come with rental exhibit designs. They used to be like a McDonald’s. You could spot one a 1/4 of a mile away. Today, it’s very difficult to differentiate a rental from a purchase. Custom rental designs  used to be the exception but now represent a significant percentage of what exhibit houses offer. Savvy customers know they can choose to rent over purchasing without the fear of design limitations.

Today it’s all about design solutions, whether a purchase or rental exhibit. And it usually goes back to the question of flexibility and ownership to determine the best option. A combination of purchase and rental components is quite common as well. For example, it often makes sense to own a central tower with storage, knowing that it will always be needed, but rent the workstations and charging stations, because those needs change from show to show.

In the end… Rental or Purchase? Which avenue offers the best opportunity for an exhibitor to achieve their objectives for upcoming shows? Listen closely to what the exhibitor is telling you. You may be surprised at what they are sharing.

Jim Shelman
GM Classic Rental Solutions


Stuck in the 90’s? Mullets, Trapper Keepers, Pagers, and Rentals

June 4th, 2015 3 COMMENTS


Recently, what I thought would be a simple, straight-forward conversation left me scratching my head. I was meeting with exhibit industry colleagues, and the topic turned to rentals. Admittedly, rentals shouldn’t be puzzling. Rentals have exploded at a rate 3 to 4 times faster than exhibit purchases since the recession. It’s a hot topic. What surprised me was the perception and the language used to define the exhibit rental landscape.

You would think the sales numbers would prompt a new approach. Yet, many industry professionals are still using assumptions that are — frankly — antiquated. What do I mean by that? Allow me to share the conversation.

“How often are customers asking you to design and quote a rental exhibit?”

Colleague 1:  “Not often. It comes up if there’s a budget challenge, and the client is looking for alternatives. I’ll mention it then, but it’s not the first place I go.”

Colleague 2: “My experience is very different. I would say 30-50% of my conversations are about rentals and there’s a reason. After we talk about what they want to achieve with their exhibit marketing program, I’ll ask them, ‘Are you considering a purchase or a rental?’”

IMG_8357Colleague 1: “Why would you head in that direction? I don’t understand that logic.”

Colleague 2:  “6-10 years ago, I wouldn’t have. The rental options were limited, but that’s changed depending on the exhibit house or manufacturer. Now most exhibitors can rent a design-centric inline or island that achieves their objectives at a cost anywhere from 30-50% less than a purchase depending on how many times they reuse the graphics. The exhibitor has to do their homework since some exhibit houses and general contractors will show rentals, but their designs are stale, can’t be customized, and are often dinged up and dirty.”

“How do you talk about costs when it comes to rentals?”

Colleague 1:  “I use the 3 to 1 formula. If the customer plans to rent more than three times, then they should purchase it.”

Colleague 2:  “I don’t mean to be rude, but we should finally bury that formula. It made sense when customers were purchasing simple portables like pop-ups or folding panel systems, or buying a fully custom exhibit. Anymore, my customers want to personalize the display and the message for each show. They are laser-focused on their current marketing goals and how to achieve it. In so many industries, the market moves too fast to repeat the same message year-after-year. Rentals, and hybrid rentals in particular, are ideal structures for this flexibility.”

Colleague 1:  “You’ve given me an idea. Let me use a car analogy. When looking for a car, your choice used to be buying a new or used one. Now, you can buy or lease a car. The dealer welcomes either one. It’s simply a matter of what makes more sense to the customer’s lifestyle and pocketbook.”

Colleague 2:  “Excellent analogy. So many exhibitors no longer want to own an exhibit. They don’t have a place to store or preview it. For others, their budgets are restricted so a well-defined monthly or annual expense makes more sense. Many, however, simply want the flexibility to change the design and graphics and not owning the display makes that easier.”

Do you have customers that rent and own an exhibit?

