First Long Distance Show!

I’ve been working part-time at my jewelry doing small, local shows
for the last four years or so, and only last year did I work my first
out-of-town show. Now I have signed up for a booth at a convention
in D.C and haven’t a clue as to how I should prep my booth displays
for shipping, or even if they are suitable to ship. I don’t have
jewelry cases yet, have simply been using various ‘necks’ and pads
with several knock-down bookcase units and multi-height folding
tables. What designs of knock-down cases work best? Recommendations
of vendors are appreciated.

Up until now my criteria has been, "Will it all fit in my car?"
Anything I ship will be delivered to a hotel, rather than a
convention center. What are your experiences with distant shows? Is
shipping in my booth viable? Or, would it be better to just drive
there (Dallas, TX to Washington, D.C.)? A four day round trip minimum
with food/lodging each day, but at least then I know what I’m working
with… and I avoid all the costs/concerns of shipping. I’ve driven
as far as N.C before, so the length of the trip is not necessarily a

Thanks in Advance to everyone out there!

Donna Hawk
Dallas, TX

Donna, I work for a display company and I am the person responsible
for putting the shows together. There are a number of issues here. I
do not know what show you are attending in the DC area. We just did
the IJO show in DC, just did a show in Atlanta and shipping a show
Friday to Chicago. When shipping product you have to always think
about can this be shipped UPS. Most of my stuff is shipped by truck.
We are talking 1200lbs to 2 tons. Most trades shows we do, we have to
ship into an advance warehouse. When it get there the warehouse
charges a handling fee at $40-55 per carton weight (carton weight =
100lbs). Or you can ship direct to the show site during your setup
days. They charge for the handling of the freight direct into the
show too. This tends to be a better rate but has more risk of not
showing up on time. I have in the past setup the JCK Orlando show and
find the tough part is dealing with the union labor. I always have to
deliver a pickup truckload of goods at the last minute. When you do
that, they make you hand carry everything in or you pay them $75 per
hour maybe more to hire a person and a cart. Its ashame when you only
need them for 10 minute! You pay for the whole hour!

There is also the issue of how much can the shipping company/storage
warehouse destroy before you get it. I ship in plywood crates and
the still manage to break them. My salesman in Atlanta wanted to know
what to do when they delivered a crate shrunk wrapped together
because they had busted a whole corner off of it. So you can never
over protect your show material. If you ship stuff be sure to carry a
digital camera or a Polaroid camera to document for your freight

Make sure you fully read over all show material they send you. There
can be something about electric lights. We had it out with a show in
Chicago because of the transforms on our lights did not have a

At the end of the show if they try to get you to sign up again for
next year because they tell you “that you might not get back in next
year”. That money is gone when you give them that check. There are NO
REFUNDS PERIOD! We did that last year with a big show last year that
was a money pit and the salesman signed the dotted line. We did not
want to do the show this year and was told no refunds unless the
building burned down. So we burned $6000 to do this money pit show

This is how the jewelry trade shows (JCK, IJO, SJO, MJSA, etc…)
work. All shows are different. This is just my experience in my small
part of the world.

RC Gems
(Still having to work a real job with a boss)

  Up until now my criteria has been, "Will it all fit in my car?"
<snip>What are your experiences with distant shows? Is shipping in
my booth viable? Or, would it be better to just drive there
(Dallas, TX to Washington, D.C.)? A four day round trip minimum
with food/lodging each day, but at least then I know what I'm
working with... and I avoid all the costs/concerns of
shipping.<snip> Thanks in Advance to everyone out there! 

Donna, I have done shows that have required long drives (Central NC
to St. Paul, MN) and I have flown and shipped. The question you
have to ask yourself is where you want to spend your money. If you
fly and ship the show will cost you more out of pocket. If you have
to change your entire setup then the out of pocket expense will
skyrocket, though it would be an investment in the future if you
plan on shipping to more long distance shows. If you drive the
costs will come at the expense of your time, gas, hotel and wear and
tear on your vehicle.

I am normally an avowed optimist, but the results of the last few
shows I have done have convinced me to spend the least amount of
money possible for each show I do until the economy picks up and
sales justify it. In fact, I will be driving from here to Ft. Worth
next month because, even though I can ill afford to lose the time in
the shop, I can always make up for it on weekends and evenings. If
I spend the money and the show results are bad, I won’t be able to
get that money back.

If you’ve got other questions let me know,


Congratulations, Donna!

I’ve been traveling to shows for 20 years and the times when I’ve
flown/shipped rather than bringing my booth and work with me in the
car have been the most stressful.

If you do ship, be absolutely certain in advance that the hotel is
willing to receive your shipment!

Consider using the show’s official shipper. They might be a bit
more expensive but they will deliver to the venue at the appropriate

When not using the show’s shipper I have my shipment held at the
company’s warehouse and I pick it up myself in a rented car. (Be
certain ahead of time that it will fit into a car.) Most shippers’
warehouses are located near the airport and often the cost of a car
rental is no more than the cost of transportation into town that
you’d be paying for yourself anyway. And ship with plenty of lead
time so that before you leave home you can verify that your
shipment is there. If it isn’t palletted make them confirm that ALL
of the boxes have been scanned in.

But if you like to drive and if it’s a time of year when weather is
reliable, do consider it. The total cost of airfare and related
expenses for yourself and shipping costs for the booth and inventory
may be more than gas, lodging and the value of lost studio time.