Tradeshow Shipping: Advance Warehouse or Show Site?

05/26/2016 — PartnerShip

It’s a question we get asked a lot: “Should I ship to the advance warehouse or direct to the tradeshow site?” The answer really depends on your tradeshow schedule and / or the size of your booth.

When you exhibit at a tradeshow, you have to ship your booth, booth furnishings, marketing collateral and handouts, and product to the show site in order to have a successful show. Your shipping choices are to ship direct to the tradeshow floor to arrive when your booth staff does, or you can ship days or even weeks earlier to the advance warehouse. Here are the advantages and disadvantages of both options.

Shipping Direct to Show Site - Advantages

  • You can wait until the last minute to get everything ready to ship, such as booth graphics, product prototypes or mock-ups, and marketing collateral
  • Your material handling charges will be a bit lower**
  • You can ship small packages directly to the show floor

Shipping Direct to Show Site - Disadvantages

  • Your shipment may be one of hundreds arriving at the same time, so even though it may arrive early in the day, it might not reach your booth until much later
  • The I & D (Install and Dismantle) team waiting to build your booth may have to wait for your shipment, causing you to incur overtime charges
  • If your shipment arrives earlier or later than your move-in time, you will incur additional charges
  • If you have a targeted move-in time assigned by the show, you may have to pay higher shipping charges for guaranteed delivery during your assigned move-in window
  • You may have to pay overtime charges, especially if your shipment has to arrive on a weekend or after hours

Advance Warehouse - Advantages

  • Each show has a dedicated warehouse for delivery and storage of all shipments. Your materials are kept dry and secure until show time
  • On the first day of move-in your freight will be waiting for you at your booth
  • You can confirm your shipment has arrived and that everything is intact. In the event damage does occur, you have time to react and adapt
  • The weather! Tradeshows often take place in months when severe weather can delay your shipment
  • Your shipment can typically arrive up to 30 days prior to move-in, meaning delivery dates and times are more flexible so you can lower your shipping costs by using a non-priority service

Advance Warehouse - Disadvantages

  • If your freight arrives after the deadline, it will still be received, but additional charges will apply
  • The warehouse will only accept crates‚ palletized items, trunks/cases and carpets. Loose or small packages must be sent directly to the show site
  • Slightly higher drayage (material handling) fees**

** A word about material handling / drayage fees: Material handling fees are charges based on various operational activities, such as storage of your freight, labor and equipment to unload inbound shipments, delivery to your booth, delivery of empty containers to and from storage, and moving materials from your booth to the outbound carrier. Material handling fees are unavoidable; you pay them whether you ship to the advance warehouse or the show site. Typically, advance warehouse material handling fees are only about 10% higher than show site material handling fees.

Our suggestion: if you are not constrained by a tradeshow schedule that forces you to ship your booth from one show to the next, the advance warehouse is your best shipping option. It might be a bit more expensive, but the time, stress and anxiety savings will more than make up for it.

If you have a small tabletop or pop-up booth that can be assembled quickly with no help needed, and you are not anticipating any potential weather delays, shipping direct to the show site is an acceptable option.

We’ve helped thousands of companies ship their tradeshow materials and we’ve accumulated a great deal of knowledge, tips, and tricks to make your tradeshow experience a smooth one. Email us at for more information or with any tradeshow question! 

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