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flooring cost cutters
I've been tasked with reducing our exhibit-marketing budget across the board, but I'm stumped as to how to lower costs for our vinyl and carpet flooring. How can I cut costs in these areas?
While flooring seems like a pretty standard expense with very little cost-cutting wiggle room, there are actually several ways you can trim a few bucks here and there from this expense. And before long, those little snips can add up to significant savings. So here are nine ways to take a bite out of your flooring budget.

1. Clean it yourself. Before your exhibit flooring leaves your storage facility for its next trade show, ensure that any stains or debris from its last outing have been removed and any necessary repairs have been made. Once it hits the show floor, quickly cover it with Visqueen for the duration of your exhibit setup to keep it clean. That way, your flooring will start the show in mint condition, and you won't have to pay laborers to clean or repair it on site. To clean your own floor during the show, bring a small, portable vacuum – or if you're using hard surfaces, tote along a dust mop or Swiffer-style device. Granted, this tactic isn't going to save you thousands of dollars straight out of the gate, but with flooring-cleaning costs running around $0.45 per square foot, those nickels and dimes you'll save can add up to plenty of Franklins over time.

2. Pick an easy-to-install option.
To decrease or even eliminate flooring-installation costs, purchase flooring that you can install yourself, or at least one that installs very quickly. Also look for flooring that packs into portable cases for easy transport. Some carpet options are cut to fit into hard-sided shipping cases, many of which can be hand carried onto the show floor, thereby eliminating drayage fees.

3. Consider tiles, not rolls.
Also consider how difficult your flooring will be to repair if it's damaged. For example, if a forklift leaves a 2-foot gouge in your carpet, you may end up replacing the whole thing rather than risk having an unsightly repair front and center in your space. But with flooring that comprises interlocking tiles or squares of some sort, you can usually switch out damaged tiles for new ones, or at least move damaged pieces to less-visible areas of your footprint. Today, interlocking flooring options include everything from carpet and foam to eco-friendly recycled rubber and woven vinyl.

4. Rent flooring.
If you don't plan to use your flooring more than once or twice a year, and you don't need an exact color (such as a brand color or a hue to match your exhibit theme), consider renting vinyl flooring or carpet. Granted, the selection will be more generic than custom offerings, but renting will save you from the ongoing costs of shipping, storing, maintaining, and installing your flooring. Plus, there's a wide variety of rental flooring options available today, including everything from plush carpet to hard surfaces.

5. Buy something durable.
When it comes to flooring, quality counts – and it could save you some dough over time. If you want flooring that lasts for years or one that can handle countless shows per year, buy a durable, high-quality option. You may have to pay a bit more up front, but it'll likely last longer than cheaper, lower-grade options and ultimately deliver a higher return on investment.

6. Opt for updatable.
Look beyond carpet and vinyl and consider modular flooring options that can be reconfigured for multiple exhibits and footprints, and updated regularly to match your hottest products, new marketing campaigns, and exhibit themes. That way, your flooring can remain current for endless trade shows and product lines, and you'll only have to change components or graphics instead of the entire flooring system. While various suppliers offer similar systems, one such option is the PromoDek system. It connects together without tools to create a platform of practically any size. The top of the tiles can feature a solid, opaque color, or they can be fitted with clear acrylic covers under which you can insert custom graphics, such as logos, product names, messaging, etc.

7. Buy padding according to use.
If you're going to use the carpet pad over and over again, a polyurethane option is definitely the way to go, as it's durable, and with proper care will last the life of the carpet. But if you only plan to use your carpet a couple of times – perhaps in an unusual footprint or in conjunction with a unique exhibit theme – opt for Rebond, a recycled material that is by far a more economical (yet less durable) choice.

8. Pack properly.
Rather than risk expensive damage to your flooring, ship it in heavy-duty nylon carry bags or corrugated shipping tubes, as opposed to mere plastic wraps. Carry bags and tubes will reduce the risk of damage during shipping and storage – and help keep it clean during these times as well.

9. Customize with mats.
Custom flooring inlays can be expensive to create; plus, you'll most likely end up replacing the entire floor if part of it gets damaged. So instead of a seamed inlay, consider customized floor mats. Printed or tufted with your logo, product name, or messaging, a thin floor mat, perhaps with adhesive backing, can be placed atop other flooring materials at the entrance to your booth or in key traffic areas. A combination of a mat and traditional flooring is much less expensive than a traditional carpet inlay. And if a mat is damaged, you'll only have to replace it, not the entire floor. Plus, you can reuse these mats in other nonexhibiting situations, such as in your office or at a corporate event.

As you can see, these cost-cutting tips don't border on rocket science. Nonetheless, used over time or in conjunction with one another, they're sure to help you cut costs on your flooring expenses.

– David Walens, president, Brumark-Total Flooring Solutions, an Exploring Inc. company, Atlanta
Help Wanted
Send your tough questions about exhibiting to Linda Armstrong, larmstrong@exhibitormagazine.com.

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