When it comes to industry-recognized spa trade shows, retailers have three options: exhibit, attend or stay home. Okay, if we’re being honest, staying home really isn’t an option because, whether it’s local, regional, or national, spa trade shows provide a unique opportunity to grow your business.

Unfortunately, in many cases, dealers feel participation in these shows to be cost-prohibitive so they choose not to go at all. These businesses are missing out on the chance to weigh their competition, learn about new trends and innovations, expand their inventory, network with vendors, increase sales, and expand their knowledge of best practices. The question isn’t should you participate in the show, it’s what show(s) should you choose to participate in?

Identifying Your Goals

Spa dealers have different goals for different types of shows. Popular shows include national and regional industry trade shows, home shows, boat shows, outdoor shows, and state fairs. Most often, dealers participate in shows with these goals in mind:

  • Increasing brand awareness
  • Building relationships with vendors and suppliers
  • Networking with industry peers
  • Making sales and generating new sales leads
  • Gaining industry knowledge

If your priority is building relationships with vendors and suppliers, gaining industry knowledge, and networking with industry peers, attending national and regional industry trade shows should be your focus. On the other hand, should your goal be increasing brand awareness, generating new leads, and making sales, exhibiting at local and regional home shows, boat shows, and state fairs are your best bet.

The Finance Factor

Whether you can afford to attend or exhibit at a trade show depends largely on the size of your business. However, even small businesses that plan ahead can take advantage of trade show opportunities. It boils down to budgeting: find a trade show you want to participate in and build the cost into your budget. First, let’s look at the average cost of attending national/international and regional industry trade shows.

Attending National/International Show


  • Expo Hall $30
  • Conference Pass & Expo Hall $230
  • Day Pass (Conference & Hall) $145


  • Expo Hall $50
  • Conference Pass & Expo Hall $290
  • Day Pass (Conference & Hall) $170

Attending Regional Show



  • Expo Hall Free
  • Industry Certification Courses $275-$995
  • Specialty Sessions: $0-$195


  • Exhibit Hall $45
  • Industry Certification Courses $275-$1195
  • Specialty Sessions $40-$215

Attending a trade show is relatively inexpensive even with the cost of travel, meals, and accommodations are taken into account. In most cases, a business can send employees for less than $1,000 per person. However, with the costs for display materials, giveaways, swag, shipping, and staff including travel, meals, and accommodations, exhibiting at a large show can easily reach the $10,000 to $40,000 range.

Exhibiting at Home & Garden Shows

Home shows can be very lucrative sales venues for spa dealers. A study published in Spa Retailer states that generally speaking, dealers “participate in four to five home shows a year, spending about 30% of [their] conventional advertising budget to participate in and promote these shows.” According to their survey, retailers spend an average of $5,000 – $6,000 per home show making the average cost of exhibiting at five home shows a year around $30,000.

The sale of those 33 spas at a conservative $7,000 selling price with a 40% profit margin built in would generate $92,400 in net profit.

The same survey reports that dealers sell an average of 33 spas per year at home shows. The sale of those 33 spas at a conservative $7,000 selling price with a 40% profit margin built-in would generate $92,400 in net profit. That $92,400 represents over a 300% return on investment. With that kind of ROI, how can you not afford to participate?

Exhibiting at Boat & RV Shows

Boat shows are also a good place to make sales. One regional boat and RV show in Illinois offers its exhibitors bulk spaces. The tier 1 space offers up to a 2400 square foot display area for around $8 a square foot. An 800 square foot area costs between $6,000 and $7,000. Plenty of space to display four of five spas. That cost also includes the following:

  • Freight handling to/from exhibit space
  • Product Handling
  • Complimentary product storage on all move-in/move-out and all show days
  • 30-day warehouse storage of carpet, freight, and display materials
  • Aisle carpeting
  • Official Show Guide listing

Chris Ogden of Time Machine Hot Tubs in Longview Texas says he gets “the greatest return on investment” at boat/RV shows. “Offering $5,000 to $10,000 spas compares favorably when sitting next to $50,000 boats and $250,000 motor homes.”

Exhibiting at State Fairs

The best thing about exhibiting at state fairs is they easily see attendance rates in the hundreds of thousands. The 2016 Missouri State Fair had over 356,000 visitors while the same year the Texas State Fair saw 2,408,032 visitors. Where else can you gain access to potentially millions of new leads?

With boulevard tent rental at $600 plus $142 for 220v 50amp utility access, space can be had for under $1,000 at one fair. At that kind of price with that many prospects, the state fair is a no-brainer.

Many of these events advertise up to a full year in advance, giving you plenty of time to work the costs into your annual budget.

  • Exhibiting Space – 30% of overall budget
  • Show Services – 19% of overall budget
  • Exhibit Design – 10% of overall budget
  • Shipping and Drayage – 10% of overall budget
  • Promotions – 5% of overall budget
  • Booth Staffing and Travel – 20% of overall budget
  • Miscellaneous Costs – 5% of overall budget

There is much less planning involved to attend a show without exhibiting. Local shows (within reasonable driving distance) can cost less than $500 per person including gas, meals and lodging. The important thing is choosing a show that will truly benefit your business.

Choosing the Right Show

When looking for the right show, internet research is a must, but word-of-mouth recommendations are just as important. To get a real feel for the success of the event, reach out to other spa retailers who have exhibited at or attended the show in the past. The following information is also important in making a show choice:

  • Vendor lists for target market representation
  • Whether or not your competitors will be there
  • If business owners, stores, and buyers you want to build relationships with are attending

As your show search narrows, details such as whether available exhibit space is indoor or outdoor, the demographics of attendees, booth locations, and estimated attendance will also be factors to consider.

Keep in mind that your goals may change depending on what a specific show is offering. As you learn about different spa show opportunities, ask yourself these questions:

  1. Is it likely that a significant amount of current and potential customers and vendors will be in attendance?
  2. What benefits does this show offer my business (increased leads, professional development, new products, or better product knowledge)?
  3. Does the cost/benefit ratio for this show work to my advantage?

Whether you plan to exhibit or just attend, be sure to give special attention to shows that offer the best return on your investment, that reach your target audience and that meet your participation goals.

Why not attend a show that isn’t directly related to your industry? It’s a great way to reach an entirely new customer base.

If you’re looking at shows with exhibiting in mind, think outside the box, too. Why not attend a show that isn’t directly related to your industry? How about a medical equipment show? A physical therapy/rehab show? A spa treatment center show? It pays to explore options on the fringe of the industry. It’s a great way to reach an entirely new customer base.

It’s Show Time!

Participating in a show doesn’t necessarily mean putting on a big exhibit. It’s often better to just attend large trade shows than to exhibit at them, especially if budgets are tight.  Fortunately, show sales opportunities are available to even the tightest budgets with a little research and planning.

At the end of the day, no other type of marketing can replace face-to-face interaction between business and consumer. Only the human element allows you to share product knowledge, receive instant feedback and engage in real-time conversations. So, what show will it be? Home show, boat show or state fair?