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Booth Furniture
ILLUSTRATION: MARK FISHER
Q.
I plan to purchase new furniture for my booth. What factors should I consider during the buying process?

A.
When buying furniture for a home or office, your main considerations usually include price, durability, size, and style. However, when purchasing furniture for an exhibit, there are a lot more things to think about. So here are seven key questions to ask yourself and your suppliers to ensure you select the furniture that will meet your requirements.

Does the furniture's style and function suit all of our exhibit needs? Do you plan to use the furniture for only one exhibit design, or could it be used in other environments? For example, might you use it for corporate events or in your company's home office? Would you ever need to use the furniture outdoors? The answers to these questions will help you determine whether you should purchase modular furniture that can be mixed and matched to accommodate various exhibits and environments. Also consider whether the materials, style, and functionality of each piece will be compatible with all potential uses.

How much does it weigh, and how easy is it to transport and store? Weight has a tremendous impact on shipping and drayage costs. So assess how your furniture will affect your bills at every show at which you exhibit. Determine how many pallets your furniture will need and identify how and where to store the furniture before and after each show. Keep in mind that certain materials can be affected by temperature and humidity, so figure out if any added precautions should be taken during shipping and storage. Also analyze the required packing materials for each piece of furniture. How many feet of plastic and how many pounds of furniture bags, pads, and foam do you need? Make sure you calculate all fees before you make the purchase.

What kinds of damage, cleaning, and replacement considerations can I expect with these materials? Each material has different cleaning and replacement protocols that can affect your bottom line and the life of the furniture. So consider whether you will need to have the furniture professionally cleaned or use a special cleaning solution, or if a simple wipe with a damp cloth will keep it looking its best. Also ask your supplier whether any components must be special ordered should they need to be replaced. What happens if something breaks on the show floor? Will additional materials or replacements be difficult to find in various locales? Also determine if the furniture supplier you are considering can provide professional cleaning services and damage repair when the need arises.

How will show-floor lighting affect the furniture's color and materials? Lighting can have a dramatic effect on the appearance of various materials and finishes, sometimes making them appear up to three shades lighter or darker depending on the ambient light within the space. Lighting is particularly impactful on furniture in shades of black, white, blue, and grey. You can avoid any issues by carefully considering the environment in which the furniture will appear and enlisting your exhibit-design team to help make appropriate color choices.

Are accessories necessary to complete the intended look and function? Accessories can include pillows, charging pieces, lighting elements, shelves, storage units, wheels, extra cords (for electrical units), remote controls, base pieces/options, cushions, and more. Sometimes, furniture pictured online or in a catalog includes several accessories to make it look its best, yet these options might not be included in the base price.

Are any additional fees required? On top of the retail price, there are sure to be other fees associated with the purchase, such as maintenance, installation and dismantle, packing, damage repair/replacement, transportation, cleaning, storage, logistics, drayage, etc. Also ask about warranties and insurance both from the retailer and the manufacturer. How much do they cost, and what do they cover?

Should I buy or rent? It's important to review the advantages and disadvantages of buying versus renting. Rental-furniture providers typically handle many of the details, including material handling, transportation, maintenance, damage repair, ancillary accessories and services, storage, etc. So carefully consider which route would be a better investment based on the aforementioned questions.


— Athena Tabula, trade show coordinator, AFR Trade Show Furnishings, Las Vegas
Help Wanted
Send your tough questions about exhibiting to Linda Armstrong, larmstrong@exhibitormagazine.com.

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