The decision to ship direct to show site or to the advance warehouse is a common struggle for exhibitors as they work to plan the logistics of their exhibit materials. As deadlines approach, exhibitors must decide which option is right for their freight, timeline and budget. This article is dedicated to helping exhibitors understand the pros and cons associated with shipping to the advanced warehouse and direct to show site.


The advanced warehouse is an option for exhibitors to deliver their trade show booth and materials during the weeks leading up to an event. The show decorator accepts and stores freight at an offsite location, known as the advanced warehouse, up to 30 days prior to the start of the show.


  • Guaranteed On-Time Delivery: Once delivered to the advanced warehouse, the event decorator becomes responsible for transporting freight to show site. This option guarantees exhibit materials will arrive to the show on time.
  • Avoid Marshalling Yard Wait Time: These shipments are brought directly to show site by the decorator during exhibitor move-in. Since the decorator trucks do not wait in marshalling yards, exhibitors will avoid the possibility of receiving wait time surcharges.
  • Wider Delivery Window: The advanced warehouse is an off-site facility and accepts exhibitor freight over a period of weeks, giving exhibitors flexibility in delivery.
  • Advanced Warehouse Moves First: Exhibitors utilizing this option will be the first to receive their materials on the show floor and can begin the process of setting up their exhibit.
  • Peace of Mind: Advanced preparation can help exhibitors by making the event more organized and less stressful.


  • Increased Drayage/Material Handling Rates: Exhibitors who ship to the advanced warehouse will pay approximately 30% more in drayage charges. (For example, according to a recent show kit we reviewed, the CWT drayage charge for a crated or skidded shipment going to the advanced warehouse was $169.00 while the show site rate was $128.50).
  • Additional Handling: Exhibit material will be unloaded upon arrival, stored at the warehouse, loaded in preparation for the show and transported to the show site. The additional touches could result in damaged freight.
  • Overtime Charges if You’re Late: Exhibitors should be cautious of the dates and hours freight is accepted at the advanced warehouse. If your carrier arrives outside of the hours or days listed in the show kit, overtime surcharges will apply.
  • Wait Times: There is usually a surge in deliveries during the last week the advanced warehouse is accepting freight. If there is a line of trucks waiting to be unloaded, carrier wait times may apply.
  • The Advanced Warehouse Does Not Accept Everything: The advanced warehouse only accepts pallets, crates, packaged carpets/flooring, and cases. Pad-wrapped and un-skidded items are required to ship direct to show site.
  • Reduced Preparation Time: Exhibitors who need extra preparation time should opt for show site delivery. If shipping to the advanced warehouse, exhibitors must be prepared well in advance of the trade show. Last minute changes/updates will have to be done at show site.
  • Freight Storage at the Advanced Warehouse: Sometimes, freight shipped to the advance warehouse is not stored IN the warehouse but loaded into older cartage trailers that will sit in the yard of the warehouse until they’re hauled to the exhibit hall. There is potential for damage from weather (extreme heat/cold and rain) and product theft from trailers that don’t get locked after freight is loaded. If this is a concern, contact the show decorator and ask them where your freight will be stored before deciding to ship to the advance warehouse.


Shipping direct to show site is an option in which exhibitors must deliver their freight to show venue during the dates and times listed in the show kit. Move-in occurs in a short window right before the official show dates.


  • Room for Additional Show Preparation: Exhibitors will have additional time to prepare for an event or make last minute changes/updates.
  • Reduce Risk of Damaged Freight: Direct to show ensures your shipment will be touched less, reducing the potential for damage.
  • Reduced Material Handling Fees: Exhibitors will be charged approximately 30% less in drayage/material handling fees when shipping direct to show site.


  • Marshalling Yards: All direct to show shipments must first go to marshalling yards, as a holding place, before being called to the unloading dock. Even if it arrives early, your freight might get held at the marshalling yard and may not reach your booth space until much later in the day.
  • If carriers experience excessive wait times at the marshalling yard, additional charges may be passed to the exhibitors.
  • Planning I&D Can be Difficult: Since it can be difficult to plan when your freight will arrive, it may leave your I&D team waiting to build your booth. Additional wait time may lead to additional charges.
  • Specific Time Windows Can Lead to Higher Shipping Charges: To ensure shipments arrive to show site during the assigned window of time, specifically during targeted move-ins, carriers may increase rates.


The best option really depends on the size of your shipment, budget and your timeline. Although we cannot give you the best option without understanding the details of your shipment, we can provide you with general information.

Shipments under 1000 lbs.

Generally, for smaller shipments, under 1000 lbs., consider shipping to the advanced warehouse. This option will help you to avoid target times and wait times. The charge for material handling may be slightly greater, but this option is likely the most cost-effective and will ensure you are one of the first to receive materials at your booth space.

Shipments over 1000 lbs.

For larger shipments, the best option really depends on your budget and timeline. A combination may be something to consider. Shipping some items to the advanced warehouse, such as flooring and hanging signs, will ensure certain materials arrive first. This will help you begin the process of setting up your exhibit while waiting for the rest of your shipment to arrive at the show site.


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