I've written about Craft Shows versus Trade Shows, and I've finally done my first Trade Show for my other company, NHCO Botanical Bodycare, LLC. Having a craft show history definitely prepared me for the Dallas Total Home and Gift Market, but I knew I would need to do my homework. Surprisingly, there wasn't a lot that I could find to really school me on doing my first trade show exhibition. There's SO MUCH to share, this will have to be a series.
The entire opportunity pretty much fell in my lap. And quite honestly, I don't know why I even contacted the show in the first place. But, I did. I looked at the show dates (which were three months away), and sent a contact form entry for additional information.
Someone got back with me fairly quickly by sending the pricing and lease documents in an email. I was just like, what the heck, I'll do it. I won't share any of the show's proprietary information, but I'll share my experience and info.
In my research, I mostly found people writing about how trades shows cost $10-$15k on average, and upwards of $40k. While this can be true, it's not exactly accurate. Major companies tend to spend $40k+ because they have large, mega booths with elaborate displays and electronics. Different shows have different booth fees, and of course you'll have to add in travel costs if that's applicable. The show I chose to do was in downtown Dallas, literally 15 miles from my home.
I attended the Dallas Total Home & Gift Market in Dallas Texas from January 18-21, 2018. The base booth fee was $2,595. I paid an additional $495 for a premium booth (I didn't want to get stuck in the back where no one would see me), and then an additional $325 for a premium corner booth right off the elevators/escalators. I paid a total of $3,415 for the booth space alone. This was paid for cash (technically, debit card)- there's no reason to take out a loan or charge this amount. Also, I made sure I was able to comfortably afford this show, so if it was a total flop, I wouldn't be put in a bad place financially. I didn't want to be in a position where it would be imperative to make my money back.
I had to fill out a lease agreement since I was "leasing" the booth space for 4 days. For payment, I agreed for them to auto-draft 33% of the booth space fee up front to reserve my space, and then they would auto-draft the rest on December 4.
The booth space I rented was on the 12th floor of the World Trade Center, and was order-writing only (cash and carry not allowed). The show was open only to registered buyers for purchasing wholesale, so there were no retail consumers perusing the show. This was great for me because it meant I could focus on designing my booth space instead of packaging a lot of product, and it offered a great chance to get my product into stores, and many other priceless leads.
Upon my request for the premium corner spot, the WTC representative asked for a photo of my prior booth, of which I had none since this was my first trade show. I'd only done craft shows before.
A 3D rendering of my booth design (built with the free version of Google Sketchup) was all I had to send him. This was back in November 2017.
Sidebar: I've been using Google Sketchup since 2009, and I have the 2016 version of it on my Mac (which I absolutely love, even though they removed the ability to import an Acad file). The 2018 free version is now simply called Sketchup, and is a web-based product. The older products were download-able.
Apparently my sketch (and God's favor) was good enough to get me the premium corner space. So I had to start building the booth. I was going to make it easy on myself by sticking to my booth design as closely as possible. One important aspect I focused on was wall stability, so nothing would fall of or fall over during the show.
The booth space itself had one wall that was pipe and drape, and the other was a portable hard wall. The flooring would be carpet, and the booth came with three track lights, a trash can, and a table and two chairs if I wanted them.
Before I started buying items for my booth, I priced them first. I scoured the internet looking for the best price on what I as looking for. This is an important step. You need to know what you're looking for before buying it, otherwise you'll likely overspend.
I ended up purchasing my booth materials from:
You definitely want to order your items months in advance. I had an incident with Amazon where part of my wall piece order was lost. I was refunded, and had to re-order. If I had waited until the last minute, it could have been detrimental.
That's all for this post! Check back soon for Part 2!