10 Trends in Trade Show Exhibit Design for 2009

1. Most exhibitors take a 10 foot space, and almost all of these small-space exhibitors use a portable display. The crown prince of portable displays used to be the pop-up. No more. Lighter, faster banner stands have changed the expectations of how lightweight and easy to set up a portable display should be. Thanks to their improved graphics, exhibitors are more willing to use three banner stands to define their ten foot backwall display. Bonus: banner stands offer more flexibility; three can be used as a backwall and exhibitors can use each individual unit on its own.

2. For exhibitors who want a more impressive look than pop ups and banner stands provide, there are a growing number of extrusion and fabric systems. These systems offer eye-catching shapes and can integrate trendier materials.

3. Exhibitors now rely almost universally on the stopping power of mural graphics. There are fewer "rug on the wall" portable backwall displays on the trade show floor.

4. Graphics are updated at an ever-faster rate to match the accelerated speed of new product introductions and the shrinking of product life cycles. And with the greater use of vertical marketing, exhibitors change their graphics more often to target specific audiences with exacting messages.

5. In the era of YouTube there is a greater use of large screen video monitors, even in ten foot displays, to get attention and tell a story.

6. As marketing staff get squeezed to do more with less, even smaller-scale exhibitors are looking for more turnkey solutions for logistics such as online asset management, exhibit storage, and at-show set up and dismantle.

7. As drayage charges continue to increase by double digits year after year, and shipping charges become harder to justify, custom modular exhibits continue to gain ground. Custom modular exhibits have replaced traditional custom designs for virtually all inline exhibits, most small island exhibits, and an ever-growing number of large island exhibits.

8. Driven by faster product life cycles and branding revisions, and accelerated by economic uncertainty, there is a greater use of modular rental exhibits for exhibitor’s largest booth sizes. Flexible exhibit rentals help clients better manage their ever-changing floor space and show changes.

9. In the search for more environmentally responsible exhibits there has been a greater recognition of the value of modular exhibits as compared to traditional custom exhibits. Custom modular exhibits are, on average, approximately 60% lighter and thus require fewer materials to make, and require much fewer carbon emissions for transport. Plus, by nature of the components they are made of, custom modular exhibits are easier to separate into recyclable components at the end of their useful life.

10. The entire interaction at shows has evolved. Because buyers study your company on the internet before the show, they are further down the sales cycle when they arrive at your booth. Much of the emphasis has shifted from looking for new contacts at trade shows to hosting meetings with known contacts. As an example one of our clients recently built a 50 x 50 booth attendees couldn’t get into unless they already had an appointment. A meeting-focused exhibit tends to be more closed off and have more spaces for private discussions.

Consider these 10 exhibit design trends as you prepare for your next year’s show schedule. Perhaps you’ll see things differently as you consider your next display design.


Creating Attractive Displays

Visual Display Tips

By Shari Waters, About.com

Creating an attractive product display can draw the customer in, promote a slow-moving item, announce a sale, or welcome a season. If your store front is fortunate enough to feature one or more windows, then you have one of the most proven (and least expensive) forms of advertising at your disposal.

Some stores located in a mall or other structure may lack windows, but don't despair. There are many places throughout the store to build beautiful displays. Take a look at the flow of traffic in your store. Are there any areas that are a focal point for customers?

Your local community may have individuals or visual merchandising companies you can hire to dress your windows, but if you're concerned with saving money, the following tips will help you create an attractive display.

Visual Display Tool Box

Before designing a product display, put together a visual display tool box to keep on hand. By having all of these items in one location it will save time in actually preparing the display.

  • Scissors, Stapler, Two-Sided Tape, Pins
  • Hot glue sticks and glue gun
  • Monofilament Fishing Line
  • Tape Measure
  • Razor Blade/Utility Knife
  • Hammer, Nails, Screwdriver, Screws
  • Notepad, Pencil, Marker
  • Signage, Sign Holders
  • Glass Cleaner/Paper Towels
  • Props (Non-merchandise Items)

Take time to plan the display. Consider what you want to accomplish, develop a budget and determine a central theme. You may even want to sketch your display on paper. Gather your visual display tool box, the merchandise and any props. Make sure all materials and location (tables, windows, racks) are clean. Choose a slow time of the day or build the display after hours.

