By Chris Dolnack
Mark Twain once said, “Everybody talks about the weather, but nobody does anything about it.” And the last couple of years, conversations about the cost of exhibitor trade show participation has taken on a similar tone. Our show team hears about cost pressure from our customers on a weekly basis. And with the general state of the economy and “normalization” of the market for firearms, ammunition and accessories, manufacturers are feeling increasing cost pressure in every facet of their business. That is why the NSSF Board of Governors voted not to increase exhibit space pricing for the 2024 SHOT Show, the second time in the last five years that we did so.
The recently released 2022 Material Handling & Labor Rate survey conducted in 16 major trade show markets by The Exhibitor Advocate certainly backs up exhibitor sentiment about rising trade show costs. Among the key findings:
- Overall, there’s been a 29% increase in display, labor, and material handling rates since 2017 which far outpaces increases in prices compared with most other business services.
- Electrical labor has the greatest increase at 32% compared with installation & dismantle labor (26%) and material handling (28%).
- The average installation & dismantle labor rate is $140/hr for straight time and an average of $205/hr for straight time, overtime, and double time combined. Straight time rates range from a low of $100/hr to a high of $235/hr. The highest rates are in the Northeast, Chicago, and California.
- The average electrical labor rate is $132/hr for straight time and an average of $188/hr for straight time, overtime, and double time combined. Straight time rates range from a low of $77/hr to a high of $187/hr.
- The average material handling rate is $1.88 per pound before event deadlines. An average increase of 10% is recognized when materials are received after event deadlines, increasing to $2.08 per pound.
Which leads me back to answering the question regarding what NSSF is doing to help exhibitors contain their costs for SHOT Show participation. We are fortunate to work in such a passionate industry and to host the major industry gathering each January. As a result, SHOT Show is one of the few trade shows that has grown coming out of the pandemic, and trade show venues are constantly vying to host the show.
NSSF locked in contracts at the then Sands Expo Center, now the Venetian Expo Center, for eight years in 2020. In doing so, the Venetian Expo Center and the attached Venetian and Palazzo hotels secured its single largest event for eight years. And NSSF secured below market cost certainty in exchange for that term. The result is that contracted SHOT Show costs are below, and in some cases, significantly below the average contracted trade show cost in Las Vegas and the national average cited in the study.
As we begin discussions with our trade show partners about extending the agreement to keep SHOT Show in Las Vegas through 2030, containing exhibitor costs will always be top of mind for us. SHOT Show is too important to the industry for us to approach it any other way. The show provides access to the market for manufacturers of all size and stage, unparalleled media coverage with more than 2,200 verified media in attendance, tremendous networking and customer engagement opportunities, and it provides the means for all the NSSF initiatives that help keep our members in business and help you grow your business.