January 23, 2007
It's been a week since I got back from the Atlanta Gift Show. I am still waking up confused and bleary eyed. I would not call it jet lag, but I feel I am still physically and mentally exhausted. Being away from home for a week, away from work, away life tends to stress me out.
My children have been great, and I missed them terribly. They even got right back into their regular routine last night or fighting, whining and bickering to make me REALLY feel at home.
So the dust has cleared from our first show at Atlanta and I have been able to make some observations and some assumptions. And I have even had my mind changed on a few items (not a hard task mind you).
1. Trade Shows are good for Manufactures in Retail
I have come full circle on this one, I did not believe it was true until after attending a show. I think the buyers, the licensor's, the large companies, the catalogs, the sales reps NEED to see you. They need to know you exist. Phone calls alone do not always open doors. However, trade shows are expensive. If you are ready to go, do your homework on what the best show is to do, see if you can share a booth, find out if you can get flight/air/transportation discounts.
2. Be Open to All Buyers
This gift show was over 3 buildings and 20 floors each building, millions of buyers, millions of booths and products. Don't snub your nose at the little gift shop in Topeka, Kansas because Wal Mart is looking in. That store could be your biggest channel. Also, we picked up interior decorators and web sites - now this did not necessarily equal sales.....yet. Be open, be kind, be willing to talk to people. It is tempting to sit in the corner of your booth and pout, reading the latest copy of People Magazine...believe me I know. Do take breaks, do trade off with an employee or loyal family member (husband's are good for this) and do smile.
3. Don't Believe the Hype
Attending a trade show is a little like attending high school. The booth that gets tons of traffic will hold their head up high, tell you how fabulous the show is and look at you pitifully if your booth is not crammed with buyers when she walks by. Note though, she may just have interest, but won't bell you that. Others will come by trying to get advice, ideas...or try to get a date. It can be daunting, depressing and did I say daunting? Don't let it get you down. When times are slow, take a walk. See what is out there, see who is out there. You may run into an old friend, you may run into a sales rep, a buyer. At the ABC Kids Expo my sister helped for a few days (she was the one that got asked out not me) she ate lunch with a large group of buyers from a chain of stores in the south. They all came over and placed orders for every store.
4. Observe The Trends & See Who is There
Now I am not saying go take your cell phone over and photograph your competitor and steal her ideas. "Bad, bad, bad girl (I am yelling and I am shaking my finger at you)!" See the what is going on, see colors, see ideas, even see what is happening in other industry's. Notice your surroundings. Listen to what people are saying. It can be very educational to be around so many people (buyers) that influence what the public will be purchasing come this Spring. Do take it with a grain of salt though, our second to last day two women stood in my booth, scrutinized my art and then when one asked the other if she wanted any, she paused, made a face and blurted, "NOPE!" I wanted to shoo them out of my booth....
5. Stay Positive No Matter What
Keep your chin up, if you know you have a good product and you have solid sales, keep an open mind. This show may not be for you. You may be in the wrong section or selling to the wrong demographics, or the wrong part of the country. Some days were good for us (be prepared for long week) and some were okay. Having been in business for four years, had a very successful Christmas and lots of press under my belt I was feeling good even when business was slow. If all else fails check back in at home and see how sales are for the week - that will make you feel better. And do know the postcards or brochures you give away may stay with buyers for years. We had a store in Florida call us last fall after seeing us at the ABC Kids Expo (back in 2004).
5. Wear Comfortable Shoes
Ohhhhh Me on My, your feet will hurt! Worse than any trip to Disneyland or any run around the bay. No matter what shoes you wear they will swell and it will be hard on you. The floors are concrete, you will stand a lot and walk a lot. I wore boots, comfortable expensive ones - thought this time I got it right. Well, I should have opted for slippers, the day we walked OUCH....
6. Sympathize with the Buyers
I know this a hard one (coming from the girl who stood with the NOPE twins) but understand they have a limited budget and a store to fill. They need to remember, they need to add, subtract and guess on their feet. They could be purchasing items for a department, an entire store or a holiday. Sometimes they may love your products, but their budget was gone (been there) or they think you are brand new (been there) and won't purchase from you till you have been at the show a few times. Don't hold a grudge, know they want to succeed as bad as you do, and that buyer from Target that just snubbed you, could be the buyer for women's lingerie. We had lots of grandmothers run into our booth and ooh and ah over our birth certificates, I would approach them and they would say....oh no I buy (fill in the blank) but I am going to be a Grandmother soon....or when I am a grandmother I want this! So I happily handed over a brochure and said call me, we'll still be around.