Elements of Effective Visual Merchandising

  • Balance: Asymmetrical rather than symmetrical balance with the display.
  • Size of Objects: Place the largest object into display first.
  • Color: Helps set mood and feelings.
  • Focal Point: Where product and props/signage and background come together.
  • Lighting: Should accent focal point, if possible.
  • Simplicity: Less is more so know when to stop and don't add too many items.

Once the display is finished, add appropriate signage. Take photos of the display and keep record of the product sales during the display's existence. Save your information in a file folder for easy reference. By documenting its success, you can re-create the display next year or if it flops, you can make sure you don't repeat the same mistakes.

Like any other aspect of retailing, creating an attractive display takes a little skill and lots of trial and error. As your store changes, so will your opportunities for visual displays. Keep working at designing eye-catching and innovative ways to make your retail store profitable through visual merchandising.



Distribution Decisions

Our discussions in the tutorials products decisions and managing products indicate product decisions may be the most important of all marketing decisions since these lead directly to the reasons (i.e., offer benefits that satisfy needs) why customers decide to make a purchase. But having a strong product does little good if customers are not able to easily and conveniently obtain it. With this in mind we turn to the second major marketing decision area – distribution.

Distribution decisions focus on establishing a system that, at its basic level, allows customers to gain access and purchase a marketer’s product. However, marketers may find that getting to the point at which a customer can acquire a product is complicated, time consuming, and expensive. The bottom line is a marketer’s distribution system must be both effective (i.e., delivers a good or service to the right place, in the right amount, in the right condition) and efficient (i.e., delivers at the right time and for the right cost). Yet, as we will see, achieving these goals takes considerable effort.

ImageDistribution decisions are relevant for nearly all types of products. While it is easy to see how distribution decisions impact physical goods, such as laundry detergent or truck parts, distribution is equally important for digital goods (e.g., television programming, downloadable music) and services (e.g., income tax services). In fact, while the Internet is playing a major role in changing product distribution and is perceived to offer more opportunities for reaching customers, online marketers still face the same distribution issues and obstacles as those faced by offline marketers.

In order to facilitate an effective and efficient distribution system many decisions must be made including (but certainly not limited to):

  • Assessing the best distribution channels for getting products to customers
  • Determining whether a reseller network is needed to assist in the distribution process
  • Arranging a reliable ordering system that allows customers to place orders
  • Creating a delivery system for transporting the product to the customer
  • For tangible and digital goods, establishing facilities for product storage

In this part of our highly detailed Principles of Marketing Tutorials we cover the basics of distribution including defining what channels of distribution are and why these are important. We will also introduce the key parties in a distribution system, such as the reseller network, though much greater coverage will be given to channel partners and to technical aspects of distribution (e.g., ordering, delivery, storage, etc.) in our next tutorial.




40 Ways To Improve
Retail Profit Margins


Bob Nelson
POWER Retailing, Inc.

marginAll stores need to manage inventory, costs and expenses. This means knowing how to run your business from the top to the bottom. To help you compete in today's competitive business environment, here are some tips, tactics, and ideas to use to become a more profitable retailer.

1 — Implement a computerized system to manage, control, and balance your inventory.

2 — Make your business distinctive and carry merchandise your competitors don't have

3 — Price merchandise at what the customer is willing to spend, not on what it costs.

4 — Focus on buying more named brand promotional and off-price merchandise.

5 — Make a budget and follow a detailed open-to-buy plan to eliminate overbuying.

6 — Seek out manufacturers to purchase merchandise at below wholesale prices.

7 — Test different aspects to promote business: -- new offers -- new items -- new prices.

8 — Identify vendor performance regarding sales, mark-up, turnover, and profits.

