As I mentioned in the last post, there weren’t radically new new products at Exhibitor 2010 . But what was radically different was the positioning and messaging by the large general contractors, or GCs. If you know these companies, you know that they specialize in managing union laborers on the show floor. But at Exhibitor, you could have mistaken their presence for that of a high-end creative and management firm – which looks like a direction they’re trying to move in.
Maybe I was more aware of their re-positioning because of all the grousing (by display companies) about the GCs muscling in on the display business. True – it’s happening – and it’s not a good development. The GCs are offering discounted deals to companies at a time that companies really need to cut marketing budgets. The GCs can do this because in much of their business they are the exclusive provider of services, and they make significant profits in those areas.
That big companies will attempt to exert dominance in their market and in adjacent markets is an accepted reality. Think of Microsoft and Intel as very recent examples. Whether or not the business activities of the GCs are legal is a matter left to the FTC and others. But it is an unequivocally negative development for the trade show industry. The GCs may be dropping prices and “comping” services today, but make no mistake about it: they expect to make more profit in the long run by doing this. So if they’re doing it for free now but expect large profits in the future…well, you can do the math.
Obviously I can’t stand here and advise companies to spend more than they need to for their trade show. But most exhibitors have had the “you’ve got to be kidding” moment when they’re told what the GC charges to move a pallet 100 feet. So if you don’t like the price they charge to move a pallet, ask yourself if it would be good if that same gang designed and rented the booth and everything you needed at the show. And connected it up. And packed it up. In the long run, these developments could lead to significantly higher prices for all services. And when that happens, because of the exclusivity the GCs enjoy, there won’t be anything anyone can do about it.
Ironically, in the long run, the road to better pricing at the trade show might be by avoiding the best deals in the hall today.
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