CIMG4726Colleague 2: I would say that’s the norm. They may own smaller properties, such as banner stands and inexpensive 10 ft. displays. They may also own a customized island. The other islands or inlines are often rentals. Or I’m seeing a blending where customers own an inline that perfectly reflects their branding, but they rent the counters, kiosks, charging stations, etc.

Colleague 1: I’ve been encountering something similar now that you mention it. I have companies coming to me for multiple counters, kiosks, or tablet stands for an event. They need stations for each product or customer/company interaction. Traditional event or show furniture doesn’t make sense.

Colleague 2:  You’re right. There are suppliers that will rent 40 pedestals or 14 large monitor stands that are modular, attractive, and cost-effective. It would be silly for the client to purchase them. They want something professional, but they don’t want to own them after the event.

As you can see by the conversation, exhibit rental properties have changed, and customers are demanding displays that fit their budget, their objectives, and their branding requirements. This requires that exhibit professionals understand how to present rentals and that exhibitors are more aware of rentals as an option.  Still have questions? Feel free to send me an email or give me a call.

–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


Smarter, Faster, Cheaper Solutions for your Trade Show Program

February 13th, 2012 COMMENTS

Recent Trade Show Trends


Earlier this month, I attended a Distributor Open House where over 200 customers came to see the latest exhibit trends and services. I was fortunate to participate in a 45 minute panel session entitled Smarter, Faster, Cheaper Solutions for your Trade Show Program. I thought I’d share those trends with you. The first five (Show Floor Trends) came from an Independent Labor Contractor. The next five or so (Design and Manufacturing Trends) came from Classic Exhibits. The last five (Smarter, Strategic Behaviors) came from the Distributor.

Let me know if you would like more information. Just send me an email, and I’ll connect you with the appropriate presenter(s).

Show Floor Trends

1. The Importance of Taking Immediate Action When You Receive Your Show Manual. (In order to Maximize Discounts)

2. The Top 5 Operating Cost Budget Busters to Watch — Freight, Labor, Drayage, Rigging, and At-Show Additions.

3. Exhibitors are providing shorter lead times to display house vendors, and it’s costing you more money on the show floor. (A foot soldier’s perspective from the front lines)

4. Thirty Things on the Show Floor that Conspire to Destroy Your Beautiful Trade Show Experience.

5. Understanding General Contractors, Exhibitor-Appointed Contractors, and the Labor Unions.

Design and Manufacturing Trends

6. The New Kid in town is Hybrid Exhibits. They offer more than Traditional Portables (Banner Stands and Pop-ups) while approaching the Look and Function of Custom Exhibits.

7. Tension Fabric is the BIG Beast in graphics. Fabrics dominate the show floor with vibrant colors, lighter weight, durability and small packing.

8. Versatile Engineered Aluminum is the BACKBONE of most design centric inlines. It looks great, can be shaped, is durable, and plays well with custom wood construction or basic banner stands.

9. Customized design is no longer for the 1%. You can tailor your exhibit space with the help of extrusion, fabric, and computer aided design without a six-figure budget.

10. Packaging, Assembly, and Sustainability have come a LONG, LONG way. Most exhibits now are easy to assemble, pack smaller, and include post-industrial and post-consumer materials.

10a. Don’t forget rentals. Rentals have gotten OH SO SEXY. Take a look. You’ll be surprised how rentals have shed their MOO-MOO for Upscale Designer Wear.

Smarter, Strategic Behaviors

11. Begin to plan the show with the end in mind. Create a Trade Show Marketing Plan that includes Pre-Show, At-Show and Post-Show Marketing.

12. Establish Specific Objectives. What do you really want to get out of the show and how do you get it?

13. Technology awareness and possible sharing. Who/what synergies are available to use at the show as a resource?

14. Secure Qualified Leads that will generate sales after proper follow-up.

15. Train and Schedule Staff. Your staff needs to effectively convey your sales message and ensure the booth is staffed properly.

15a. Create a WOW Exhibit that attracts people and conveys your brand in the best light.

