By Lisa Evans
As a flea market and swap meet professional vendor, you know there’s always a need to find fresh merchandise to build your business and entice new shoppers to your booth. One way to find great merchandise – and a lot of it – is attend a wholesale industry trade show. In many cases, the trade shows have been designed to help wholesale buyers like you to navigate the show suppliers to find those new companies who offer just the perfect products for your booth. Often, trade show management will provide a series of special seminars or conferences that are all geared towards educating you to be the best business owner you can be.
With this in mind, the Merchandiser takes a look at the basics of what you need to know to attend, and succeed, at a wholesale merchandise trade show.
To get the most out of any trade show, you should have a strategy. If you have a clear list of what you would like to accomplish before, during, and after the show, you’ll be sure to maximize your time.
- Avoid delays and confusion at show registration by pre-registering online at the show’s website. If possible, print out your badge or keep the file electronically on your smart phone.
- Check out the list of exhibitors on the show’s website. Make yourself a list of new companies you’d like to visit.
- Many show websites offer networking opportunities – you can even set up appointments with the suppliers you find interesting using the website tools.
- Use the show floor map. You will be on your feet and walking a LOT at the show. If you look at the overall show floor plan beforehand and make your appointments ahead of time, you can control where you’ll be on the floor so you aren’t running all over trying to get to your appointments.
- Know your inventory needs before the show. If you know what you want to reorder, and you know an existing supplier will be at the show, why not place you order in person? Efficient purchasing saves you money by grouping your orders, taking advantage of show specials and discounts.
- Know your budget. Trade shows can offer an overwhelming array of merchandise. Make sure you know what you can spend and stick to it.
- Don’t forget the seminars. Take a look at the different seminars being offered and add those to your agenda, too.
- Now that you’ve got your list together, it’s time for the nitty-gritty details.
Where to Stay
- Many shows offer discounts to area hotels for their buyers. If nothing is listed on the show website, email the show manager and ask them.
- Make reservations for transportation and lodging early. Many hotels will take a reservation well in advance – and the hotels nearest to the show venue will likely pre-book early, so make your plans as far in advance as you can.
What to Wear
- You will definitely need comfortable shoes, business casual clothing, and it’s always a good idea to remember you are a professional representative for your business.
- Keep some space in your luggage. There are samples and freebies that you will be picking up on the show floor – you will want to have room to bring them home.
- Some exhibitors provide bags for buyers to carry on the show floor, but it’s wise to come prepared by bring a rolling bag, or comfortable carry bag.
At the Trade Show
- When you arrive at the show, be sure to pick up the show floor guide and check it against your map. Sometimes the show management team will need to move a booth location – you’ll know where your suppliers are located in the final floor plan.
- Make sure you keep your badge in plain sight. This will help suppliers and show management security.
- Bring a pen and notebook with you, or a tablet and a writing app, and don’t forget a big stack of your business cards.
- Network, network, network. Talk to everyone. People on the show shuttle bus, the people standing next to you in line for a coffee – you never know whom you’ll meet and how your business might be impacted by talking to them.
- When placing an order with a supplier, make sure to ask if they are offering show specials, discounts or sales. It’s always a good idea to check freight costs and delivery dates, too.
- Keep track of any orders you make so that you’ll stay within your budget.
- If you need to order custom or personalized products, bring your artwork and other files on a flash drive. Many times the suppliers will have a computer with them where they can easily copy your files into their system.
- Make sure you plan a few breaks for yourself! Have a snack, something to drink, and sit for a bit.
After the Show
At the end of each day, take a minute to jot down a few notes about the suppliers you met and any products you might want to look at again, if you didn’t place an order. It’s a good idea to do this while your thoughts are fresh, as once you get home and start running your business again, some of these thoughts and ideas might escape you unless you write them down.
Once the show is done and you travel back home, make notes as to when your new products will deliver, as well as whatever payment terms you’ve negotiated with your suppliers. As your new merchandise delivers and you freshen your booth with new products, you can reflect back on the overall show experience, knowing you’ve found great new suppliers and forged new relationships with other business owners just like you.
Recommended Trade Shows
Here’s a quick list of some of the best general merchandise wholesale shows in the US:
Midwest Market Days: www.midwestmarketdays.com
Florida General Merchandise Show: www.thefloridageneralmerchandiseshow.com
ASD Market Week: www.asdonline.com
Tobacco Plus Convenience Expo: www.tobaccoplusexpo.com
Miami Wholesale Show: www.miamiwholesaleshow.com
Value Merch Expo: www.valuemerchexpo.com
Asia America: www.acsshow.org