Retailers share how they make the most of their trade show visits

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Photo: NRF
Feb 05, 2020
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Rich Kizer and Georganne Bender 

Through a special arrangement, what follows is a summary of an article from Kizer & Bender’s Retail Adventures blog.

Each year we ask successful retailers how they make each trade show trip profitable. Here are some of their top secrets.

  1. Pre-plan your time: Before leaving home, do some pre-show homework. Closely look at your product sales histories. Which merchandise is selling? Which is gathering dust? Examine current and committed inventories. Set a strategic plan on how to shop the show floor.
  2. Attend business seminars: Workshops are important and, well, fun, but business classes teach merchandising, marketing and other skills every retailer needs to take their store to the next level of success.
  3. Hit the exhibit floor running: Arrive early on the first day to get an idea how the floor is laid out. Quickly walk the entire floor, noting what’s important about each booth. With most attendees shopping front-to-back, work the opposite direction. You’ll find open aisles.

    Visit the New Exhibitor section and keep your eyes open for “show only” specials. Set appointments if you require quality alone time with a vendor
    . If traveling with colleagues or your buying group, choose a time 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.

    At each day’s finale, replace your enthusiasm for the cool product with common sense. In your hotel room, review your orders, asking yourself if this is the product and quantity you really want — or need — to order. If not, drop off the order in the morning.
  4. Tap into vendor knowledge: Your vendors are invaluable resources who travel the country and talk with retailers and customers alike. They’ll be more than willing to share with you. Questions can range from “What trends have you seen that I need to know about?” to “Do you have display tips?’’ and “What have other retailers selling the line done in their stores to encourage sales?”
  5. Grow your retailer network: Seminars are a great place to network with other creative retailers. If you’re attending alone, agree to meet your new retail friends each day to hash over what you’ve found at the show.

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Which of the tips above do you find most valuable? Do you have any additional tips for retailers looking to make the most of their time at trade shows?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.
Braintrust
"Shows are an opportunity to find out what colleagues at other retailers are doing and thinking. Tap into that network and come home with great new ideas."
"Follow-up is the one key tip that’s missing in this list. Without follow-up, nothing happens and the trip to the conference was useless."
"All of these are great tips, but I think the one most undervalued is tapping into vendor knowledge. "

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11 Comments on "Retailers share how they make the most of their trade show visits"


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Jeff Weidauer
BrainTrust

The final element for a successful trade show is to create a process to bring what you’ve learned back to the business. Too often people attend a show, and then return to the office and continue their routines. If you are the only benefactor of your new knowledge, then the trip was wasted. Make sure you are sharing your insights and getting the rest of the team up to speed.

Ron Margulis
BrainTrust

Follow-up is the one key tip that’s missing in this list. Without follow-up, which should come in the form of contacting vendors, sharing knowledge with the team members who didn’t attend and even adding LinkedIn contacts, nothing happens and the trip to the conference was useless.

Richard Hernandez
BrainTrust

I know when I go to shows, I already do all of the above. For me, I look for innovation and uniqueness of product. Your relationships with vendors will help a lot in that respects. I want to be the first in my area with this product and possibly ahead of a national trend that may come down the road. Other things that weren’t mentioned in the article that I am going to recommend: comfortable shoes and water.

Michael Terpkosh
BrainTrust

Pre-planning is key! Usually a retailer has more exhibitors to see than there is show floor time. So having a plan of how to efficiently navigate the show floor is very important. This includes being prepared to buy based on sales history and sales trends. Exhibitors love retailers that are ready to buy and commit to cases. Don’t assume there is no “Show Only Deal” if it is not posted. A retailer needs to ask exhibitors to sweeten their deals for case commitments. Also, as a retailer don’t be afraid to leverage one exhibitor’s brand against another. For example, If a retailer want to order a mid-tier laundry detergent work back and forth across the brands during day one, cocktail party one, etc. Allow the brands a chance to improve their deals for a day two commitment from the retailer to buy.

Steve Montgomery
BrainTrust

Pre-planning your time is the single best approach. This can include allocating time to attend the seminars and preparing yourself to hit the floor running. You should have predefined goals at every trade show and, if possible, arrange specific times to meet with selected exhibitors.

Zel Bianco
BrainTrust

These are all good suggestions, but tapping into vendor knowledge is a very important strategy at trade shows. As we discussed recently on RetailWire, it’s challenging for most retailers to keep up with what is happening in technology meant to help retailers compete more effectively. Tapping into what vendors are seeing in the market, what solutions they are developing to solve for those issues and how they are implementing them will save tons of hours and tons of research time later on.

Whether the show is geared mostly to retailers and solution providers like NRF, or suppliers/vendors/manufacturers and retailers like the Category Management Conference, NACS, and many others, those that tap into the vendor community will be better prepared to make important and sometimes critical decisions on both their operational and go-to-market plans.

Georganne Bender
BrainTrust

Chain store buyers know how to hit the show floor running but even they can get side tracked, still they are fortunate to have other buyers from their stores to meet with at the end of the day to discuss what they found. Rich and I work primarily with independents who very often don’t have that privilege.

One of our goals is to put groups of non-competing indies together so they can meet at the end of each day to share ideas, too. Facebook Groups has been a great help in keeping these retailers in contact in between shows. There is so much information to take in, having a partner to bounce ideas off of is a huge benefit.

Cathy Hotka
BrainTrust

Add NETWORKING. Shows are an opportunity to find out what colleagues at other retailers are doing and thinking. Tap into that network and come home with great new ideas.

Ricardo Belmar
BrainTrust
Ricardo Belmar
Retail Transformation Thought Leader
9 months 23 days ago

All of these are great tips, but I think the one most undervalued is tapping into vendor knowledge. Vendors naturally want to talk to retailers in the hopes those discussions lead to new business. However, the best vendors know they are going to partner with the retailer if they want to maintain a viable long-term relationship and that means sharing knowledge from all of their interactions with other retailers. That doesn’t mean sharing secrets, but sharing solutions to challenges. Those challenges may be something each retailer, in turn, is experiencing and can benefit from seeing how others have solved them successfully. There are just too many trends, too many challenges, and too many solutions out there for every retailer to know about 100 percent of them. Leverage the vendor’s knowledge to learn. In the end, attending these trade shows is all about learning everything you can to help you solve problems, isn’t it?

Shep Hyken
BrainTrust

Nothing beats planning! planning is something you must do before leaving the office.

Also identify what your success criteria are. What is the reason you are going to the show? What is the minimum you will have to experience in order for you to feel that attending was a worthy investment of your time?

Start there and then consider the other tips in this article.

Ralph Jacobson
BrainTrust

The key for me is to fill my calendar with pre-set 30-minute meetings with people who can help me drive business. Period. They’re all together at NRF and that’s the best chance all year to make your mark with them, then follow up after the event within one week and set a subsequent meeting to push for the outcomes discussed at the event.

wpDiscuz
Braintrust
"Shows are an opportunity to find out what colleagues at other retailers are doing and thinking. Tap into that network and come home with great new ideas."
"Follow-up is the one key tip that’s missing in this list. Without follow-up, nothing happens and the trip to the conference was useless."
"All of these are great tips, but I think the one most undervalued is tapping into vendor knowledge. "

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