Working: The Business of (Gift) Show Business



It's currently mid-summer and you can feel some of the pre-show anxiety already.  When will the new product arrive? Where are the catalogs? Are we really going to move the entire showroom from one side to another?  Has anyone seen the tape measure?  Lately I've been immersed in trade show prep with some of my favorite showrooms and I'm here to tell you that A LOT goes into the space you see.

Not unlike your fourth quarter retail prep, the work that goes into a showroom before a trade show is extensive.  Repainting, building furniture, cleaning, unpacking, pricing and more.  It's as if a new retail environment is being created each time -- and in many cases, it is.  The importance of creating an environment that complements and showcases new and existing product is essential to your experience as a buyer.

But during all this prep I found myself wondering what makes a great show for the buyer and the showroom?  So here's my tips to help make your show season even better.

1. Come prepared:  It's not possible to have all the answers, but if there's a way to access sales, inventory or previous orders to assist with your buying appointments than definitely take advantage of it.  It's this little bit of extra time spent prepping that will help your buying process go smoothly.  Additionally, if you don't have the information you need at your appointment, than take product information with you as homework.  Don't waste your time guessing numbers and then even more time e-mailing corrections to the company or rep.

2. Make an appointment:  If your hope is to work with a particular rep in the showroom than definitely make an appointment.  Rarely do rep's have spare time to schedule and showing up without an appointment but hoping to work with them will undoubtedly stress them out.  Of course there are always exceptions, but if you weren't able to schedule anything than please be flexible and work with whomever is available to help you.  You can always e-mail your rep later and catch them up with what you did. 

3. Take your time:  Seriously, rushing from one showroom to another is never fun.  Make a plan of your must-see showrooms but allow time to wander and LOOK.  You never know what you'll find and it could be in the most unexpected place.

4. Take photos:  With the exception of a few showrooms, photos are expected and encouraged.  Use your camera for capturing anything that inspires you - whether you buy it or not.  Great displays, color stories, product you like but are not ready for yet, hand written purchase orders.... don't underestimate the power of the photo to remind you what you saw and ordered after a long day!

5. Eat: This is no-brainer but a good reminder -- snacks are good.  Sitting down for lunch is good. Drinking water is good.  Do it and you can hopefully avoid the "white wine as hydration" moment at the end of the day.

6. Contact information: It only takes a few minutes, but before you leave a showroom (especially after placing an order), make sure you have exchanged current contact information.  Additionally, if you have orders placed, than ask for copies to be sent to your e-mail that day.  You need proof of your orders and the money you're spending before you leave the showroom as well as a solid way to contact someone if an issue arises.

7. Be kind: I consider this one of the most important bits of advice.  Everyone at a trade show is working hard and doing their best.  This is not the time for rude comments or assuming your time is more important than another's.  Being kind and polite will take you far.


Susan Esayian