Exclusive Coverage: Orbus Continues Strong Growth

Orbus Exhibit & Display Group prepares to enter the new year with a head of steam.

The company, which designs and manufactures standard and customized products targeted to the graphics display and trade show market, has been on a roll since consolidating its two Illinois locations into one 350,000-square-foot facility in June.

2014 was a landmark year for the company in another way too: it added about 90 people to its staff, bringing its total head count as the year closes out to about 360, according to Natalie Whited, Orbus’s vice president of marketing.

“We keep adding more people,” Whited says recently from the company’s Woodridge, Illinois headquarters. “The growth hasn’t really stopped.”

Revenue-wise, “we’ve seen consistent double-digit growth year over year.”

The company has come a long way since its start in 2001 with just three employees and two basic products. It was founded to target the trade show market but has evolved over the years and expanded its clientele to where today, just about 60 percent of its overall revenue is trade show related.

Orbus Exhibit & Display Group is a privately held company that was launched by the owners of the U.K.-based trade show display company Nimlok, which was founded in Britain in 1970 and branched out into the U.S. in 1981 and Canada in 1985.

Nimlok’s board of directors launched Orbus as a way to penetrate the U.S. trade show market by offering products that would complement those made by Nimlok.

For years the two companies shared a board of directors and in 2010 they merged. In the United States, Nimlok, which makes large custom and modular exhibit and display systems, is now a division within Orbus.

Four Divisions
Orbus Exhibit & Display Group is now divided into four divisions: Origin Exhibit Structure, SignPro Systems, Nimlok and Orbus365.

Orbus365, the largest division, provides portable products such as tents, flags, table throws, portable signs and lights. Nimlok is the company’s second-largest division in terms of revenue generation but that may change in the coming years, Whited says.

In 2011 “we created a business division that was completely focused on tension fabric exhibits and architectural fabric structures,” she says. That division, called Origin Exhibit Structures, has been experiencing 50 percent to 60 percent growth year over year, Whited says.

“Since its inception it has been growing very healthily and it’s quickly becoming an almost-number-two,” she says.

The fabric structures have proven to be popular, Whited says, because many of them are made to be sold off the shelf—all the end user customer has to do is provide the graphics. As a result, they’ve found acceptance not just at trade shows but anywhere fabric is needed to create outstanding visuals, she says.

 “We definitely saw a demand for lighter-weight type of structures so we wanted to capitalize on that marketing opportunity,” Whited says. “We’ve done a few stage sets in Las Vegas. There’s a lot of casinos that do stage sets and fabric structures within those stage sets.”

Orbus’s Origin Exhibit Structure division, also launched in 2011, opened a facility in the convention capital of the U.S.—Las Vegas. The company has since begun doing a lot more production at that facility due to demand, Whited says.

The smallest of the company’s divisions, Sign Pro Systems, was first introduced in 2007 and then launched as its own division in 2009.

“We saw that there was a healthy market for permanent signs,” Whited says.

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