A trade fair (trade show, trade exhibition or expo) is an exhibition organised so that companies in a specific industry can showcase and demonstrate their latest products, services, study activities of rivals and examine recent market trends and opportunities.

Trade Fair: Meaning, Objectives , Challenges for Participants, Organizing Trade Fairs and Exhibitions, Exhibitors’ Benefits and Visitors’ Benefits

Trade Fair: Meaning, Objectives , Challenges for Participants, Organizing Trade Fairs and Exhibitions, Exhibitors’ Benefits and Visitors’ Benefits

A trade fair (trade show, trade exhibition or expo) is an exhibition organised so that companies in a specific industry can showcase and demonstrate their latest products, services, study activities of rivals and examine recent market trends and opportunities.

Trade fairs are time- and (often) sector-defined marketing events at which the fundamental products and innovations of an industry or sector are exhibited by a variety of companies referred to as exhibitors and which are targeted at interested buyers and industry participants- the visitors. These trade fairs are usually organised by government, chambers, industry associations, or by specialised exhibition companies.

In contrast to consumer fairs, only some trade fairs are open to the public, while others can only be attended by company representatives (members of the trade, e.g. professionals) and members of the press, therefore trade shows are classified as either “Public” or “Trade Only”. Some trade fairs (like Hanover Book Fair) attract participants and visitors from all over the world and provide widespread interactions and exposure.


Trade fairs represent a real-time, interactive environment bringing together supply and demand in a certain industry. They promote the formation and growth of markets and market segments and one can distinguish three economic functions of trade fairs, namely the exchange of goods, the sharing of information and the promotion of products and organisations.

Trade fairs are classified as a form of sales promotion – a sub-category of marketing promotion. They enable companies to undertake market research and to promote themselves. Some trade fairs even allow companies to sell their products, thereby helping to generate sales.

They permit them to advertise their products and to generate positive publicity for both themselves and their offerings. It is also a forum where companies can make contact with potential customers and to sell to them on a face-to-face basis (linking personal selling to direct marketing).

Objectives of Trade Fairs and Exhibitions:


The various objectives of trade fairs and exhibitions are as follows:

(i) To enhance company/brand awareness amongst trade audience

(ii) To introduce new products

(iii) To reach customers-cost effectively


(iv) To generate additional sales

(v) To identify sales opportunities/leads

(vi) To enhance relationships with existing customers

(vii) To gain information about competitive companies


Types of Trade Fairs and Exhibitions:

Trade fairs and exhibitions may be of different types.

Some of the important ones are as follows:

Trade Fairs:


Trade fairs may be general and specialised.

(i) General Trade Fair:

At general trade fairs all types of goods are presented. Different stalls are used for exhibiting similar goods. One stall may be used for textile goods and the other may present electronic goods. The general fairs are meant for general public and trade. The public may purchase the goods on spot and traders may contact for long term deals.

(ii) Specialised Trade Fair:


In specialised trade fairs only specific products are displayed. The fair may be for engineering goods, textile goods, etc. Various producers of same type of goods come together and present their products. These fairs are meant for industry and trade and long term contracts are concluded. Trade fairs are used all over the world for promoting and selling the goods. In India, Pragati Maidan in New Delhi, is regularly used for national and international trade fairs.


Exhibitions may be national or company specific.

(i) Solo (National) Exhibition:


Sometimes the government of a country may organise an exhibition of its export products in a country where market prospects are bright. The exhibition may be specialised one, i.e., here only a small number of related product groups are displayed or a general exhibition showing all important export products of the country.

(ii) Company Exhibition:

Company exhibition is organised by an exporting firm to exhibit its own products depending on the nature of the products. Such an exhibition may be open to trade and consumers both.

Opportunities and Challenges for Participants:

Trade fairs offer participants both opportunities and challenges.

These are:


Opportunities for Participants:

(i) They help in gaining a quick overview of the marketplace.

(ii) Fairs help to reduce uncertainty about an unknown market.

(iii) They help in building business contacts and an impression of potential business partners.

(iv) Fairs represent a powerful marketing instrument to promote even complex products and services

Challenges for Participants:


The participants have to face following challenges:

(i) Choosing the right events and locations for participation

(ii) Increasing geographic distance leads to an increase in logistic complexity

(iii) The cost attached to event-specific brochures, staff, stand design etc.

(iv) Defining clear objectives regarding the participation

Organizing Trade Fairs and Exhibitions:


Organizing a trade fair is a marketing venture; therefore the starting point is the consumer. When the purpose is to promote the local industry and attract investments as a means for sector development, two types of consumer groups of the event must be considered- the local industry and the foreign potential business partners.

A trade fair is a service and it has to meet needs and provide solutions. The local industry’s supply capacity and international demand is the matching point between those needs. A research – no matter how deep – is then necessary to enable decisions not distorted by unverified assumptions and unrealistic ambitions.

