Trade show tips that will keep you fresh and profitable…
It’s official: the trade show season is upon us. (Isn’t it always upon us?) Due to busy schedules, running your shops, and the day-to-day, it’s beyond tempting just to show up at a trade show with hopes of stumbling upon those world-changing products and vendors – and praying for sell-through. That, and doing your best not to pass out from exhaustion along the way (as we all know running around a trade show floor without pre-planning can feel like a B2B triathlon). The size of the multi-channel marketplace, shortened sales cycles, and the thirst for new products doesn’t really allow for the less efficient ‘just show up’ as much as it used to (although we wish it did). You’ve registered for your favorite trade show. Now is the time to start planning!
1. Source product trends beforehand. Make your wish list.
Trending, high-margin wholesale products are the lifeblood of any retail operation. So, before you attend a trade show go online and search your product categories to see what’s hot.
Google search: It’s import to search how customers and buyers search. Use terms like “hot selling” “best-selling” “most popular” “trend reports” “trends” Just fill in your product category (or, even better a very specific product) and eventually products and pricing will surface. Go to Google Trends and go crazy (in a good way).
Use Instagram and Pinterest: Use social media to source product trends. This is huge, all buying teams should be required to check these. On Instagram search your product category by hashtag #fashion #giftware #novelties and take notes. On Pinterest, enter product categories or types of products your customers buy into Pinterest’s search bar. Here’s an example.
Follow the Instagram accounts you like, and the Pinterest users and boards that are most relevant. We’ll go deep into social media tactics in another series of posts. Look at blogs in your industry – easy to find by Googling something like “Top Fashion blogs in the U.S.” or “Best kitchen and bath designers blogs.” We’ve listed some here.
Check Online Retailers: Go to Amazon, Walmart and any of the other big boys and see how they price similar items. Once you gather your intel, make a list of everything.
2. Match the vendors who will be at the show with products from your wishlist – and schedule appointments.
Ok, so you have your list. In some cases, you even have pricing in mind too. The best trade shows in the business give you access to exhibitor data and allow you to log into an online directory to start your planning before you set foot on the show floor. Here you will find exhibiting vendors that carry the products you seek and a place for you to save favorites in your profile/account. Some shows, like ASD Market Week, do the matchmaking for you by providing a list of suggested vendors you should visit based on the categories you register for. Prefer to do it yourself? No problem! Armed with your trend picks, pricing, and some vendor knowledge, reach out to make appointments for when you are at the show.
INSIDER’S TIP: Be sure to download the ASD trade show mobile app once it goes live so you have all you need in the palm of your hand onsite!
3. Balance your time between vendors you know, appointments, and new discoveries.
Now you’ve made your pre-show appointments with suppliers you currently work with and the new ones you’re excited about (you matched vendors to your product trends wishlist, right?). Now all you have to do is allow for unexpected discoveries, those hidden product gems, and the amazing vendors you didn’t plan for (keep in mind, they might not even be mentioned on a vendor’s website or in a trade show’s online planner). This is gold. Bottom line? For every scheduled appointment you have, leave about the same amount of time to discover the unknown. Let’s just call it “structured spontaneity.” Even grizzled trade show veterans still get that rush when they find that hidden wholesale treasure.
4. Budget properly pre-show.
If you’re spending a bunch of days at the trade show, know what your budget is and be sure to stay on (spending) track so that you aren’t left with an empty wallet – so to speak – by Day 2! While it’s easy to want to spend more than you have at trade shows, it’s vital to be aware of your buying dollars during all exhibitor appointments. Keep future appointments and vendor visits top of mind. Open-to-buy budgets have also become more and more important as consumers increasingly demand the new, exciting, and affordable that you need to replenish quickly.
This year is also shaping up to the biggest it’s been in U.S retail sales in nearly 10 years – especially in certain key merchandise categories. Be ready. Spread your budget out accordingly so that you can return to your store with a strong assortment of inventory from a strong assortment of vendors. As you know, it’s all about buying according to trend, margin and having the right combination of staples and statements.
5. Get your travel sorted. Seriously.
We were really tempted to make this item #1. More often than not, the trade show you plan on attending has partnerships with local hotels and can provide as much as 50% or more off of the going rate. File this under, “just get it over with.” You’ll save a lot of money and then you don’t have to think about it. If you’re more of a home-away-from-home type, you can always book AirBnB as an affordable alternative.
Do these five things and you’ll be able focus on actually having fun at the show you’ll be attending. That, and drink plenty of water when you get there. And wear comfortable shoes!
ASD is just around the corner! Got your badge? Great! Book a deeply discounted Vegas hotel here. Otherwise, do you need to find trending, high-margin products for your shop? Join us at ASD Market Week in Las Vegas and select from over 2,600 vendors at the largest lifestyle accessories and general merchandise trade show in the U.S.! Get your free buyer’s badge to the next ASD here.
By Brady Kimball, Editor-in-Chief of the ASD Insider