This is not the time to opt out of attending trade shows – this is the time you SHOULD attend trade shows! An article in the Wall Street Journal said, “participating in trade shows is one of the smartest things a business-owner can do.” And “trade shows are essential for learning about unfamiliar markets, building personal relationships and getting an up-close look at the competition.”
If you are considering skipping the 2012 CHA Summer Conference & Trade Show, or any of the other trade shows that you usually attend, consider this first: the interaction with vendors, the classes you take and the networking opportunities you’ll find are just what you need to refocus on your business and plan for the days ahead. Funny thing, the people who do attend trade shows are the ones who are hanging in there, despite the economy. It’s a circle: the most successful retailers never stop learning or looking for new ways to tweak their stores. Here are some things to think about before you leave for your next show:
1. PRE-PLAN YOUR TIME
The goal here is to get more out of the show, but before you leave home you need to do some pre-show homework.
• Take a close look at your product sales histories. Which merchandise is selling, and which product is just lying around gathering dust? Make a list of the product and/or merchandise categories you need to buy to fill in or round out your assortment.
• Examine your current and committed inventories. You will also want to set a budget – the danger in going to a show without a budget is that you could very well end up buying much more than you intended to buy. If you have not done this before and need a little help, give us a call.
• Before you step foot on the floor, set a strategic plan on how to shop it. To do this, go through the show book and make a list all of the vendors you want to see. List them by booth number so you can later work your way through the show aisle by aisle. Use Post-it notes to mark important pages or details in your show book.
2. INVEST IN YOURSELF AND YOUR BUSINESS: SIGN UP FOR BUSINESS SEMINARS
A retailer in one of our seminars said, “My friend is in a workshop, and she’s getting $300 worth of free stuff. What am I getting in this class?” Our response, “How much is your business worth?” was met with a blank stare. We continued, “Your business is only worth as much as you are willing to put into it. Your friend will learn a new technique – very important in a store that relies on creativity – customers count on you for new ideas, products and applications. But business seminars teach you the strengths and strategies every retailer must possess to take their store to the next level of success.”
3. HIT THE EXHIBIT FLOOR RUNNING
Arrive early on your first day at the show so you can get a good idea of how the floor is laid out, and take time to walk the entire floor. Carry a notebook with you, taking detailed notes as you quickly scan each booth. Note which products and vendors catch your eye – you’ll want to make plans to come back and visit these booths later.
Remember, opening day will be busy. Most people generally begin shopping at the front of the show. Instead of following the herd, head for the back of the show and work in the opposite direction of the crowd. You’ll find open aisles and hassle-free shopping.
• Visit the New Exhibitor Section of the show floor to see who and what’s new.
• Keep your eyes open for “show only” specials. If you see something you like, but are not prepared to place your order at the show, ask if you can still have the special pricing if you place your order after the show. And if you order basic goods at show special prices, write orders for an entire year, requesting that the vendor stagger the delivery dates throughout the year. Take advantage of that discount!
• If you require quality alone time with a particular vendor, it’s a good idea to set an appointment. Our Retailer Advisory Board all agree that vendor appointments should be set in this order: 1. Current vendors; 2. Vendors you work with occasionally; and 3. New vendors based on current and future needs.
You will also find that the slowest hours of the show are the best time to conduct business. Use this time to visit big vendors, those with lots of product in multiple booths, and those that require extra time and conversation.
• Each day on the show floor, replace your enthusiasm for all the cool product you will see with savvy common sense. Here’s a money-saving trick: after writing an order, take it with you. Each night in your hotel room, take a moment to review each one, asking yourself if this is the product and quantity that you really want – or need – to order. If it is, you can drop off the order in the morning, but if it’s not, you’ll save yourself from making a costly mistake.
4. TAP INTO VENDOR KNOWLEDGE
Your vendors are invaluable resources who travel the country and talk with retailers and customers alike. They are a bottomless pit of information – information they are more than willing to share with you. Here are a few questions to ask:
• What trends have you seen that I should be aware of?
• What’s the best way to sell this merchandise? Should it be displayed alone or cross-merchandised with yours, or another vendor’s product?
• Who else is selling this line? What have they done in their stores to stimulate sales?
• Do you have any display tips? Do you recommend a particular rack or fixture to best feature and/or inventory this product?
• Do you have signage, project sheets, or other point-of-purchase materials? How about videos or DVDs for in-store play and to help train my team?
• Do you offer merchandise planograms or other help with setting the department in my store?
• Do you have signage, available to train my team, or demonstrators available to do demos and make-it/take-its during my in-store special events?
5. GROW YOUR RETAILER NETWORK
Trade shows are the perfect place to meet and network with other retailers. If you’re not sure how to do this, start with the retailers you sit with during business seminars – seminars are a great place to meet your new best friends. If you’re in one of our presentations and you’re shy, grab one of us and we’ll do the introductions.
• Mediocrity borrows, but genius steals. One thing to steal is a networking technique used by the chain stores – all company personnel attending the show meet at a specified time and place to discuss what they found on the show floor that day.
They do this because it works – and you can do it, too. If you’re traveling with colleagues or members of your buying group, choose a time and place to meet and assign each person a goal, such as finding a new vendor for _____________; getting the best price on ______________; or securing prizes and giveaways for upcoming promotional events.
• If you’re attending the show alone, recruit the friends you meet in seminars and workshops. Agree to meet each day to hash over what you’ve found at the show. You can save time by meeting over lunch.
• Keep your networking group together after the show and agree to get together occasionally in person. If that’s not feasible, then talk via telephone or e-mail in between shows.
As soon as you finish reading this, print it and tuck it in the briefcase you will take with you on the plane – you’ll want to keep it handy to help guide you through all of the trade show’s must-sees. Throw in a couple of highlighters and Post it notes to flag important pages.
Along with stamina and sensible shoes, you need to approach the trade show floor with a solid plan of attack. There are so many things to see and do, and you don’t want to miss a single one. We can’t wait to see you on the exhibit floor!
Join us in Rosemont, IL for the 2012 CHA Summer Conference & Trade Show!
Tuesday, July 17: Retail Reinvention: Gaining A Competitive Advantage
Wednesday, July 18: How to Compete with Your Biggest Competitors
COPYRIGHT KIZER & BENDER . ALL RIGHTS RESERVED