Tuesday, July 21, 2009

U.S. E-tailer Visits Her First Int’l Gift Show

By Megy Karydes, founder, World-Shoppe.com and Karydes Consulting

I launched www.World-Shoppe.com five years ago as a way to help support women in developing countries and to teach Americans why we should support fair trade. The fair trade movement in the United States is slowly gaining momentum but as more and more consumers are demanding accountability from manufacturers and retailers, www.World-Shoppe.com has become a trusted source for many of our loyal customers. Not only do our customers appreciate the fact that their purchases are helping others less fortunate, but they are drawn to the handmade quality and uniqueness of each product as well.

Therefore, I jumped at the chance to travel to Johannesburg, South Africa, in early August of this year to attend South Africa’s Gift show called the called the South African Handmade Collection. The opportunity would allow me to meet more artisans at the show as well as travel to other South African cities to meet with other fair trade artisan groups.

Well-versed with the trade show circuit having attended all of the major and some regional ones in the United States, I am handling my preparation to my first international trade show much the same way – by pre-planning as much as possible. Minor exceptions include making sure my passport was up to date (which it is), my international flight and hotel were booked (they are) and finding someone local to help show me around (I’m taking care of that two weeks before my trip.). I also reached out to the show planners to find out who else was traveling from the Midwest so I could connect with them in advance, too (it’s always nice to know others traveling with you – makes my experience richer anyway!).

Nonetheless, pre-planning for any trip, domestic or international, is a must because time is so limited once you arrive at a show. I’ve already reached out to my customers to let them know of my trip so they can share in the experience with me as well. I’ve also asked them if there is anything specific they’d like me to seek out so I can keep that in mind while I’m there!

Since many rules and regulations have surfaced when it comes to baby and children’s products sold in the United States, it will be important for me to keep those rules in mind as I shop for any children’s merchandise. This is something to really be aware of since different countries have different laws surrounding production and if you’re going to be importing into the U.S., you’ll need to make sure your imported products meet U.S. standards for safety, lead, and other rules surrounding your industry or categories.

I still have a few of weeks before my flight and have many questions which I hope to get answered before I leave: if I bring back product with me, do I have to pay taxes; how do I import items I order when I’m at the show; is internet access widely and readily available so I can blog about my experience while I’m there and stay in touch with family in the U.S.; what do I need to pack? And, then again, I don’t want to overthink my trip because, as we all know, sometimes we have to go into a show with an open mind and experience the magic of a show.

I’ll let you know how my trip goes! Or, you can follow my shenanigans at http://World-Shoppe.blogspot.com! Hope you have wonderful travels this summer!

-Megy Karydes, Founder
Fair trade gifts, home accessories and jewelry

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Out Of Your Comfort Zone

By Mary Gerlach, associate editor

Last week, I gave my colleague and fellow Baby & Kids editor Stephanie a sample of Snack Happened, a reusable snack bag, from Itzy Ritzy. Just a few days after sharing the bag, I read a blog post Stephanie wrote for Fancy Food & Culinary Products magazine about Snack Happened, and I was thrilled to see the review and her endorsement. It got me thinking about how often products within the juvenile industry cross over into other markets; in this case a child’s lunch bag crossed over into gourmet food.

When product designers limit what they do to a specific market, they limit the growth and sales potential of their product. This is exactly why children’s furniture is shown at trade shows as varied as ABC Kids Expo and High Point Market. The shows are worlds away but there is an overlap in the furniture market. Just as manufactures can’t afford to miss out on supposedly out-of-industry markets, retailers can’t afford to not attend new and different trade shows.

I’m going to the Chicago Market this week and I’m really looking forward to discovering what new finds the giftware market has to offer the juvenile market. Considering items like layette and personal care naturally fall within both categories, attending a gift show is an excellent way to discover new companies. And, the importance of keeping close tabs on trends in other industries cannot be understated. Yes, no one wants to copy someone else’s idea but innovation spreads, and examining product design and speaking with vendors really gets the creative juices flowing.

I’ll post next week about my trip to The Chicago Market, and my fellow editors and I will share with you our favorite finds.