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Most exhibitors assume storage fees are similar to exhibit-space costs, in that there's not much they can do to reduce them. But according to a trio of exhibiting pros who've been there and stored that, there are at least seven ways to save on exhibit storage. By Travis Stanton
Negotiate Your Rate
We've all heard the saying that everything is negotiable, and when it comes to exhibit-storage fees, it's absolutely true. But the time to haggle over this expense is when you're renegotiating an existing contract with your current exhibit house or storage facility or looking for a new exhibit-storage partner. So rather than overlook storage fees as a set-in-stone line item, make them an integral part of your overall negotiations, says Candy Adams, CTSM, CEM, CMP, CMM, independent exhibit project manager, consultant, trainer, speaker, and writer. And even if you're not currently in negotiations, it doesn't hurt to ask your storage-service provider about any available discounts, promotions, or benefits that may be applicable to your current program.

Consider Other Options
Don't limit your storage options to your exhibit house. "Investigate other potentially less-expensive alternatives," says Jenny Nichols, trade marketing process leader at Gojo Industries Inc. For example, you might want to consider self-storage facilities, your company's warehouse, a storage facility belonging to another division of your company, an empty trailer you can park on your company's property, a portable storage pod, etc. The possibilities are endless, but they don't come without their own challenges, such as addressing the issues of temperature, humidity, and security, just to name a few. So before you move your properties into the shed out back, consider how your exhibitry will react to heat and cold in a nonclimate-controlled space.

Understand the Extras
If you're storing your properties at your exhibit house, ask what additional services are included in your storage costs, e.g., exhibit maintenance, online inventory tracking and selection, and show preparation. Because according to Adams, you might be paying extra fees for unnecessary add-ons, such as a 24-hour security guard, a climate-controlled warehouse, prime storage space with easy access to multiple truck docks, duplicate insurance coverage, etc. Plus, exhibit houses might charge a sort of "usage" fee each time you access, inventory, and repair your properties or load or unload them with your transportation carrier. While some of these services might be necessary for your program, you may be able to decrease the frequency of some usage fees or cut unneeded services entirely.

Skip the Return Trip
Compare where you exhibit versus where your exhibit lives. Then determine whether those arrangements make sense or if "touring" might be a better option. When your booth is touring, you don't ship it back to your home base after every show. Instead, you store it closer to locales where you exhibit, often in facilities with lower storage fees, such as your shipper's facility, the advance ware-house, another division of your company, etc. For example, let's say you have consecutive shows in the Midwest. Rather than shipping your booth to and from your California-based exhibit house, you ship it from one advance warehouse to the next between shows, perhaps storing it in your shipper's warehouse when deadlines don't quite match up in your favor. According to sources, touring isn't always the best option and might only be suitable for a few shows, but by doing the math, you can determine which method is most economical and possibly score both storage and shipping savings.

Take Inventory
Ask your exhibit house for a detailed list of everything you're storing at its facility, and then clear out any exhibitry, literature, signage, etc. that you don't need to reduce your storage space. "Every year, we meet with our third-party vendor who stores all of our exhibit hardware and miscellaneous items and decide what we should keep and what we should get rid of," Nichols says. "That way, we have a fresh start for the year and avoid paying to store things that we no longer need." If you identify items that are rarely used but that can't be disposed of entirely, consider storing them in a lower-cost facility, e.g., a climate-controlled self-storage warehouse. Adams cautions that if you ask your exhibit house to discard properties or exhibit elements, it may charge you for transportation, landfill fees, and even hazardous waste fees, depending on your exhibit's construction materials. So be sure you inquire about any such expenses before you start the purging process.

Pack Wisely
Another way to cut storage costs is to pack wisely. "I've become a ruthless packer by cramming as much as possible into all of my containers," says exhibit-marketing consultant Bob Milam. "Of course, you have to be careful not to damage anything, but if you collapse all exhibit materials to their smallest size and pack miscellaneous items into the corners of your containers, you'll reap two benefits: 1) Tightly packed shipments move around less in their containers, reducing the risk of damage, and 2) fewer boxes mean less volume – and lower costs – in terms of shipping and storage."

Conduct an Audit
Whenever you receive your storage bill, typically on a quarterly basis, immediately audit it for accuracy. "Make sure your bill matches your contractual rates and correctly reflects your current exhibit inventory and dimensions," Adams says. And while you're at it, review each line item to determine if there are any unnecessary or obsolete charges that can be eliminated given your current requirements. E

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