Trade Show Furniture: Should You Buy or Rent?

These key factors should guide your decision

Getting your trade show booth outfitted with furniture is a major logistical challenge. The fundamental question you need to answer first: Should you rent the trade show furniture you'll use in your booth, or should you buy it? It's not always an easy choice to make.

As you weigh your options, keep these considerations in mind.

Long-Term Cost

A one-time purchase means you won't rack up rental fees over and over. However, you may incur fees to ship the furniture you own over long distances — that can make buying an expensive proposition for many companies. You may also have to pay to refurbish the furniture if it starts to look a bit shopworn.

It may cost less to rent: If you travel to a few faraway conferences per year.

It may cost less to buy: If you exhibit frequently and often drive to conferences.

Staying True to Your Brand

Cost isn't everything. You work hard to build your brand and you want your trade show booth to project that carefully crafted identity. When you buy, you can control the quality of the items, so you'll never be surprised by a wobbly table or a damaged countertop in your booth hours before the show launches. What's more, renting often puts you at the mercy of whatever happens to be available near your venue — and if other renters are speedier to snap up the sleekest, best furniture, you may be stuck with some unappealing looks.

Custom rental services, on the other hand, may overcome any concerns of quality and variety. They typically cost more, but they can supply anything from plush upholstered sofas to rustic wooden café tables.

Renting is best for your brand: If you don't have a highly specialized "look" that you want to achieve with your booth, and you only need a few basics.

Buying is best for your brand: If you are aiming for a specific look and feel, and you want more control over the quality of the furniture.

The Flexibility Factor

How much do you envision the company growing in the next three, five or 10 years? Will you be booking larger booths? Buy now and you could find yourself needing more tables and chairs in a few years, only to discover the manufacturer has stopped making that style. Also, will your branding change, and require a different look for your booth in the near future?

Most companies' needs — and trends in office furniture appearance — don't vary widely from year to year, but it's a concern for some companies.

Renting makes sense: If significant growth is on the horizon for your company.

Buying makes sense: If your company is not in a fast-growth or rebranding phase.

Like so many business decisions, the answer to the rent-or-buy dilemma is not always a straightforward one. To find the best solution for your company, examine your marketing priorities, your budget and your future, and the answer should become clear.