Crunching the Numbers: The Cost to Increase your Trade Show Booth from and Inline to a Island Booth

Crunching the Numbers: The Cost to Increase your Trade Show Booth from and Inline to a Island Booth

Upgrading from an inline booth to an island booth can pay big dividends to your bottom line. Island booths bring perceived company status, greater brand impact, higher foot traffic, and next-level lead opportunity, but going bigger also means digging deeper into your marketing budget. Before you make the leap to an island booth, Plan carefully and keep a close eye on the costs, they can add up quickly.

Inline vs. Island — Why Consider the Upgrade?

While trade shows can have many sizes and styles of booths, two of the most common types are inline and island booths. Inline booths are often sized at 100sf (9.2m2), 200sf (18.5m2), and 300sf (27.8m2) and as the name would suggest, they are located “inline” with one another. As one of the smaller booth sizes, they are usually the least expensive to exhibit. However, an inline booth has certain requirements that greatly restrict your display options to prevent you from blocking the view of neighboring trade show booths. Island booths are normally larger, often double the size at 400 sf (37.16 m²) to 2000sf (185.8m2) and sometimes even bigger. As they are an “island” to themselves, they can be approached from every direction with minimal restrictions to size, height and creativity. However, the cost can be significantly more–as we will discuss further.

What to Expect in Terms of Cost

It is important to look at the full difference in cost when upgrading from one of the inline trade show booths to an island booth. Although the price per square foot is the same from inline to island, space is doubled and so does the cost. This also applies to other costs of exhibiting from show services, your booth, travel and more. The important thing is not to be afraid of the costs but to beware of them so you can plan and budget properly. On a side note, it is also harder to book a 400sf island booth because there are fewer of them available and usually the show organizer books space on a points system. So, companies that have higher points are given the first opportunity to select a space in the convention center. The better your points the better location of space.  

Budgeting for the Upgrade to an Island Booth

When you decide to upgrade start budgeting now. It’s never too early to begin planning your trade show strategy. This includes designing and building a booth that meets your brand style and function. Your trade show strategy may consist of multiple shows requiring both inline and island formats. This is critical when designing your new booth because you can build a modular design that can be used in many different space formats increasing the value of your purchase. While it may seem like a difficult choice to pick between inline and island trade show booths, Your exhibit company will assist you in making the right decision and help avoid any costly pitfalls. It is important to step back from things and look at the choices logically. Can you justify the cost? Would you be able to make the impact you need in the smaller space? Asking yourself questions like this will lead you to the right decision. 

Once you have settled on a design your exhibit company will help you outline the additional costs, for example, electrical, labor, storage, shipping, rigging, equipment, cleaning required for the “big day”. Keep in mind that many show organizers offer early bird ordering discounts for your show services. The most important thing you can do is to plan ahead. Waiting will only cost you more in the long run. After all, no matter if you go with the biggest or smallest booth in a trade show, your success will ultimately hinge on your ability to take advantage of the space you have and use it to your advantage.

Behind the numbers

  • Rental Floor Space – upgrading from a 200sf inline booth to a 400sf island booth doubles the cost to rent space at your trade show.
  • Your Booth – What is the right booth for you. 
    • Custom Booth - the average cost is $150 to $175.00 per square foot (does not apply for double-decker booths).
    • Custom Rental – the average cost is $115.00 to $150.00 per square foot– Some rental components and some custom-built components.
  • Rental – the average cost $85.00 to $115.00 per square foot can be a modular system (like an erector set) the can be built in any configuration and skinned with fabric or panel graphics or the exhibit house can have older custom booth inventory that can be re-skinned to match your brand to give you a custom look for rental price.
  • Show service – Costs to support the full logistics of exhibiting at your targeted show.
  • Material handling – charge can range from $80.00 per crate weight to $120 per crate depending on the city and or the show.  Material handling is the cost to move your booth from dock to booth and back. The bigger the booth the more weight and number of crates you have increased the material handling cost.
  • I&D (Install and Dismantle) Labor – The average cost is $110 to $120 per hour straight time for show management labor and $120 to $140 per hour straight time for third party labor teams. Island booths tend to be more engineered and require more time to set up and dismantle. Driving the cost of your booth higher.
  • Rigging – Island booth allows you to hang signs and banners from the ceiling. Giving your booth/brand more prominence. average cost $550 to $850 per hour for a 2-person team with boom lift for set up and the same cost to dismantle. You will also need to hire a person or two to assemble your hanging banner or sign.
  • Furnishing Rental – Looking for some booth furnishings? You can rent furniture, carpet, refrigeration display audiovisual, floral catering. All at a cost. keep in mind it does cost 3 to 4 x value over the standard purchase price, but you save on shipping, material handling, and warehousing and maintenance if you rent vs. purchase.
  • Shipping – depending on the size of your booth and the design components most likely it will need to be crated in multiple crates. This creates an additional cost to build the crates as well as the cost to ship the crates. When calculating shipping your crate may be measured and charged by weight (Actual) or dimension weight (oversize crate) which even costs more.

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