Is there internationally a sustainable demand for the products of the local industry, and at which level(s) of the supply chain is it stronger? Is the local industry competitive in foreign markets and what would make it more competitive? The answers to such questions can be the result of a mix between desk and field research. Statistics, both the country’s exports and the international import data, can provide an initial support to determine the international market structure and trends, and determine untapped opportunities.

Qualitative information can be obtained from the exporters in the country to better understand their strengths and weaknesses through their export experience and the relevant business response of the regional or international markets. Research should also be conducted in a sample of importing countries, through contacts with their sectorial and industrial associations, to ascertain the awareness of the supply capacity of the country planning the trade fair and possibly the perceived comparative advantages and limits.

The research can be sponsored or conducted by trade associations and may also encompass an analysis of the neighbouring countries’ trade assets since overseas participants may see in the trade fair not only an opportunity to establish contact with the local industry but also to a larger scale with the regional supply.

The results of the research will enable to preliminarily assess the viable assets of the trade fair project and to help start focusing its objective, theme and market scope. It is worth keeping in mind that if the core participation in the trade fair is generally from the hosting country, the success of the event is measured on its capacity to attract external participation.


Besides market conditions, others need to be analysed at the outset of the project, which are related to the capacity of the organizers to:

1. Manage the Event:

A trade fair requires a technical expertise which may be wholly or partly outsourced to the fairground authority and the service providers. The organizers must anyhow be in a position to negotiate the terms of reference with the service providers, and coordinate and supervise the inputs and activities.

Many activities will be in the hands of the organizers who would need to assign sufficient and qualified manpower to the project. The organizer must have the knowhow and expertise in organizing and managing trade fairs. If this capacity is not available inhouse, a “manager” with a substantive professional background should be hired.

2. Mobilize Resources:

Organizing a trade fair implies a substantial investment. Unless local or international promoters are prepared to finance the new venture entirely, the general case is that a new trade fair is subsidized by domestic (private and/or public) and international sources of financing such as technical cooperation agencies.


3. Mobilize Local Partnership for the Event:

The organization and implementation of some of the trade fair’s elements can be taken care of at local level by private and public entities for tourism, transport, industry, commerce, customs, conference and other service providers. The coordination and management of the integrated set of elements should anyhow be ensured by the organizers.

4. Mobilize Local Participation:

Local entrepreneurs and other sectorial stakeholders normally represent the major part of the participants. In a developing country the possibility to mobilize the full or a substantive representation of the local industry is essential. The organizers must enjoy credibility among the business community to ensure such participation.

5. Risk Assessment and Mitigation:

Potential problem areas need to be identified as well as the expected measures to be applied to anticipate and avoid them, monitor the problem sources, and minimize the impact. Risks can be related to the objectives, the scenario, the operations, the costs, etc. and they can be domestic or external.

6. Sustainability of the Trade Fair:

A trade fair generates revenues, especially in terms of stand rental and services provision, and possibly publicity. Nevertheless, self-sustainability – if ever full – can generally be only a medium or long-term objective, which progressively materializes alongside the growth of the event and the improved efficiency. Therefore, the organizers should base their plan on the premise that funding sponsors, local and international, are willing to provide a continuous, even if progressively declining support, for future events.

An analysis of strengths and weaknesses with respect to the above- mentioned factors and the identification of ways to ensure that those requirements are met should be the initial assessment for the feasibility of the project.

It is important also to determine whether convenient accommodation infrastructures exist in the country and if the hotels by number, quality and position are able to match the trade fair requirements.

Advantages of Trade Fairs and Exhibitions:

Trade fairs and exhibitions are advantageous both for exhibitors and visitors.

The various advantages are as follows:

Exhibitors’ Benefits:

(i) Exhibitors can focus targeted visitors and profiles at highly cost effective and marketing platform.

(ii) Trade fairs and exhibitions provide a highly multi-tasking environment in which a wide range of sales and marketing objectives can be achieved, from generating sales leads and launching new products, to building brand image, maintaining customer relations and appointing new agents.

(iii) Trade fairs and exhibitions help in building personal contact in face-to-face meetings.

(iv) They provide a strong brand building environment via product demonstrations, seminars, conferences and sponsorship opportunities.

(v) They offer a chance to promote brand loyalty via technology displays, hospitality and networking events.

(vi) Trade fairs and exhibitions are an ideal platform to launch new products and find sales agents or distributors in new markets.

(vii) They make the exhibitors able to check and evaluate competition.

(viii) They facilitate in media interaction and press conferences.

(ix) They provide quality market research opportunities.

(x) They provide conferencing opportunities to learn more about future industry trends.

Visitors’ Benefits:

(i) Visitors are not under pressure to buy in exhibitions.

(ii) Trade fairs and exhibitions provide direct face to face communication between visitors and exhibitors. Visitors can question, challenge and debate.