9 — Don't accept deliveries you can't use, or arrive after the specified completion dates.

10 — Use sales forecasts, expense sheets, and financial statements on regular basis.

11 — Computerize your business to streamline everyday tasks and business procedures.

12 — Develop a tracking system for those products that are your best-sellers.

13 — Buy closer to the selling season to minimize the risk of making a bad buy.

14 — Attend trade shows and join buying groups to find better values.

15 — Seek suggestions from vendors on ways you can boost business.

16 — Use a store questionnaire to aid you in determining customers' wants and needs.

17 — Negotiate with your vendors to obtain better prices and faster deliveries.

18 — Ask your main vendors to share in paying freight costs.

19 — Inquire if your suppliers will help with co-op advertising.

20 — Consider adding private label merchandise to establish better margins.

21 — Create an initial pricing strategy for special value and off-price products.

22 — Evaluate your open-to-buy and expenses on a regular basis.

23 — Establish a flexible buying plan that allows for special in-season purchases.

24 — Replace fringe, non-compelling, and borderline inventory classifications.

25 — Use toll-free telephone numbers for reorders and communication with venders.

26 — Develop a timely markdown strategy to dispose of out-of-season inventory.

27 — Avoid shortages of your most popular and profitable classifications.

28 — Implement a reorder strategy for your best-selling items.

29 — Promptly return substandard and problem merchandise.

30 — Ask for invoice extensions and take trade discounts allowed for timely payments.

31 — Offer customers better prices, more values, wider selections, and add-ons.

32 — Specify delivery and completion deadlines for all initial orders and future reorders.

33 — Display merchandise to make it easier for customers to see, feel, touch, and buy.

34 — Look for new opportunities to increase prices on items your competitors don't carry.

35 — Insist on credits or adjustments for late deliveries and substituted orders.

36 — Bargain for exclusive rights and products that will not be sold to the competition.

37 — Ask for markdown money for excessive or unreasonable in-season selling losses.

38 — Eliminate excessive stock in slow-moving and unprofitable categories.

39 — Adjust your stock on hand with estimated sales projections and customers needs.

40 — Pay attention to your monthly overhead and business expenses ratios.

margin By managing your business more effectively, you'll be able to provide better values, attract more customers, improve your average sales transaction, and offer customers new opportunities to visit your store.

margin Bob Nelson is President of POWER Retailing. The company works with retailers to create strategic marketing and promotional plans to quickly strengthen your cash flow and financial position. Powerful solutions to improve cash flow, profit margins and the net worth of your business.




In Retailing, the Trick is


the Competition & Your Customers Do

You have the right to promote your business in a way that distinguishes it ahead of every store that you compete against. If you make it a more inviting place to be, people will prefer to buy from you instead of the competitors.It is not the customers' concern why you are in business. People don't care if you need to make payroll, even if you have a hundred different diplomas or the most popular person in town. They only buy because of a benefit that your business provides. It is called -- WIIFM (What's in it for me?)

A. What benefits do you offer?

B. What are you doing better than your competition?

C. What are they doing better than you?

Eliminate Your StressDo you know the best ways to reach your customers? Today, there is a new tough consumer... they demand value - they love choices - they love new products - they want convenience - they want to save time - they don't want hassle - and they enjoy fun-filled experiences. Here's a list of how clever retailers are changing their procedures and focusing on connecting with today's shrewd buyers.


  1. Find out who your customers are and what they are seeking.
  2. Profile your customers by age, income, occupation, etc.
  3. Know the reasons why customers shop at your store? (service, convenience, dependability, quality, promptness, or competence).
  4. Understand the market forces affecting the consumer's attitude when it comes to price and what they expect to pay.
  5. Emphasize areas of appeal such as: special sizes, lower prices, better service, wider selection, good location, or convenient hours.
  6. Offer unique products at prices your customers can well afford.
  7. Have a tracking system for how many customers shop your store every day.
  8. Seek suggestions from your best customers on ways you can boost business.
  9. Try to re-establish lost or inactive customers.
  10. Use a store questionnaire to aid you in determining customers' needs.
  11. Plan on making any changes to satisfy the new value-conscious consumer.


