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Trade show logistics - from tracking shipments to completing country-specific paperwork - can be exhausting and costly

It’s important for companies to establish a plan for navigating warehouse pickups, customs clearance, and beyond. Before you hand off your valuable booth materials to just anyone, make sure you have an established shipping partner that understands your industry and trade show needs. 

The following are our top tips to help you determine the best methods for getting your instruments, merchandise, and devices exactly where they need to be, and right on time!

1. Plan trade show logistics in advance

When you sign up for a trade show, you’ll receive its itinerary and processes for accepting incoming shipments of booth materials. Depending on their timetables, you may be asked to ship directly to their loading dock or to an affiliate warehouse. This can be tricky when you’re juggling multiple shows in a short timeframe, and you should triple-check to ensure you’re shipping to the correct location based on the show’s window of availability as well as your own capacity and schedule. Longer intervals between shows can present just as much confusion if you have nowhere to store your merchandise in the interim. Finding local storage options is much more effective than returning your merchandise to your company facility or warehouse, so having an advance plan for your entire trade show circuit is essential.

When choosing a shipping partner, many companies believe they have to work with their manufacturer or the trade show’s suggested carrier, but that isn’t their speciality. With expensive equipment and new opportunities at stake, you can’t afford to leave your materials to inexperienced handlers. Unlike contract manufacturers, Mercury provides full tracking visibility and will coordinate directly with your manufacturer to ensure prompt pickup and delivery across all shows.

Our team is highly experienced and prepared to meet the demands of a full trade show itinerary. With our full-spectrum service, you can ship to advance warehouses or from show to show, and we even provide flexible, cost-effective short term storage options from our partners between showings. Even if you have multiple booths heading to different locations, we make it our mission to understand all of the moving parts so that the right materials reach the right show every time.

2. Make sure your international paperwork is accurate

One of the most confusing and important aspects that you need to consider when planning for international trade shows is the paperwork that comes with it. Every country has different requirements and standards, and small errors can mean missing the show altogether when your materials are stuck in customs. 

If you have high value items that are only going to stay in the country for the duration of the show, then you want to avoid paying full duties and taxes. Be sure your shipments include accurate ATA carnets, which are permits for your items to indicate to customs that they are not to be fully imported, and therefore full fees are not applicable. Likewise, HTS (Harmonized Tariff Schedule) and Schedule B codes, which let customs know the materials contained in your shipment in a universal language, are sometimes required. The correct Incoterms®, which indicate the party responsible for shipping costs and fees, are also crucial. It’s important to know when you need to include these codes, and how to appropriately label your shipments.

Additionally, your company should be mindful of choosing the optimal customs value and declared value for each shipment. Remember: if you’re shipping items for a tradeshow, you’re not selling them, and having typical sales mark-ups reflected in your customs value leads to higher duties and taxes. Meanwhile, if you’re using insurance, be sure that your declared value aligns with your customs value. Otherwise, you risk being charged higher duties at customs’ discretion. 

More so than anything else, when completing required paperwork, it’s important to remember that all requirements and recommendations depend on your unique circumstances, and there is no one-size-fits-all solution to the complicated world of customs. At Mercury, our dedicated team carefully reviews and determines the best steps for a hassle-free paperwork experience, tailored to your products, industry, and destination.

3. Choose the packaging that makes sense for your shipment

Another major caveat to consider as you prepare for your show is packaging. When determining your packaging, you should consider your destination’s unique regulations in regards to shipment markings. Some instruments, like medical devices, may require specific markings or may be deemed hazardous at certain locales. If you’re not careful, your shipments can be stuck in customs or even sent back to their country of origin, and you could miss your show. Many trade show shipments use standard cardboard boxes, others used rugged plastic containers and the most sensitive of shipments employ custom crates fitted perfectly for the items inside.

4. Consider insurance options to protect from potential damage

Before shipping, you’ll also need to consider the appropriate insurance to protect your company from any potential damage caused by mishandling of shipments at airports, in warehouses, aboard trucks, and more. Consider factors like the declared value of your instruments and the amount of time you’ve owned them. While many shipping companies may offer some insurance coverage, these plans can be limited in scope. Mercury provides high quality and comprehensive insurance and our expertise allows you to make the right decisions for your packaging or crating and insurance coverage needs.

From country-specific paperwork to insurance to packaging to scheduling, international trade shows present as many challenges as they do new opportunities. When you’re heading to a show, you want to focus on finding new clients and building exciting partnerships—not worrying about whether your materials will even clear customs. That’s why finding the right partner makes all the difference.

At Mercury, we provide a unique, tailored experience that takes the logistical stress and guesswork out of trade shows. We review your itinerary and handle your paperwork, including ATA Carnets to make the best use of your time, save you money, and take the stress out of international transportation.

Reach out to Mercury today to learn more about how we can help you prepare for your upcoming trade shows!




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