Summer 2008
Twelve Tips To Shop the Trade Shows

Trade shows—love ’em or hate ’em, they should be an important event in your life as a businessperson. You get to see new products, renew old friendships, learn about industry trends, and develop a network of professional colleagues.

However, trade shows are a lot like love, life and the stock market: how much you get out of it depends on how much you put into it. Here are a few lessons (learned the hard way) about how to get the absolute most from your trade show.

Trade Show Tip #1

Go with a plan. Smart retailers go to shows organized, focused, and ready to work the show like a pro!

  • Review last year’s sales statistics. Information from the past gives you the ability to make smart, well-informed decisions for the future.
  • Think about what worked last year, what didn’t, and why. Decide which areas are opportunities for next year and where you need to try something completely new.
  • Talk to your staff and your best customers about what kinds of new things to look for.

Trade Show Tip #2

Get a map of the show floor plan and find all the vendors you want to spend extra time with. Decide how much of the show you need to see each day and work accordingly – don’t get stuck having to see half the show in the last three hours!

Trade Show Tip #3

Make appointments ahead of time with your top vendors. Plan (write it down!) what you want to discuss with each vendor ahead of time –improved terms, customer service problems from last year, items you would like to see them add/change for the future, packaging concerns, etc.

Trade Show Tip #4

Take your sales and inventory reports with you. Having information at your fingertips projects a very professional appearance when dealing with vendors. This allows you to work much more collaboratively with your vendors when discussing terms, discounts and other issues of importance.

Trade Show Tip #5

Decide how much you are going to spend at the show and do NOT spend more than you have allocated. You can always buy once you get back to your store and the stars have cleared from your eyes. Make a budget and plan on sticking to it!

Trade Show Tip #6

Take advantage of trade show specials. Using your trade show budget wisely can save you LOTS of money. Sometimes, show specials can be extended for a short period of time after the show ends. Ask your vendor reps or company contact.

Trade Show Tip #7

Ask for discounts. And I don’t mean just a trade show special. This is the perfect time, when you are face to face with your best vendors, to ask for better prices on their products – permanently. Many small and mid-sized retailers think they don’t carry enough clout with their vendors to get preferred pricing like the big boys. Not necessarily true! You just have to ask. The very worst thing that can happen is your price stays the same, and, at very best, you may improve your margins by a couple of points.

Trade Show Tip #8

Work for win-win deals with your vendors. Remember, your vendors are partners in your success. The goal in any successful negotiation is to find a solution where everyone is happy.

Trade Show Tip #9

Go into EVERY booth. You never know where that new, fun, super-high margin whatcha-ma-callit is going to be hiding. Finding new and innovative merchandise is one way to distinguish yourself from the mass market.

Trade Show Tip #10

Attend at least one business development workshop. Most entrepreneurs have plenty of product and industry knowledge. It’s the business skills needed to be successful that are lacking.

Trade Show Tip #11

Don’t underestimate the physical effort required to work a trade show really hard. Stay strong, comfortable, and organized.

  • Wear comfortable, yet professional, clothing. Jeans and t-shirts may or may not be appropriate.
  • Take a bottle of water, small snacks like granola bars, breath mints, lots of business cards, a mini stapler, highlighters, pens, tablet for notes and a backpack to carry all the catalogs in.
  • Eat breakfast and a decent lunch.

Trade Show Tip #12

HAVE FUN! Remember, this is what your friends think is the glamorous part of your job!

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