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Budget Busters

Blog Post

Don’t let hidden costs derail your trade show budget

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Peter Eberly, Director
Product and Vertical Marketing

Trade shows are here to stay — at least for the foreseeable future.

 The Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) recently unveiled its 2019 CEIR Industry Index. The report predicts that the trade show industry will continue to grow through 2021, albeit somewhat more slowly than it has in recent years. CEIR predicts that continued growth in the government sector and moderate growth in food and discretionary consumer goods and services will drive this increase.

This means that you will need to continue to exhibit smartly and efficiently in the foreseeable future. We’ve written before about the steep costs of exhibiting at trade shows and ways to improve your returns on investment, but now, it’s time to look at a sometimes-overlooked cost that can derail your budget: drayage. “Drayage” refers to costs that are tacked on in addition to standard freight charges to get your exhibit to the show. Some experts think that if drayage costs aren’t managed better, it will have a serious impact on the indu

What is drayage? Essentially, it’s the cost you pay for managing your materials once they arrive at the exhibit space.

Freight costs are usually pretty simple to understand. Transport is typically calculated by weight and size. However, what you might not realize is that once your exhibit arrives at a trade show, there are costs for unloading the trucks and transporting your exhibits to the show floor.

How is drayage calculated?

Multiple factors are considered when calculating drayage costs including:

  • Whether freight is being delivered to the advance warehouse or the show site
  • Whether freight is being delivered in the timeframes outlined in the exhibitor manual
  • The weight of your delivery
  • Whether your carrier is a common carrier or a specialized carrier
  • The kind of freight being unloaded (e.g., crated, mixed or blanket-wrapped) and the quantities of each type
  • Whether your shipment is delivered on overtime

Other additional costs are often factored into drayage charges, too, including renting space near the show for logistics, paying staff to run temporary offices, paying to rent forklifts, union labor to check in and deliver exhibits and paying staff to make arrangements for end-of-show exhibit returns. Add to that show organizers who require dividing infrastructure expenses like laying carpet and aisle signage among exhibitors. Those expenses are frequently added to drayage costs.

Tips for cutting drayage costs

  • Pack lightly. If your current exhibit is heavy, consider replacing it with one that’s lighter and easier to pack.
  • Hire a one-stop-shop vendor that will create a lighter exhibit and pack it in the most compact manner possible and who has the expertise to ensure lower drayage costs.
  • Find an exhibit manufacturer that will help your exhibit perform double-duty at the show (e.g., using a storage case as a piece of a display).
  • Eliminate shipping costs completely by creating an exhibit that you can carry with you or check during travel.
  • If you can’t completely get rid of shipping costs, make sure that they’re consolidated. Ship proactively and during the allotted timeframe so you don’t incur rush charges.
  • Audit, audit, audit. Make sure you review your invoices carefully to ensure that the weight of your exhibit matches what you’re being charged (and make sure you know the weight of your exhibit before it ships).

You’re making a big investment of time and money to exhibit at a trade show. Don’t let your budget get derailed by unanticipated costs.

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