–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

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

February 21st, 2010 1 COMMENT

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Word on the Street by Kevin Carty

Most Companies Fall Into One of Three Camps

Have you ever noticed that most companies fall into one of three camps when it comes to change?

  • They never change.
  • They make constant incremental changes (they tinker).
  • They make big changes every year or two or three (the grand gesture), but generally stay pat until then.

Now I need your perspective here. I see Classic Exhibits as falling in the second camp. We are constantly making small changes to our products, our services, and our marketing. Little by little, we move the bar forward. Occasionally, we have a big announcement, but those, quite honestly, don’t happen very often. For example, the introduction of the Perfect 10 Portable Hybrid was a big deal when we introduced it almost two years ago. It took portable hybrid design into a dramatically new direction. Our other line introductions have had less fanfare, such as Magellan and Sacagawea, but have been equally successful. If you spend any time following P5D, you see a constant stream of orders for Magellan, P10/20, Sacagawea, along with the ever changing array of counters, pedestals, and workstations.

people_changeWe have a slight advantage (or disadvantage) over our competitors in how we communicate changes. We take a slow, steady, and subtle approach, rather than make big announcements. We show you new designs in Design Monday, such as the PS Series in Design Monday this week and last. We send an e-broadcast about a design or product launch, but that happens three or four times a year at most. We update P5D every business day. Once or twice a month, we post a blog related to product changes. But, because so many of our changes are incremental and are introduced “casually,” I worry that we don’t get credit for them.

So, I’m going to take a moment to list some of these changes over the past nine months. How many do you recognize?

  • Sacagawea T, P, and PS Series.
  • Updated Exhibit Design Search User Interface and Features
  • New Base Plate Designs
  • Knob Assembly for Magellan and Sacagawea (backwall)
  • Upgraded Lighting for All Portable Hybrid Lines
  • Silicone Edge Graphic Designs and SEG ClassicMODUL TSP Extrusions
  • Expanded Rental Inventory
  • Addition of Eco-systems Sustainable and Optima Graphics products in Exhibit Design Search
  • Expand Use of Reusable Dye-cut Foam Jigging on All Hybrid Products
  • New Look to the Classic Exhibits Website (just happened this week)

I suppose our approach reflects our corporate personality. We are by nature “tinkerers and doers.”  When we see a challenge or an unmet opportunity we gravitate to it like a moth to a light bulb. That approach permeates our culture whether it’s in Production, Project Management, Design, Marketing, or Accounting. Obviously, we have to prioritize opportunities, but these opportunities tend to energize us since they represent something to “fix” or “improve” or “reinvent.”

change_classicPlease don’t misunderstand me. I’m not saying that “Big Announcements” are ineffective. Too often however, we see big announcements in our industry that are, in all honesty, incremental improvements. Or, even worse, are announcements that should have been made two years ago when they were relevant or on the cutting edge. Instead they are just sad and pathetic.

For companies in the other two camps . . . think about the message you are (or are NOT) sending to your customers. Companies that NEVER change appear stagnant or worse irrelevant in the market. Whether that is a fair statement or not, it’s the perception and perception matters. And for those who opt for BIG announcements every couple of years, why would you expect your customers to wait?

In my opinion, clients left “waiting and wanting” start to stray. I can’t tell you how many times I have conducted a presentation with a potential distributor and within 10 minutes the owner, designer, or AE will say, “Man did you ever arrive at just the right time. We have been looking for something like this or asking for something just like this from our existing vendor for the past year . . . and you have it right here. Perfect!”

As one of the faces of Classic Exhibits, I love getting that “WOW” reaction, but I also appreciate knowing that week after week and month after month, it shows that we are reacting to the market and making changes. Those changes rarely make it into press releases in EXHIBITOR or the other trade magazines, but that’s OK.  What’s important is that you know that we are constantly tinkering.

Which camp do you fall in? How about your current vendors? We would love to hear from you about how we can improve our communication with you.

Click on the comment link and share your thoughts.

–Kevin Carty