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Trade Show and Convention Displays: Renting Vs. Buying

maineShould you rent or buy the display you use for your trade show? Most businesses get paralyzed trying to sort this out. On the one hand, a booth is expensive to purchase. On the other, owning a booth might be cheaper in long run. Here’s how to sort it all out and how to think about the issue, regardless of what you end up deciding to do.

When you rent…

When you rent a trade show booth, you’re forgoing a huge upfront cost in design. This is very attractive to small businesses and businesses with cash flow problems that don’t allow them to finance or lay out money for a designer and builder.

There are no storage fees – since you’re not buying anything, you don’t have to rent storage space for the table or booth. You also don’t have to clear out space in your store or building for it in the “off season.”

When you rent, you’re not maintaining booth, wear and tear that happens isn’t your problem, and you can be slightly more demanding about the quality of booth that’s given to you. Tear down may not be your job either, depending on trade show policies.

Rentals can sometimes be customized too, which means that you get custom designs at a lower cost. Finally, some businesses like the idea of having a different look at each trade show. When you rent, you get to change it up. When you own, you’re stuck with the same booth, unless you want to pay to change it.

When you buy…

When you own your booth or table, the initial expense is a factor, but it’s yours when you’re done. No one can tell you how to build it, and you won’t get stuck with something that you may not like or can’t use. Over the long-term, that initial cost doesn’t seem so bad, because once it’s paid for, it’s done.

And, because you have control over every detail, you can build in custom “niceties” that you wouldn’t have with a rental booth. For example, you could build in a slot for contest submission or raffle ticket submission if you do a lot of giveaways – more and more businesses are doing them as a way to entice people to visit their booth.

A gaming company might use these custom playing cards and print the business name and logo on them. Just a thought.

Along the same lines as a giveaway, you can use your own booth to build a stronger brand. So, if you are giving away freebies, or running promotional offers or contests, you could use some of the new QR technology to build in maps, contact information, or augmented reality right into your booth – these advanced sales and marketing strategies are often difficult or impossible to pull off with a rented booth because the design has to be generic enough to satisfy all types of exhibitors.

Bottom Line

There are a lot of pros and cons to both sides. For example, with renting, while you’re not paying for the upfront costs of building, the rental fees will eventually going to catch up with you. With buying, you own it, but wear and tear can get expensive over time.

So, before you make a choice on which way to go, sit down and really calculate a firm budget for the trade show. It may make sense to rent for first few years and then save up some money for a booth you can build yourself, socking away extra money for periodic repairs.

Timothy Gibson is a small business advisor. He likes to share his business experiences on the web. His articles are available mainly on business sites.