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Advantages and disadvantages of trade fairs

Advantages and disadvantages of trade fairs

This article aims to identify and explain some of the advantages and disadvantages of trade fairs. It also looks into the definitions and different types of trade fairs/exhibitions. Trade fairs/exhibitions are perhaps one of the most effective methods to bring producers, distributors, and customers together. In 2018, the total global expenses of both exhibitors and visitors were around $139.6 billion dollars (Guttmann, 2020).

Definitions of trade fair/exhibition

A trade fair is an exhibition where manufacturers show their products to other people in the industry and try to get business (Harper Collins Publishers, n.d.).

Trade fairs are organised so that companies in a particular industry can display their products and services to the potential buyers, study activities of competitors, and explore current market trends and opportunities. A trade fair is also known as trade show, exhibition, or expo.

Different types of trade fairs

There are three basic types of trade fairs/exhibitions i.e. exhibitions aimed only at the consumers, exhibitions aimed only at the businesses, and those aimed at and open to both. The third type is the most common (Lancaster & Reynolds, 2004).

Advantages of trade fairs

Trade fairs offer organisations and their representatives a good opportunity to meet potential customers, and general public. Likewise, they offer the general public and customers a good opportunity to raise issues of concern and discuss them with the representatives from participating organisations.

Organisations can deliver their messages directly to a large number of relevant and interested people. Face-to-face interactions are very effective to influence consumers’ decisions. Trade shows provide organisations opportunities to engage with their customers and general public directly and efficiently.

Organisations can raise awareness of their products and services by participating in trade shows. They can also assess the immediate reaction of the attendees by providing them with a feedback book. Similarly, they can increase their contacts and generate qualified sales leads.

Many trade fairs are open to a large and diverse range of target audiences. This provides organisations with an opportunity to display and promote their products or service to a broader group of people that may have little or no knowledge of their products and services.

Disadvantages of trade fairs

Trade shows can often be very expensive. Organisations need to buy stand space and pay for the stand designs. Likewise, they need to pay for the accommodation, food, and travel expenses for their representatives who take part at the trade shows. The cost of time out of the office also needs to be taken into account.

The possibility of being overshadowed by competitors is another disadvantage of trade fairs. It is very likely that an organisation’s major competitors are also exhibiting at the same event. So, how will the organisation stand out and draw public attention to their stand? Not an easy job!

Participating in trade fairs may sometimes be very stressful and risky. Representatives may sometimes have to deal with hostile attendees whose reactions may be violent or negative. Moreover, by choosing an irrelevant trade show, organisations may display their products to the irrelevant and wrong audiences.

Due to global lockdowns, vast majority of trade shows were scrapped or postponed in 2020 causing the organisers and the venues a massive financial loss. This shows that a lot of money and time invested to organise and take part in trade fairs, can go in vain with an unexpected change in the macro-environment.

Examples of international trade fairs/exhibitions

Top trade fairs/exhibitions in the UK

Some of the top trade fairs in the UK are Pure London, the London Textile Fair, the Property Investor Show, World Aviation Festival, the National Franchise Exhibition, World Travel Market London, the International Food & Drink Event, and the Business Start-up Show (10Times, 2021).

Top trade fairs/exhibitions in the USA

Some of the top trade fairs in the USA are Magic Las Vegas, International Production & Processing Expo, National Restaurant Association Show, the New York Times Travel Show, Automotive Aftermarket Products Expo, International Gem & Jewellery Show, and International Wireless Communications Expo.

Top trade fairs/exhibitions in China

Some of the top trade fairs in China are the Canton Fair, the Yiwu Commodities Fair, Beijing International Auto Show, Intertextile Shanghai Apparel Fabrics, China International Fashion Fair, China International Medical Equipment Fair, and East China Import and Export Commodity Fair (ECF).

Top trade fairs/exhibitions in India

Some of the top trade fairs in India are Globe-Tech Engineering Expo, AAHAR – International Food & Hospitality Fair, India International Trade Fair. India International Garment Fair, Automation Expo, Pharma Tech Expo, Poultry India Exhibition, Travel & Tourism Fair-Kolkata, and Beauty & Spa Expo.

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Last update: 19 March 2021


Harper Collins Publishers (n.d.) Trade fair, available at: (accessed 18 March 2021)

Guttmann, A. (2020) Direct spending of exhibitions worldwide in 2018, by region, available at: (accessed 18 March 2021)

Invest Northern Ireland (n.d.) Trade shows and exhibitions – Advantages and disadvantages of trade shows and exhibitions, available at: (accessed 09 June 2019)

Lancaster, G. & Reynolds, P. (2004) Marketing, 1st edition, New York: Palgrave Macmillan

10Times (2021) Top 100 events, available at: (accessed 18 March 2021)

Photo credit: Image Display & Graphics Ltd

Author: M Rahman

M Rahman writes extensively online and offline with an emphasis on business management, marketing, and tourism. He is a lecturer in Management and Marketing. He holds an MSc in Tourism & Hospitality from the University of Sunderland. Also, graduated from Leeds Metropolitan University with a BA in Business & Management Studies and completed a DTLLS (Diploma in Teaching in the Life-Long Learning Sector) from London South Bank University.

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