Trade show tips that will keep you fresh and profitable.
It’s official: You’ve registered for your favorite trade show! Now’s the time to start planning.
Between the day-to-day challenges of running your business and the constant struggle to maintain sanity in your personal life, it’s tempting to just show up at a trade show with the hopes of connecting with the ideal vendors who best suit your needs.
Newsflash: The size of the multichannel marketplace — combined with shortened sales cycles and the unquenchable thirst for new products — doesn’t really allow for unplanned improvisation.
Not to worry! Here are five things you can do to stay in-the-know and ahead of the game!
1. Source product trends beforehand. Make a wish list!
Trending, high-margin wholesale products are the lifeblood of any retail operation. Before you attend a trade show, go online and search your product categories to see what’s hot.
Do a Google search: Think about what customers and buyers are searching for. Try using terms like “hot selling,” “best-selling,” “most popular,” “trends,” “trend reports,” etc. Just fill in your product category — or, even better, a specific product — and eventually, products and pricing will surface. Go to Google Trends and go crazy (in a good way).
Use Instagram and Pinterest: Social media is a great way to source product trends. On Instagram, search your product category by hashtag (e.g. #fashion #giftware #novelties) and take notes. On Pinterest, enter product categories or types of products your customers buy into Pinterest’s search bar.
Follow the Instagram accounts you like and the Pinterest users and boards that are most relevant. Look at blogs in your industry — they’re 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 or Walmart to see how they’ve priced 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. ASD Market Week does the matchmaking for you by providing a list of suggested vendors (and a list of 700 vendors who provide private label!) 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’re at the show.
Psst: ASD also offers sneak peeks at new vendors with exciting products.
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.
Bottom line? For every scheduled appointment you have, leave about the same amount of time to discover the unknown. Let’s call it “structured spontaneity.” Even grizzled trade show veterans still get that rush when they find that hidden wholesale treasure.
4. Budget properly.
If you’re spending a bunch of days at the trade show, know what your budget is and be sure to stay on 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, it’s vital to be aware of your buying dollars during all exhibitor appointments. Open-to-buy budgets have also become more and more important as consumers increasingly demand the new, exciting, and affordable products 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 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 to 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!