This is one of those posts that I started last year â€¦ but I'm buying more today, so I'm throwing this post up as-is!
I've been shopping for interlocking convention mats over the last few days. These mats are also used in playschools and martial arts studios and all sorts of places. They're a couple feet wide, they link together to form a complete floor, they come in a variety of colors â€¦ and if you're going to spend hours a day standing in a trade show booth, you'll understand why they're worth well more than their weight!
The companies that sell "convention" fixtures really like making money. If something is a "convention" supply, it automatically costs more than the exact same thing sold to a different market. They thrive on customers who need something yesterday and on those that have marketing budgets that must be spent in full.
And if you have to rent convention supplies, you're basically boned. Rentals often cost more than buying the same thing.
Back, specifically, to tiles. I have a 10'x10' booth; it needs 25 2'x2' tiles to cover it completely. Over time, the tiles will become damaged due to the weight of tables or other displays on them, and of course, you may lose a couple, spill a drink on them, or otherwise need to replace them. So while I was tempted to simply buy 96 square feet of tiles (they are typically sold in increments of 24 square feet) and hide the "empty" square, I instead decided to buy a few more than I needed.
Looking at a typical convention supplies site, the price per tile is $6.56, or just under $200 for 30 of them. I nosed around a few sites, and the price is pretty close to the same. Some of them charge shipping, some offer free shipping. Depending on where you are in the country and how you transport them to and from your convention, this will of course add extra costs on a per-use basis. So keep that in mind.
After browsing the convention-specific sites, I checked out Amazon, and sure enough, there are tons of vendors selling basically the exact same product—just aimed at people who want them for their home gym or kid's playroom. I had to compromise on the colors (I wanted black tiles and red tiles) and ended up buying 120 square feet of red tiles from this vendor, a pack of 24 and a pack of 6. For a total of $103, after shipping costs.
Shop around, and look for deals that you can get by buying things early—slower shipping instead of overnighting things to the hotel to pick up the day of convention setup can save you money and stress.