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Costs of Exhibition Trade Shows – All You Need to Know

An exhibition’s main goal is to showcase products or services to drum up interest in them or your brand, effectively spreading awareness and ultimately securing a sale at a later date. This means that your exhibition is not expected to be a one-time payment for which you gain no financial reward; it’s a marketing campaign, and like one, it has an ROI (return on investment).

According to Marketing Charts, ROI for the average exhibit is 25-34%. Therefore, your budget has to take projected income into account.

The following is a breakdown of the costs involved with exhibiting at a trade show.

What is a trade show and exhibition?

Before we jump into the costs, let’s just first look at trade shows and exhibitions to understand what they are and why you might want to explore them for your business. Both trade shows and exhibitions are great for getting in front of new and existing customers, industry partners and competitors, and potential investors, but they are slightly different.

Trade shows explained

Trade shows, which can sometimes be a trade only event, are  known as a trade fair – meaning only your business and other similar organisations in the industry you operate attend; there won’t usually be customers among the attendees. Trade shows are usually an annual event that is spread out over a few days.

The aim of a trade show is typically networking with others in your industry. This offers opportunities for collaboration, exploration of new technologies, and a chance to share industry knowledge to improve your business. Seminars may be held to help you learn more about specific topic areas.

They can be held in a variety of places around the world, with some noticeable trade show locations in the United Kingdom to showcase your business and products and services with like minded industry professionals, such as the NEC Birmingham.

Because these events are held annually, they’re usually relatively big affairs, and if you’re looking to break into trade shows for your industry, you should consider clearing your calendar each year to ensure you can attend future trade shows and continue to connect and network with leading solution providers year on year.

They cover a range of sectors from food service to security systems, retail to distribution, and more.

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Exhibitions explained

An exhibition is similarly an industry specific event with attendees often being fellow partners, competitors, and customers alike. The main difference between a trade show and an exhibition is the general purpose of the event.

At an exhibition, the main aim is to showcase new products and services. It isn’t really about buying and selling, rather just testing the waters for what you have to offer. By seeing the reactions of potential future customers and interacting with like-minded businesses in your industry, you may get a better idea of how the product or service may be received.

Exhibitions are a great way for you to test new products and services to understand if your development path was a smart decision. It also gives you the opportunity to pivot should your showcase highlight potential problems that hadn’t come to light previously.

A range of industries will host an exhibition when necessary such as fashion, technology, art, furniture, and other trade exhibition businesses that can share their latest products or services with fellow exhibitors, buyers, suppliers, and visitors to get a feel for how well received their latest offerings may be.

Is exhibiting at trade shows worth it?

Exhibitors at both trade shows and exhibition events will find them extremely useful. You can:

  • connect with potential customers
  • build relationships with the UK’s leading minds and businesses in your sector
  • increase sales
  • increase brand reputation and recognition
  • understand trends in your industry


There are a host of reasons why trade shows are so popular, but in order to make the most of it you’ll have to really think about the logistics of attending such an event.

For some, the cost may be too high for the rewards they reap. For others, though, it can be the push they need to take their business to the next level and make themselves a standout name in their industry.

To understand the costs of exhibition trade shows, you’ll first have to think about budgets.

What is my trade show budget made up of?

Firstly, let’s break down where your budget will be going before we calculate what should go where. Knowing the key areas of where your money is spent during trade shows and trade fairs is the secret to ensuring you spend only what you need.

The four main areas where your budget will be spent are as follows: 

Trade show space

To exhibit at a trade show, you’ll need to rent the space in which your stands and presentation will be situated. There are a lot of variables as to how much you will pay for trade show exhibition space, as technically there are plenty of discount deals to take advantage of, especially when you plan attending trade shows well in advance and book your slot when it may be cheaper. 

Nonetheless, the average cost of trade show space per square metre is £300 – £350, but it can sometimes even range from £100 – £500. Bear in mind that this is based on some of the major convention centre venues, such as those held at ExCel London, though prices will vary in some smaller exhibition venues for your exhibition booth space.

Trade show stands

Stands come in different styles and formats. There are two main things that will determine how much you pay for stands – the size and design of the stand you wish to construct, and the materials used in the construction. Specialised stands exist but often come at a premium. 

