The Hidden Costs of Cheap Online Pop-Up Displays

IMG_6730Tempted by that too-good-to-be-true $800 pop-up display you found online? Trust your instincts. That pop-up may seem budget-friendly now, but it won’t be when you need to replace it next year—or sooner.  There is quite a bit of difference between cheap pop-up displays from discount online retailers or auction web sites and quality-manufactured ones from authorized dealers. Once you examine the differences, you’ll see there’s no comparison.

Product Quality & Materials
It’s hard to tell the quality of the displays you’re considering purchasing from online images. Frankly, they all can look the same. However, the difference comes in the grade of materials used to manufacture the pop-up display frame and its associated hardware.

Discount retailers often import low-quality pop-up displays made in other countries, and those manufacturers may cut corners with low-grade aluminum and plastic to keep costs down.  This applies to not just the frame, but also the connecting pieces, cases and fabric panels—which may not even be fire retardant, a requirement to exhibit at most U.S. trade shows.  With frequent use of cheap pop-ups, you’ll notice parts loosen over time, fabric frays with repeated application and removal of hook and loop graphics, and cases or their locks break from shipping and handling. In addition, if you’re looking at eBay, that pop-up is most likely used, with unknown quality, condition and origin.

To ensure you’re getting a high-quality product, contact a professional exhibit house that can tell you exactly how and of what materials their pop-up displays are made. They can also provide you with the necessary fire retardant certificates to provide to show management.  When it comes to quality, think long-term value over low cost, especially if you have a jam-packed show schedule and you need a reliable, durable display that will withstand the rigors of your event program.

Product Features
When you price shop, make sure you evaluate similar systems with the same features. You might be comparing a base, low-end model to one that’s top of the line. For example, cheap frames may require cumbersome assembly with individual connecting pieces. A quality, self-locking frame opens in seconds, saving you time on installation. A cheap frame may also be limited in the accessories available. Lights, shelves and counter conversion kits are pretty standard, but what about more advanced audio-visual needs, storage space or custom graphics?

Pop-up Displays by E&E Exhibit SolutionsQuality pop-up displays have a variety of custom accessories to take your booth from simple to spectacular. You can add monitor brackets and keyboard shelves for computer demos, locking cabinets for your equipment or marketing materials and custom large-format trade show graphics. Look for a proven exhibit provider with an in-house graphic production department that can design, print and fit your graphics to the pop-up display you purchase. Many quality pop-ups also have expansion kits to take your 10×10 displays to 10×20 displays. Take time to think about your company’s future growth plans, so you have the right foundation to build on top of the investment you make today.

Warranties & Customer Service
When that cheap pop-up display breaks, where do send it for repair? Does it have a warranty? Can you talk to an actual person to order replacement parts? With a quality pop-up, just contact your exhibit house, who can coordinate no-hassle, warranty repairs. Most high-quality pop-up displays come with a lifetime warranty on the frame and connecting hardware—just one free warranty repair can save you hundreds of dollars in the long run. Without a warranty, you’re throwing your money away on a limited-use, disposable pop-up display.

In addition, an exhibit house will provide you with a dedicated account manager, who you can easily contact at any time with your needs and questions. You can also consult with this person on the many types of trade show displays and graphics available to make sure you are making the most of your budget.

Overall Value vs. Price
Before you submit that online order, consider the product quality, features and customer service you’ll receive. How much are you willing to sacrifice for what seems like a “good” deal? With a quality pop-up display, you’ll make the most of your budget over time and can relax knowing you have a great product which is covered under warranty and serviced by a company you trust. If price is still your deciding factor, consider a pop-up exhibit rental for a fraction of the purchase price.

Pop-up Display Comparison Chart

Pop-up Display Features

Discount Online Retailers

Exhibit House







Country of Origin

(most likely China)





Add-ons/Expansion Kits


Many Options



Custom; Produced In-house




Customer Service

Call Center

Dedicated Contact

Business Model

Volume Sales

Form Partnerships