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Find Something to Love

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Bi-weekly blog from the N.C. Retail Merchants Association
By: Jeanne Eury  |  February 24, 2016

With Valentine’s Day smack dab in the middle of February, we thought this week’s post should be about Finding Something to Love. Because when you think about it, finding something to love is often the key to success for retailers and small businesses. Finding products and services about which you feel passionate is paramount in your ability to attract customers, sell your products with conviction, and learn more about the community you serve.

Most businesses use “Market” or buying shows and tradeshows to gather new product information and purchase products for their stores. The most successful shows are those attended with a clear goal in mind and focus on accomplishing your pre-show goals.

Why You Should Attend Buying Shows

There are a number of reasons to attend tradeshows and markets. The main reasons given for not attending these events are time and expense. Honestly, tradeshows save you both. Time is the most valuable resource a retailer has. Setting aside ten to 20 days a year to attend a tradeshow is a really smart use of your time.

First, it allows you to combine education, your seasonal inventory purchasing, networking, and valuable time outside of the four walls of your business. Imagine the time you would spend attempting to accomplish all of the things you can accomplish by attending just two tradeshows. If you were to try to track the time you are, or should be, spending to take ten or more classes on retail-specific topics, you would end up traveling multiple times. Consider the time you would need to research potential wholesalers, new designers, and cross-sell products. Additionally, the time you would spend attending local networking events quickly adds up at just one event per month. What many retailers lack, and sorely need, is time outside of your business to look in… a few times a year at a tradeshow affords you this outside-in perspective in a way that simply taking a day off does not. Realize a show gives you the opportunity to combine all of these keys to success into several trips per year, providing you huge time savings and an invaluable investment in your business.

In an article in Forbes Magazine, Georganne Bender and her partner Rich Kizer, retail speakers and consultants, stressed the importance that businesses of all sizes gain from attending tradeshows.

“Missing out on your industry’s tradeshows can impact your business success in a variety of ways, including the missed opportunities of finding new vendors, staying competitive to your competition, and not expanding you store’s inventory based on market trends and proven data.”

What Shows Should You Consider?

There are a number of shows each year but here are several national shows to consider:

·         Apparel and Accessories-Intermezzo Collection

·         Stylemax, Fame (junior apparel)

·         Moda, Dallas Apparel and Accessories Market

·         AmericasMart Atlanta Apparel

·         Capsule (men and women)

·         Project (men)

·         MAGIC

·         ASD Market Week – great article about this show here

·         SPREE

·         Children’s Products-ABC Kids Expo

·         Gift and Specialty- ASD Market Week, SPREE

·         Pets – SuperZoo, Global Pet Expo, The Aquatic Experience

·         Jewelry – SJTA Atlanta Jewelry Show, JIS Show

Also ask your peers in other cities who aren’t competitors to provide you with show recommendations. Google a few brands that you like and review their exhibit schedules. If you like a brand’s products, they are most likely exhibiting at shows with other wholesalers you would like.

Before The Show

Make travel arrangements as soon as possible. Most events have negotiated room discounts, but lower-priced rooms often sell out fast. If you have peers who are attending, see if room sharing is something that makes sense to save money. Remember that Tuesday and Thursday are typically days with lower airline fares. Determine if it is worth altering your arrival/departure dates to take advantage of a discounted ticket.

Get a map of the exhibit floor and plan your time. Make a schedule to see all of the vendors that you are sure you want to meet with at the show. Make appointments with them prior to the show if possible. Leave some time to visit booths that catch your eye or that are recommended to you by other attendees, but DO NOT break your planned schedule to do so. Set aside two hours in your schedule to find the hidden gems, but don’t wander around and find that you’ve no time to take care of your appointments.

Plan a budget and stick to it. So many retailers find themselves overspending at shows. Ask exhibitors with products you like, but haven’t budgeted for, if they will extend their show specials for an additional month. New and independent vendors are more likely to make exceptions to get on your shelves.

Research trends, survey your current customers, and decide how much space and money you are willing to set aside for untested brands and merchandise. Go into the show with a focus and a plan.

Follow the event hashtag on Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Many vendors will post specials, invite followers to special preview hours, and answer questions prior to a show. You can also reach out to fellow attendees and have coffee times set before you go.

At The Show

Make a point to make an impression on the vendors you meet and visit. Vendors have a preferred list of favorite customers so when special buys, limited editions, or promotional give aways are up for grabs, your relationship with your vendor is the difference in where you fall on that list.

Be sure to have business cards and make these as unique as possible. Take time to give your vendors feedback. You can compliment a design that sold well, share feedback from your customers about the fit or reliability of their products, and thank them for working with you during the year.

Attend all the educational sessions that you possibly can.  Most shows offer great educational sessions from people who are in your specific business. You can learn practical, operational information on inventory management, cash flow, trends, store design, etc. from proven experts.

Take time to meet your peers. Store owners just like you have the same issues that you have and have often faced (and solved) some of the problems you may face now. Chat with others between sessions and ask other buyers why they liked about particular products you’re considering adding to your store.

After The Show

Go through all of the catalogs and cards and sort them into four groups: 1) Will Buy Now, 2) Might Buy Now, 3) Might Buy Later, 4) Will Never Buy. Take the “Will Buy Now” group and do a quick Google search to make sure the prices offered to you at the show or in the catalog are the best available. Run your margins one more time to ensure these items will be profitable. Then call and negotiate the best possible price. If a slightly larger order saves a considerable amount of money, look through your list of new networking contacts from the show and determine if an owner in another part of your state or another state might want to group purchase with you.

Take the “Might Buy Now” group and be clear about your hesitation in making the purchase. If you are unsure for any reason other than price, ask to order a small group to test in your location. Newer vendors are usually more open to establishing a relationship and are more flexible. The other two groups should be filed for you to review before attending the next show.

Go through your program and your business cards and find the websites of the speakers you enjoyed and any resources they recommended during your sessions. Sign up to receive newsletters or blogs from the speakers and follow your favorites on social media. Chances are you will continue to glean great tips from their communications. Use the business cards of the networking connections you made to connect on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Lastly, visit the sites of all of the vendors whose products you purchased and bookmark them. They will often display products and services and give inspiration for new merchandising options.

Finding products to love is easy if you commit the time and focus to it.

Please list other shows you recommend in the comments and other tips that have helped you.

 P.S. Based on member feedback, we are scaling back the weekly blog emails from every week to every other week. NCRMA sends you a lot of information electronically, and we never want to fill your in-box unnecessarily.

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