Monday, November 30, 2009

Trade Shows 101

posted by Mary Gerlach, associate editor

This January during the New York International Gift Fair (Jan. 30-Feb. 4, 2010), Baby & Kids’ Associate Editor Ashley Trent will lead the new buyer orientations. Ashley will answer questions, discuss the market and help new buyers make the most of their show.

The latest event for Ashley, who also writes for Giftware News and Fancy Food & Culinary Products, got the Baby & Kids editors thinking about what advice we’d offer show attendees. The overall theme: Go everywhere and see everything. Here are a few tips. Any advice you want to share? Leave your tips in the comments.

Wear comfortable shoes.
I learned this the hard way at my first trade show in Atlanta.

Explore all the divisions of the trade show you're attending, even if they don't pertain to your store. You never know what display ideas, color/texture trends or knowledgeable people you'll come across.

Look for deals. It’s just like shopping at the mall. If you can save 10 percent by ordering on a specific day, do it. Free freight is another perk showrooms and temps offer. Show management will likely have a list of these exhibitors and showrooms. No matter what the economy is like, there’s never an excuse not to get the best price.

Enjoy the show. It’s busy. It’s crowded. There’s never enough time. But, the new products and exciting designers are why you do what you do. Don’t let the stress of the economy or what may be happening at your store while you’re away decrease the value of the show.

Keep an open mind. Don’t just go to the same old showrooms. If I see something in a rep group’s window that has an interesting color, shape, whatever, I check it out. You don’t have to stay for a long time if nothing catches your eye, but you never know what you’ll find. I once found children’s towels and umbrellas in a Chicago showroom that carried mostly gourmet food (they drew me in with salsa samples).

Go into all of the showrooms. You never know what will be in the corner and where the next best thing will come from. Be sure to explore. A lot of showrooms will want to set up an appointment, but you might not have time. Take a little notebook so you can remember what you saw and make fast notes.

Socialize. Plan on attending some of the special events even if you are tired. You’ll be able to meet other retailers and maybe even get new ideas.

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