Discount Trade Show Displays: Simple Tips to Cut Costs

Investing in new exhibition displays and exhibiting in trade shows can become a budget-busting endeavor for hasty marketers. If you don’t currently have a trade show budget, make sure to get one, so you can find discount trade show displays and control your trade show costs.

Many costs and fees that include shipping, booth space, equipment acquisition, furniture costs, and graphics can turn a cost-effective and well-proven marketing strategy into a costly predicament. 

New exhibition displays might be cost-prohibitive for some companies in these times of reduced spending and low consumer confidence. However, with the following tips to reduce display costs, your exhibit can succeed at a much lower cost than other marketers are currently spending. 

discount trade show displays - price vs value

Rent Exhibition Displays Instead of Buying

A simple way to effectively utilize discount trade show displays is to consider renting instead of buying. Companies that have no desire to participate in trade shows regularly have little reason to buy their exhibits. If a company has no plans to appear in future events, the cost of renting is substantially less and more practical than the expense of purchasing new exhibition displays. 

Using rental exhibition displays eliminates several costs, including construction costs and post-show storage fees. Cash-strapped companies looking to make a dent in their market should consider renting a display stand for an affordable trade show presence.

Purchase Used Exhibition Displays

Designing a booth from scratch can quickly add up; however, previously owned booths can be found at a much lower price than their new counterparts. Some trade show supplies stores offer high quality used trade show displays in excellent condition and upgrade-ready. 

These discount trade show displays can be retrofitted with custom trade show graphics and signage to make them “floor-ready” in a fraction of the time required for new designs, helping to trim your trade show display costs

Multi-Skin Pop Up Displays

Multi-Skin Tension Fabric PopUp

Watch Your Weight

Choosing visually appealing exhibition displays can bring more visitors in your direction—along with more shipping costs. Rising gas prices are trickling down into the trade show industry and most other industries, and transportation costs are increasing as a result. 

These expenses are passed down to trade show exhibitors as higher shipping costs and higher drayage costs for display deliveries. Opting for trade show supplies made of lightweight materials will reduce the load cost, and the money saved can practically pay for the exhibit.

Popup displays or hybrid exhibits using fabric graphics install easily and quickly and are often low weight designs. Beause of their lighter weights and ease of use, these are effectively discount trade show displays that can be assembled with little or no tools, making setup hassle-free and cost-effective. The latest models primarily use tension fabric graphics, which are very lightweight, easily folded and packed, and even machine washable! 

Modular exhibits are disassembled and reduced to small parts, which are then packed into small shipping containers. These exhibition display types effectively reduce handling fees and shipping costs, with the adaptability to fit any exhibit space.

Invest in Retractable Banner Stands

Trade show banners are not just easy to store; they can also be reused for many trade shows and even routine business presentations without requiring extensive modifications. Banner stands that can accommodate various banner sizes will prove to be cost-cutters as they can be reused—even after choosing a different design and graphics. 

By investing a small amount more in quality trade show banners, they will endure the rigors of numerous trade show events while remaining intact. There are even banner stands that can be joined together to create full back walls, bent to form turns and different shapes – see the video below for an example of a brand new popup trade show banner called The Twist.

Using these tips, controlling trade show booth costs can be achieved without sacrificing your exhibit's quality. Keeping costs in check reduces your booth staff's stress and allows them to focus on winning customers over instead of being preoccupied with budget issues. 

As more companies are looking to do more with less these days, your exhibition displays will lead by example. For more tips, check out our article on cutting trade show costs.

Trade Show Objectives

When it comes to your trade show costs, you also need to determine what your trade show objectives ultimately are. What are you looking to achieve with your exhibit display? How much exhibit space will you need? What kind of exhibit display is best for reaching your objectives? 

How many trade show staff members will you need to employ? What promotional items and other promotional material will you need? 

Once you answer these questions, you can find your objective and better plan your trade show budget. 

Estimating the Budget

When creating your trade show budget, make sure to separate your expenses into different categories before punching them into your trade show cost calculator.

  • Add up all your exhibit related costs
  • Determine service costs
  • Include all promotional costs
  • Add up your staffing costs

Take the amount you plan to spend on your exhibit space and then multiply that number by three. This will help you determine a rough estimate for your trade show budget. Once you have this, you can then go back to the tips and advice in this article to help you cut trade show display costs down to fit within your estimated budget.

A Breakdown of Costs

Finally, we want to share a small breakdown of some of the trade show display costs you can expect so you can come up with a plan to limit or cut where needed for your budget. It is helpful to have this information when determining a rough budget based on your trade show cost calculator.

The show services account for approximately 19% of your overall trade show budget. This includes the logistics involved, like the assembly and disassembly of your trade show booth and warehousing and storage after the trade show.

The exhibit design accounts for around 10% of your overall trade show budget. During the pre-planning phase, make a list of all the features you want for your booth design. You can then price out each of these features and make adjustments when necessary. You also want to estimate how many years you think you can get out of your display. The average lifespan for trade show hardware when properly maintained is about five years. 

Shipping and drayage costs add up to around 10% of your overall trade show budget as well. Shipping your trade show booth display can be quite costly and is something you need to consider early on in the planning process. In addition to shipping, you also have drayage, which is the unloading and management of your trade show freight.

The promotions you use account for about 5% of your overall trade show budget. This can be more or less, however, depending on what you choose to do. Keep in mind you have to add the costs for all pre-show promotions, literature, product demos, and giveaways.

Booth staffing and travel is around 20% of your budget's total cost. Your booth staffers are an integral part of your trade show success, so don't scrape too much off this budget. Include all travel, food, and lodging expenses.

Finally, your miscellaneous trade show display costs, including lead gathering and fulfillment materials, housekeeping, unexpected maintenance, and internet and Wi-Fi costs, account for approximately 5% of your budget as well. 

ROI Calculation

Now let's take a brief look at ROI calculation to determine if your trade show event was a success.

Here is the ROI calculation formula:

Revenue – Investment


Cost Per Lead Formula is:

Cost of Show


Remember your trade show goals when it comes to calculating and estimating your trade show budget. It really does matter where you cut corners to save on your trade show display costs.

Trade Show Goals

  • Generate at least 100 leads
  • Build brand awareness by 20 percent
  • Launch a new product
  • Share a demo
  • Gain media exposure
  • Achieve networking

Discount Trade Show Displays: In Summary

So, to summarize. Buy used if you can and if your budget is smaller. Renting a booth is the next best cost-effective option to effectively use discount trade show displays and reduce costs for your business. You can also try to negotiate discounts and shop around for different material options. 

Be especially careful with the impact of repeating costs, like shipping costs, drayage, setup charges, etc. If your staff needs to be in a hotel for an extra day every time, that adds up quickly.

Do you need help making your exhibit look its best? If so, we can help. American Image Displays represents all major manufacturers, so we can create an exhibit to fulfill every wish you could have. For more information, call us at 800-676-3976 or local at 425-556-9511, or email [email protected].

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