Should you want an exhibition stand design that is fully branded and particularly striking, but more cost-effective, reusable and recyclable modular tension fabric graphic displays are an extremely popular option, particularly with their positive environmental impact and focus on sustainability. Starting from around £2,450, they provide a much more professional alternative to pop-ups and standard shell schemes without the price tag of fully bespoke builds.

Marketing materials

Appropriately branded, well-designed marketing literature is essential to effectively promote your products, services or brand to potential clients attending. These can include a range of promotional materials such as branded merchandise, brochures, flyers, product catalogues and business cards. 

You can also benefit from eye-catching visuals, such as signs, banners, digital displays, and suspended branded light boxes, which enable people to identify your brand at a distance across large exhibition halls and major venues. Additionally, there are optional materials, such as giveaway items.

Travel and accommodation

Travel and accommodation options often present a limited choice, depending on many variables such as exhibition venue location, time of year etc. The most appropriate mode of travel depends on geographical location, distance, public transport links, the number of people, as well as the volume of kit requiring transportation. 

The budget required can depend on how early you are able to make the booking. There can be discounts and deals for early transport bookings. That being said, accommodation costs when attending a trade show can be more predictable, with a price range of £50 – £200 per night as the norm.

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So how do I decide on a trade show budget?

The most common metric for companies who are interested in exhibiting their products or brand is to set a total budget of four times what you pay for floor space. So that leaves the question of how to decide how much floor space you need, which entirely depends on what you’ll be placing on the trade show floor.

What you will place on the trade show floor is determined mainly by your booth. Your booth size should be made completely in line with what you want to do with your exhibition. For example, if you’re showing off your new electronic tablet, you want stands installed with security measures. You also want to make sure there’s walking space within your stand, as attendees will not want to be cramped.

How much does it cost to exhibit at a UK trade show?

If you’re one of many first time exhibitors about to exhibit at your first trade show, then the chances are you’ll be starting relatively small. As a general rule, this is a good point to start from because it means your costs will be slightly lower, but you’ll still get many of the same benefits as you would from a larger trade show, whilst being able to find your feet a little easier.

The main cost of your exhibition stand alone is likely to be around £2,450-£3,000, and this is quite a significant investment, even at a smaller venue. But when you factor in the cost to rent the space, show services (such as wi-fi, electricity, carpets etc), accommodation, travel expenses, marketing materials before and during the event, and additional small or hidden costs that inevitably crop up, you can expect that number to grow to around £3,500-£4,500 depending on how good you are at keeping costs down and finding the best deals.

There’s no denying then, that exhibiting at a trade show can be a significant investment for any business.

How good could my ROI be?

For many, the goal of a trade show isn’t about making money there and then. Instead the focus is often about the connections they make that will lead to more profit in the future.

However, as we stated previously, some estimates suggest that ROI is between 25 and 34%. This means that if you paid £4,000 to exhibit at a trade show, you could, minimally, according to the estimates, expect £5,000 back – a £1,000, or 25%, profit.

Although not a huge amount, the connections you make at a trade show could lead to incalculable profits for your business in the future, too. For many businesses, trade shows make perfect sense.

Tips to reduce trade show costs.

Cutting costs is a big part of business profits. The following are some of the ways you can mitigate what you spend at trade shows: 

  • Trade shows outside of main cities – The larger, popular shows almost always take place in the big cities, and they are pretty expensive. Even though regional events will be smaller, they will be cheaper and will likely still attract your target audience.
  • Share booths with other exhibitors – Although it may seem alien to do this, it makes sense when you think of compatible products and services to your own, that aren’t your direct competition. Sharing responsibilities of setting up and staffing the booth will also reduce the number of people you need on-site too.
  • Make your move early – Being early essentially just means acting in advance. If you book your travel and hotels early, you can take advantage of the discounted price. For flights and railway tickets booked 2-3 months in advance, you can often save up to 60% on the standard price. The same practice applies to space, as well as just about anything else that has high supply and low demand. This situation changes adversely as time goes on, leading to heightened prices and higher costs the closer to the event you get.

Trade show exhibition costs conclusion

Hopefully, Showplace’s guide to costs associated with trade shows has been useful to you, but we can help you with any questions you might have regarding your exhibition requirements. Costs will very much depend on how much of an impression you are wanting to make on your potential customers and the amount of investment your company is willing to make to ensure that your marketing efforts at exhibitions are a success.

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