Could the traders morph into a demo? Ie only bring 1 of everything. Don't actively sell, but show their wares & stimulate online orders (or possibly have a system to take orders at the time, but it would need to be slick so they didnt get lost, or end up with people sat in ordering queues for half the day).
Sorry for a very late response.
Taking samples was tried by C&L a few years ago and was a disaster. Anyway there are a lot of unseen costs in taking a sales stand to a show. First the stand fees, except for the larger shows (Warley BRM etc) they are not always that large a part of the costs. We have given up some shows where a free stand would not have helped. Then there is subsistance, one or two hotel rooms and meals etc. Cheap rooms are sometimes available but it adds up. Then transport. We have to rent a van for 3 days, luckily we have a good deal with our supplier that stops it from being 4. We did own a van for many years and te reality was it became a hidden cost, probably not much different from renting. Then there is the unseen costs, staff to be paid, typically 3 to 5 man days of stock preparation aswell. Also losses and damages at shows need to taken into account. Increased insurance costs etc.
So the nett result is that margins at shows are somewhere between appauling and negative. People wonder why I refuse when asked for a show discount (especially at the more expensive shows)
The other problem here is the cost model - online ordering can include a 'where did you hear about us' box, which would allow people to link the exhibition which generated their specific interest for that order - but would the traders then donate a cut to that show? Also for punters - are we happy paying for show entrance, and then P&P for subsequent online orders?
We get this feedback and it is incredibly random and unreliable. For some shows the follow on orders are the only reason for attending, so adding another cost will not work.
I must confess I frequently get customers refusing to pay £3 postage but are quite happy to drive into town, pay for parking etc and take longer. No pleasing some people. They do not take into account that I have to buy jiffy bags and other packing materials, spend time making sure it is carefully packed, and I have to either pay Royal Mail £900 a year to collect the post, or drive daily to drop off the post at the PO.
Derek Russan, Eileens Emporium.