(iii) They provide visitors a comprehensive and cost effective examination of products, opportunity for questioning their creators, comparing and contrasting their performance.

(iv) It is an extremely time-efficient way to keep up to date with the latest innovations.

(v) They provide top quality international, business to business events serving specialised industry sectors.

(vi) They help in direct personal access to the suppliers of the leading technology.

(vii) The visitors come to know about, new product launches with linked conferences, exhibitor seminars and networking events.

They provide new business opportunities by providing direct negotiation with exhibitor’s senior decision makers.

Trade Fair or Exhibitions: Meaning, Services to the Owner, Fashion Shows and Exclusive Showrooms 

An exhibition stand or stall is a form of showroom, but it is a very distinctive form of showroom. It provides a temporary market place at which buyers and sellers meet. There are various types of exhibitions, international trade fairs, national and local fairs and exhibitions (usually sponsored by a chamber of commerce or trade association).

There are indoor or outdoor public exhibitions and fairs and shows available for the said purposes, e.g., agricultural and industrial machinery and equipment, cottage industries and handicrafts, fashion shows and parades, domestic electric appliances, office machines and appliances, etc.

An article shown at an exhibition at least makes a good impression without creating actual demand. A man is greatly impressed with a typewriter, time-clock or simple appliance. He makes up his mind to buy one sooner or later. Usually, people are in a buying mood when they visit an exhibition.

A successful stand in an exhibition or a trade fair gives three services to the owner:

1. It provides entirely new business which cannot be secured by any other method.

2. Buyers unwilling to meet salesmen or visit the shop or showroom will, on their own account, do a lot of purchases at these fairs or exhibitions. These buyers are usually resellers.

3. Competitors compete with each other for getting maximum business. The conservative buyer can compare the competitive lines displayed in close distance to one another. They need not disclose their identity. They welcome criticism of their regular suppliers only at such exhibitions. Thus, at exhibitions constructive and conservative buyers (resellers) can be easily handled and captured by rival sellers.

In many trades, exhibitions are held annually at the same period of the year, these exhibitions attract a large number of buyers every day. These annual exhibitions become the basis of many sales campaigns. Buyers purchase all their requirements, e.g., utensils, furnishings, appliances, clothing, fittings, at these exhibitions.

The Fashion Shows:

The fashion show idea can be exploited intelligently in the overall promotional strategy. A series of glamorous fashion shows are held in the metro cities like Mumbai, Delhi, Kolkata, on a massive scale. Currently they are also organized on the television, the best medium of advertisement to reach the target audience. TV now commands a viewership over 12 crores for a prime time flash in the national hook-up.

Indian Fashion Scene:

The fashion market in the national and the international scenario is increasing at a maddening pace. With the export boom coming through in a very big way, the fashion scenario has received a further boost. Looking at the number of boutiques and studios springing up in the country, one can sense the potential of the fashion business. A number of multinationals have entered and continue to enter into the Indian fashion business.


The industry has Rs.12,000 crores internal markets and Rs.1,600 crores export market. About 25,000 jobs are generated each year in the fashion field. Stagnation in this field seems a distant fear as the fashion market is growing at a tremendous rate. Hence, fashion shows and exhibitions are becoming very popular as means of promotion, it is said that if the world is ‘sound’ then fashion is the ‘melody’. If the world is ‘sky’, then the fashion is the ‘rainbow.’ Fashion usually means the ‘current style’. Life would be dry without fashion.

Exclusive Showrooms:

Generally the showroom idea is used as a tool of distribution. Currently in the face of growing competition and unfair undercutting by dealers, a number of consumer durable companies are opening plush, exclusive showrooms, arcades and galleries as powerful means of sales promotion to boost their sales. Exclusivity plays the role of Unique Selling Proposition (USP) to increase the sales.

Onida has set up around 20 Arcades in big cities. Bush has exclusive galliaries. Sumeet has established a gallery-cum-service centre (Ceat Shoppes). Vimal textiles have a large network of ultra-modern showrooms all over India.

A very great advantage the exclusive showrooms offer to a company, is the ability (impress the consumer with the whole range of its products at a time when all companies are going in for diversifications and range expansions.

Of course, the showrooms are only additional means of sales promotion/distribution. The distributor/dealer network systems have not been done away with completely. One cannot deny the importance of dealers. A prospect about to invest more than Rs.15,000.00 will obviously want to look at other brands in the market before making up his mind. The showroom idea is also to encourage customers to go back to dealers stocking the brands.

The exclusive showroom idea as a promising marketing device has proved a draw is undoubted. The future of such showrooms, particularly for T.V., V.C.R, Washing Machines, and costly textiles seems to be bright at the moment. Some companies have franchise-owned showrooms with identical colour schemes, furnishings, flooring and identical services.

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