Ship It or Rent It When Exhibiting Abroad?

Ship-It-Or-Rent-ItBe aware of these 6 factors before you make a decision

So you finally made the decision to exhibit internationally. Now the real work begins. One of the questions I get most frequently regarding international exhibiting is, “Should I ship my exhibit to the show or rent one abroad?”

There are pros and cons to both shipping your exhibit and renting it locally – and every situation is different. There’s not a “one size fits all” answer. However, after years of on-the-ground experience internationally, I’ve compiled a list of six important factors you should be aware of when making the decision.

#1 Build and Burn

If you considering exhibiting internationally, you’ve probably come across the term “build and burn.” This industry jargon refers to an exhibit that is built on-site specifically for one-time use at a show, then destroyed or recycled afterwards. When exhibiting internationally, many companies choose this solution as there are traditionally much longer move-in times overseas to allow for the on-site construction. It is not uncommon for move in time to take up to three weeks, which is unheard of in the United States.

Build and burn is similar to a custom modular rental in the U.S., where the stand is created from your specifications for a one-time use. You don’t own the rental exhibit, nor are you required to store it. Once you are done with the exhibit, the components are broken down and recycled into new tradeshow booths. So while it’s not as wasteful as the phrase would indicate, it still represents a hard cost that warrants thoughtful research before making a decision. In many of the international venues, you may achieve this type of stand for a 10-15% premium over a system type stand construction while achieving a more customized and branded solution for your company.

#2 Customs

Regardless if you are shipping or renting, when you exhibit internationally customs is usually part of the game; but you get to decide how much to pay.

If you ship your booth, be prepared to spend a lot of time preparing documentation. Many customs agencies require commercial invoices for everything, and I mean everything, you are shipping abroad. The discovery of something not on the list, could cause delays and frustration – neither of which you have time for.

Even if you rent your booth, you are not quite free and clear. There may be promotional items or other materials that won’t quite fit in your carry on. So be prepared – and thorough – when shipping anything overseas and always allow plenty of time. Be sure to rely on a company that has experience with shipping to trade shows as opposed to general freight as generally the shipping company that you choose also delivers to the show site.

#3 Logistics

Whether you are shipping an entire exhibit or simply brochures and promotional items, carefully consider your shipping method of choice. Airfreight is generally the quicker option, typically taking just days to arrive. It’s also, more often than not, more expensive. Ocean shipments, while generally less expensive, can take several weeks. Airfreight is charged on volumetric weights, so often for small shipments it is not any more expensive than ocean freight and is safer getting your small shipment to your stand.

Unfortunately, in one way or another logistics are often blamed for wreaking havoc on even well-planned budgets. Something was damaged, suffered from extreme temperature, or delayed due to weather. The list goes on.

Also, where you are shipping makes a difference. If you own a large corporate exhibit, it may make sense to ship to Western Europe rather than re-creating the exhibit for a one-time use. On the flip side, we would rarely suggest that you ship to Brazil. The cost of duties is quite high and customs inspections and port congestion could create a scenario of adding a month or more to a return shipment.

#4 Storage

Don’t have a friend’s warehouse to store your giant exhibit in until show time? You’re not alone. When working with a professional exhibit builder you’re sure to discuss when your exhibit should arrive and if storage is necessary. Often with a large ocean shipment, you may want to ship a week early to ensure bad weather or other disasters have less influence on you exhibit’s arrival. The cost of demurrage (storing the container at the dock) may be a small price to pay for peace of mind that you are ready for move-in on the first day of install. If you choose to rent or build locally, you may be able to better control the timeline and eliminate costly storage.

#5 Local Requirements and Etiquette

One of the biggest differences by country is the health and safety requirements. Some countries, such as France, have strict safety standards that must be adhered to in order to conduct business. Other countries have virtually no safety measures and can be quite shocking to Westerners.Either way, knowing the rules are a must.

It also doesn’t hurt to do some research on basic etiquette in the country you will be exhibiting in. Do they place greater emphasis on product demos, entertaining or hospitality? You don’t want to be the only one without a couch and some hors d’oeuvres to offer your guests. Timing is another important aspect to look into. In Latin countries the shows start later in the day and important clients often don’t arrive until 5 or 6:00 p.m. So using all your energy in the morning would be to your disadvantage.

#6 Branding

Whether you are shipping a booth you plan to use for years to come or renting one that you can dispose of after use, getting your brand right is a must. Ensuring brand consistency requires working with an exhibit partner who will take the time to get to know your brand and understands the environment in which you are exhibiting. Additionally, consistency is key, so a single source provider is the way to go.

The accumulation of these factors can be overwhelming to even the most experienced exhibit managers. Between the differences among various countries and the changing regulations, it can be hard to keep up on everything. Whether you decide to ship or rent when exhibiting abroad, be sure the exhibit house you select has the international expertise required and allow them to guide you through the process.

We’ve helped steer countless clients in the right direction when it comes to shipping versus renting abroad. Please contact us anytime if we can help you do the same.

Peggy Swords

About Peggy Swords

Peggy Swords is the founder and president of Excalibur Exhibits, a $10 million Houston-based exhibit manufacturing and production corporation. Excalibur Exhibits designs, builds, delivers, assembles and disassembles as many as 300 exhibits per year. Swords was named as a finalist for NAWBO Houston 2003 Woman Business Owner of the Year and 2005 Enterprising Woman of the Year Finalist. Additionally, Excalibur Exhibits is a five time member of the Inc 5000, a three time member of the LSU100 and a two time member of the Houston Fast 100, a list of fastest growing privately held companies.