Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Shipping A Booth, and other Weighty Matters

Another obstacle that I had to overcome to move my business forward was figuring out how to ship a booth, or components of it, in order to do a show thousands of miles away. I knew I was ready to do a wholesale show, or as ready as I would ever be, but I was not sure I was ready to tackle shipping my stuff cross country.

When you are driving to a show, if you have a big enough vehicle, you can bring just about whatever you want to set up your booth. If you have to haul your stuff any distance from your car or van to set-up, then you might consider weight and volume, but otherwise, convenience, and having the best display possible is what overrides the weight and volume concerns.

But, if you have to ship, weight and volume translates quickly into cost. The cost of shipping is directly correlated to these two factors. And, at some shows there is also drayage charges. Drayage is a weight based charge that is applied at some facilities for transport of your materials from the loading dock to your booth. Both ways. This can add up fast, if your work and/or are heavy, it can easily add up to thousands of dollars. Fortunately, the ACRE show includes the drayage cost in the booth fee. But, since i will I have to ship my paraphenelia from Massachusetts to Las Vegas, weight matters.

Last year, I partially dodged the issue. I shipped some things, and rented others. But this year, I wanted to cross the line, and rent only the bare minimum. A small table for writing orders, and to stash things under, crossbars, and added padding under the standard carpet that comes with the booth. The padding is an indulgence, but sometimes you just have to take care of yourself, and the visitors to your booth! So my rental charges this year are about a third to a quarter of what I spent last year, and I will have extra electricity.

Part of the money I saved went to purchasing a shipping crate. I was fortunate enough to have purchased two fiber crates, that are often used to ship those pop-up style booths, for a song. But they are limited in what can fit inside them. I used one of them to package up my lights, banners and a few odds and ends. I still needed something to pack my pedestals into. The pedestals are going to be the foundation of my booth. They are 42 inches tall, and 24 inches wide when flat, so I needed a container to accommodate them. In addition, the "table" tops that I will lay across the pedestals are 48 inches long. Knowing these dimensions, I hit the web.

This is what I ended up with. It is hard to tell from the picture, but it has wheels, and a handle built in. Straps are attached to securely close the case. And the lid, telescopes on the base. So it can be 6" high, or 10 inches high, depending upon what and how much you put in the case.

After the cases were packed, I added some plastic strapping cord to secure the crates for their long distance travel.

Each container was less than 150 pounds, which meant I could ship them UPS ground. And I could track on line to see the safe arrival of my containers to their intended destination.

Most shows have an advance warehouse. A place where artists can ship their booth and other materials ahead of time. There is usually a deadline for arrival of your goods so that they can be staged at the appropriate time for transportation to the venue. And if all goes well, when you arrive at your booth, all your containers are sitting there waiting for you. But, you need to plan backwards from that deadline to make sure everything is out the door in time to make the trip.

It is a good idea to print out your shipping labels for the return trip at home and bring them with you. It will make that end of the process go much more smoothly. You also want to make certain to have all the paperwork for the shipment to the venue. You never know....

If you ship your materials by freight, there are a few other things to consider. First, a pallet or other way to be able to move your materials with a fork lift is important. The weight of the pallet, becomes a part of the cost of shipping. If you work from home, and thus would ship from home, you would need to pay extra for the lift truck. This is a truck that has a platform on the back that can raise and lower to move your stuff off the ground and up onto the truck.

You will also need a bill of lading. The form will come from the shipper, but it will list what you have in the crates or cartons. You do not need to go into a great deal of detail. "Trade show booth" could be sufficient.

I will show you more of the lightweight, transportable booth I came up with in a future post. So, stay tuned.


Rosepostcards said...

Thanks for the information. It makes very interesting reading. There really is a lot to consider when you have to ship something that big.

Good luck with the show!

Judy said...
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Judy said...

Thanks Beth! Once everything gets shipped, the toughest part of the preparations is over. I have one last package to ship to the hotel....everything that was not ready in time! The Plan B of every big job. :-)