January 2020 is right around the corner, and you know what that means, right? Creativation! The question is: Are you ready to go?
Each year we ask successful retailers to share what they do to make each trade show trip profitable. Here are some of their top secrets of success and things to think about before you leave for Phoenix:
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 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 Creativation without a budget is that you could very well end up buying more than you intended to buy, and hurting your buying power in the coming months.
Before you step foot on the show floor, set a strategic plan on how to shop it. To do this, go through the Creativation website and make a list of all of the vendors you want to see while you are there. List them by booth number so you can easily work your way through the show aisle by aisle. You will also want to download the Creativation app; it’s a detailed show book in the palm of your hand. Create your online profile and get to work!
2. INVEST IN YOURSELF AND YOUR STORE: ATTEND BUSINESS SEMINARS
Workshops are important and, well, fun!; but, business classes are, too. A retailer in one of our presentations said, “My friend is in a workshop, and she’s getting $300 worth of free stuff. What am I getting in this class?” We asked, “How much is your business worth?” and received numerous blank stares. We continued, “Your business is only worth as much as you are willing to put into it. Your friend will learn a new technique; that’s great because customers count on you for new ideas, products and applications. But, business seminars teach you the strengths and strategies every retailer needs to take their store to the next level of success.”
Business classes teach you how to merchandise, market and sell those great new techniques you learn at Creativation once you return to business.
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. Take time to quickly walk the entire floor, noting what’s important about each booth as you pass by. Note also 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 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 the discounts offered at Creativation!
If you require quality alone time with a particular vendor, it’s a good idea to set an appointment. Set your appointments 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 Buyers Hours before the show floor opens, and the slowest times of the day, are the best time to conduct business. Use this time to visit big vendors, those with lots of product in multiple booths, and vendors that require extra time and conversation.
Each day on the show floor, replace your enthusiasm for 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 your orders, 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 wealth of information that they are more than willing to share with you. Here are a few questions to ask:
What trends have you seen that I need to know about?
What’s the best way to sell this merchandise? Should it be displayed alone or cross-merchandised with additional products from your company or with related products from another vendor?
Who else is selling this line? What have they done in their stores to encourage sales?
Do you have 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 DVDs or video links 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 designers or makers available to do demos and make-it/take-its during my in-store special events?
5. GROW YOUR RETAILER NETWORK.
Creativation is the perfect place to meet and network with other creative retailers. If you’re not sure how to do this, start with the retailers you sit with during seminars – seminars are a great place to meet your new best friends.
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, Skype or email in between shows.
6. A FEW MORE THINGS…
When you stop at a booth to pick up a copy of the latest trade publication, introduce yourself to the editors and other staff members. They are an invaluable source of industry information and they want to help you succeed. Take a selfie with them to share on social media.
Take a photo of yourself with your vendors and every VIP you can find. Share them on social media with the show’s hashtag, and hang them in your store to increase visibility and credibility. Your customers enjoy seeing you rub shoulders with other movers and shakers in their favorite industry.
When you return home, send out a press release to go along with the photos you took at the show. Newspapers are hungry for news, but they’re starving for pictures. Did you know that almost 80% of news that appears on a local level comes from a one-page press release sent in by someone like you? But beware, savvy media types can sniff out bold attempts to get free publicity, so you have to know how to do it right. If you’d like specific instructions on how to write press releases that get noticed, drop us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org for your free copy.
Just before you leave for the show, take a fresh batch of store photos, both inside and out. These will come in handy during discussions with vendors, seminar leaders, and with your networking group.
Review your trade show experience on the plane ride home. Did you meet the goals you set before you left town? Note anything you will need to follow up on at a later date.
Immediately schedule a store meeting to discuss what you saw while it’s still fresh in your mind. Brainstorm ideas to display and sell all the new goods that will begin to arrive shortly.
Attending Creativation is a solid investment in your future. Your time in Phoenix will take you out of your daily routine and stimulate your thinking process. You’ll be exposed to new products and applications, and you’ll meet new people – all good things that are destined to help make you even more successful than you already are.
COPYRIGHT KIZER & BENDER | ALL RIGHTS RESERVED
Rich Kizer and Georganne Bender are consumer anthropologists, keynote speakers, authors, consultants who have helped thousands of businesses in the retail, restaurant, hospitality, travel, beauty, funeral, sales, and service industries since 1990.
KIZER & BENDER are contributors to MSNBC’s Your Business. They made Meetings & Conventions Magazine's list of Meeting Planners Favorite Keynote Speakers and have been named two of Retailing's Most Influential People. As global retail thought leaders, KIZER & BENDER are listed among the Top 40 Omnichannel Retail Influencers, Top 100 Retail Influencers, and the Top Retail Industry Experts to Follow on Social Media. Their award-winning Retail Adventures Blog is consistently listed among important retail and small business blogs. KIZER & BENDER serve as BrainTrust panelists for RetailWire and are partners and emcees for the popular Independent Retailer Conference.