  1. Improve your return policies.
  2. Make it a policy to give cash refunds when requested by the customer.
  3. Offer customers a "no hassle" satisfaction guarantee.
  4. Use a suggestion box and customer want slips.
  5. Extend your store hours.
  6. Accept Visa, Mastercard, Discover, and American Express.
  7. Analyze complaints and take action to prevent recurrence.
  8. Train employees to service and work with customers in a professional manner.
  9. Call customers to let them know when new items have arrived.
  10. Have lots of convenient parking for customers to use.
  11. Have a clean bathroom available for customers to use.
  12. Grade your store's location every year in regards to and accessibility.
  13. Create a system to let customers know how much you appreciate their business.


  1. Use advertising techniques to create urgency and motivate customers to buy now.
  2. Test different aspects for promoting business: -- new offers -- new items -- new prices -- special announcements -- stronger ads -- and better headlines.
  3. Know what type of advertising methods work the best to attract customers (direct mail, newspaper, television, radio).
  4. Use memorable advertising that sets your business apart from the competition.
  5. Create new opportunities for customers to purchase more frequently from your store.
  6. Implement proven business formulas of other successful retail firms.
  7. Replace outdated methods with new techniques and better resources for retailing in today's high-tech, fast-moving, and competitive marketplace.
  8. Set up an inventory control system in regards to shrinkage, performance, amount of merchandise, mark-up, profit, and turnover.
  9. Determine whether to price certain items below, at, or above the market.
  10. Utilize a system for tracking slow-moving merchandise and those products that are your best-sellers.
  11. Use different ways to arrange and display merchandise that will make it easier for customers to buy.
  12. Know your average sales transaction and what you can do to increase it.
  13. Increase your sales transactions by offering better prices, more value, sales incentives, or add-ons.
  14. Know which products are price-sensitive to your customers, that is, when a slight increase in price will lead to a drop-off in demand.
  15. Know the maximum price customers are willing to pay for certain items.
  16. Computerize your business to help streamline everyday tasks such as inventory control, point of sale, and overall business analysis.
  17. Evaluate the amount of inventory you carry, and fine tune your operating expense ratios on a regular basis.
  18. Buy distinctive merchandise that fits into a niche your competitors don't have.


1. Attend trade shows that provide the latest technology, inventory systems, educational seminars, and other industry related resources.

2. Use newsletters as a "marketing tool" to remind customers of the products or services you provide. Create a budget for both regular and off-price merchandise, and do you know what role they should play in your buying strategy.

3. Establish dependable resources where you can buy current, name brand and designer merchandise below wholesale prices.

4. Make it an effort to buy promotional and off-price merchandise to improve your profit margin.
5. Buy private-label merchandise to avoid the same line prices of your direct competition.
6. Join other stores like yours in area-wide buying programs to receive better prices or trade discounts.

7. Do cross-marketing by joining forces with restaurants, clubs, or whatever to jointly develop special promotions.
8. Belong to trade associations and subscribe to newsletters and trade publications to keep you informed.
9. Involve employees in making suggestions for improving business and cutting costs.

10. Implement a program to reward employees for their extra efforts and innovative ideas.
11. Empower employees to make important decisions, even if it means losing a small amount of money to make your customers happy.
12. Don’t let emotions get in the way of making sound business decisions.

SUMMARY: Your Business Can't Survive Without Customers!

To succeed and prosper, you must learn effective procedures and become an expert in your area. The key is to control your expenses, refrain from overbuying, re direct your open-to-buy only to profitable resources, and develop a better strategy.
The success of your business will be in direct proportion to your insights and management skills. The bottom line is this: If you don't do an exceptional job of training employees... motivate customers to take action... or don’t do the strongest job to sell them once you have their attention... you are cheating your company of profits it could potentially be earning.

Power Retailing