10 Lessons Learned from Wholesale Trade Shows Part III

See Part I here
and Part II here

6. You Probably Need to Do a Show More Than Once to Make the Most Impact

(you need to be doing the right show though)

It was clear that the sellers who were doing the most business had been doing the show for many years.

(how many NEW accounts they were getting is impossible for me to know though)

I guess it instills buyer confidence to see a seller back at the show - makers wouldn't return if they didn't do well would they?

Well, I'm not so sure about that actually and different sellers have different ideas of what 'doing well' at a show is due to their different expenses, price points, expectations, etc.

I could do a show again if I lost money, but I wouldn't do a show again just to establish myself unless I had alot of confidence in that show or a good reason to stick with it.

(like happy hour in the afternoons - that was kind of nice)

7. You Need to be Thinking Like a Buyer

My lines need some explaining. I have my elevator pitches down by now because it is not immediately apparent when looking at my displays what the hell I am selling.

(although I try my best!)

So, I have to take time talking about my makings. This is a balancing act though, because it is not something all buyers care about. What they really want to hear is how this will sell in their shops and I found the more time I spent talking about their shops -

(this also helped weed out people who were not really buyers and there were alot of those at both shows)

asking them what price points did best for the jewelry that sold well for them, etc - that I connected with them. And that connection is the key to the relationship, I think.

8. In Order For These Shows to Be Worthwhile You Need to Get Reorders

If these shops are all one time orders then this is alot of work for not a lot of money, especially when you factor in airfare, hotel rooms, display, shipping and food

(I admit we ate pretty darn well because after standing in the booth all day I was starving by dinner and felt deserving of something especially yummy)

so, you need to be supplying your stores with the materials they need to sell your stuff - how will the stores display it, what kind of materials can you give them to help them sell it? I gave all shops clipboards with the type of display info their customers need to see to buy.

No one around me had any huge orders - no one got "discovered".

(and if you are doing a show hoping to be 'discovered', well, you could be very disappointed, most of the buyers walking these shows were mom and pop stores and being discovered is kind of like being rescued - it can happen, but we'd better know how to swim just in case it doesn't)

<--- this was a nice place to go at the end of the day I have to admit - trying to get hubs to throw something like this together on our roof

9. It is Very Hard to Look Dynamic and Approachable While Doing Nothing

Wholesale shows are not like retail shows - they don't have the same kind of energy; there is alot of downtime. It doesn't come in huge chunks, usually, although the first and last couple hours were killers.

You are like the goalie who has to be totally alert even while the game is on the other side of the field - it is hard.

(luckily my almost-OCD gives me things to do at times like this that help keep me on my toes - like count earrings in the booth across from me - 47 pairs btw)

10. Niche Products May Need Niche Shows

Shows are expensive (the least expensive part is often the booth fee) and there are many ways to develop wholesale relationships - more about this in my next series on wholesale selling - without exhibiting at them.

If your product has a very tight niche your challenge may be to find shows your target shops might frequent and they may not be general handmade wholesale shows.

Hope this series has been helpful to someone- I'll write more on this experience in a few weeks when I have a better grip on the outcome. I did get some sales reps which was a primary goal for me, so I'll also post on how all of that works out, too!


Ngan {eNVe Designs} said...

Thank you for taking us on your ever evolving and super educational journey, Cat! You're so inspiring to me (and many many others, I'm sure). Looking forward to more wisdom.

Catherine Ivins said...

you are too kind Ngan! I should title all these posts- please learn from my mistakes- ack!

SummersStudio said...

This is such a fantastic series you've done here. I often wondered about trade shows like these. You've generously given a really nice back story on the ins and outs. Thank you!

Orion Designs said...

How do these 2 recent shows compare to the Pool Trade Show you did earlier? That seemed more like an "indie" type show, from what I read on their website.

I've only done the local Alaska wholesale show a few times, which I know was pretty hokey, but at the time, I was selling Alaska tourist type items.

Catherine Ivins said...

Pool and these shows were night and day in terms of buyers. The Pool buyers were looking for something different - the Beckman buyer (typically) was definitely looking for more mainstream, well maybe not always mainstream, but definitely proven sellers- if they had something in their shop before that had done well- the wanted THAT. At Pool (last year) buyers were telling me they were OVER chandeliers and peace signs and even (God forbid) owls - at CA and Chicago people were looking for them (this year).

At Pool I was selling to boutiques - at Beckmans the boutique people were passing me by and I was selling to eco gift shops, wineries and flower shops(?). I wrote 3X as many orders at the CA show than the Chicago show, but the Chicago show had better foot traffic (although maybe some of that was all in my head because the hours were shorter). At the CA show I wrote orders for CA stores, at Pool (which was in Vegas) I mostly wrote orders for Canada shops, MN and CA no Vegas stores. At the Chicago show I wrote orders for WI, MI, TN and IL but no Chicago. The shows are all local markets. I'm doing the winter NY- will be interesting to see how that compares and I've also been told the winter shows are better - I just know I am always looking to hibernate in Jan and Feb after the holday rush and have been avoiding them.