Under the best of times, trade show transport is a major undertaking. The logistics of shipping expensive merchandise, large or small, on a deadline, setting up a display, then tearing down the exhibit, and returning the materials to where they came requires careful planning, allocation of resources, and professional expertise. Trying to maintain these operations during a global pandemic is ten times harder.
Let’s take a look at how companies that are accustomed to shipping to trade shows manage their operations, how they’ve adapted to the current reality, and what the future holds.
Trade Shows Are a Big Part of the American Way of Business
Every year, massive convention centers around the country host thirty or forty major events a year. Some of these, including boat and car shows, are open to the general public. Many more are business-to-business events at which manufacturers display their wares to wholesalers and retail buyers.
Most companies who exhibit at trade shows have an entire staff division devoted to preparing for trade shows year-round. Similarly, there are large scale logistics companies who are experienced in shipping to trade shows and are equipped to deliver any size freight to a convention site on a deadline.
Shipping to trade shows is a logistical challenge that requires specialized vehicles and equipment, including shipping containers for events of all types. Typically, exhibitors contract with a logistics company to deliver their materials to the convention site. There, tradesmen build out exhibit spaces with specialized structures for each exhibitor. However, In March of 2020, at the height of the spring exhibition season, everything changed.
Toward a New Normal
With lockdowns stretching around the world, shipping to trade shows and the accompanying operations screeched to a halt. In the months to follow, businesses that exhibit at trade shows and those that support these events, including logistics companies who were shipping to trade shows, are in a holding pattern, trying to determine a path forward. In the short term, stakeholders in the tradeshow industry find it impractical to schedule events that take months to plan in an environment of spikes and dips in COVID cases, and shifting local regulations make business as usual too risky.
Forbes magazine cites a study by the Center for Exhibition Industry Research (CEIR) that determined over 9,000 trade shows were held in 2019, contributing to over 100 billion dollars in US GDP. That same study tracks the devastating effect of the pandemic on the industry: 74% of those who responded cited “uncertainty” over local regulations as the main reason for canceling events. CEIR CEO Cathy Breden states, “The persistence of COVID-19 and the uncertainty of whether events can take place in their scheduled destinations are forcing an increasing number of U.S. B2B exhibition organizers to either postpone their events to late 2020/early 2021 or cancel them entirely.”
Online Trade Conferences & Auto Events
So, what should exhibitors and logistics companies who make their money from shipping to trade shows do in the meantime? Unfortunately, there are no shortcuts or easy answers. For those few events that are still being held, exhibitors, support staff, and companies shipping to trade shows must demonstrate their commitment to public health and safety. Mask wearing, interior set-ups designed to promote social distancing, and the sanitizing of surfaces should be mandatory. Logistics companies that are shipping to trade shows should certify that all their shipping containers for events have been sanitized.
Because no amount of precautions can guarantee safety, most organizations are holding their trade conferences online. While these events are reflective of human flexibility and ingenuity, there are important parts of the trade show experience that can’t be created. For example, buyers can’t handle expensive items, such as cars, in person. Fortunately, at Trans Global Auto Logistics, we have been able to pivot with this online shift. We’re proud to now offer you pre-inspection and escrow services for customers who buy online.
While experts warn that reopening the economy may be complicated, when the time comes to open the door to public expositions, a company or organization’s smartest bet would be to choose a large operation experienced in shipping to trade shows that can scale up quickly to meet demand. Let us be your partner in your next international auto event. Get in touch with us today to get started with a virtual pre-inspection and escrow service for your online auto show purchases.