Meeting Other Designers
One of the best parts of the show is seeing the people behind the brands that you love. It was amazing to meet Emily from Orange Beautiful, Susan from SusyJack, and Lisa from SweetBeets, and to see the booths of the more established letterpress companies that I admire, like Snow & Graham and Egg Press. One of the greatest moments for me came during booth setup, when the girls from Hello! Lucky asked to borrow our screwdriver! They were so nice and down to earth, and very helpful throughout the show.
It was also great to become friends with the people in our aisle (Thomas from Claysoup, Brooke from Simple Terms, Ashley from A to B Design, and April from Scentsational Greetings), most of who were first or second-time exhibitors. When traffic slowed down in our aisle on the third and fourth days, we all kept our spirits up with some wine and Jolly Ranchers. It was wonderful to have people to talk to and compare experiences with.
Traffic definitely varied throughout the four days, with the first two days being the busiest, and the last two days being fairly slow. We did hear from some veteran exhibitors that this year’s show was one of the slowest; it seems that less of the smaller boutique shops were in attendance this year due to the slowing economy and the ever increasing costs of traveling. We were in booth #1265, towards the back of the Javits Center, and found that traffic for our area was busier in the mornings, and slower towards the afternoon. When we walked around the middle of the Javits Center, it seemed that things picked up there around mid-day, and stayed pretty lively until the end.
What Materials to Have
The following items are critical to have ready for the show and with you in your booth:
Business Cards – bring plenty
Wholesale Catalogs – this can be a printed booklet or just a line sheet with pricing
Order Forms – we designed an order form and had it made into a carbon copy form and bound into booklets through www.ncrforms.com. This was extremely useful when filling out orders because it allowed us to have an instantaneous copy made for the buyer that they could take with them for their records.
Press Kits – there is a press room to drop these off in, many of the magazine editors in attendance go here to look through the various kits, and take the ones they are interested in; 10-20 is enough.
Office Supplies: pens, stapler, scrap paper
Many exhibitors offer special deals for orders placed at the show, ranging from percentage discounts, shipping discounts, reduced minimum orders, free merchandise, etc. Through our marketing mailing we offered a 10% discount plus free shipping for any opening order placed at the show if the targeted store brought the postcard with them. Many of the booths around us offered similar discounts through their mailings, and I think we all expected buyers to come rushing into our booths, postcards in hand, very excited about our show special.
However, this really wasn’t the case for any of us. Only one person came into our booth with our postcard, and they weren’t even concerned about whether or not we applied the discount to their order. We learned that buyers are more concerned with making sure they’ve picked the right mix of products for their store, and are not likely to be swayed by a discount. This may just be the case for first-time exhibitors, where buyers are typically only ordering a few hundred dollars worth of merchandise, so a savings of $10-$30 doesn’t really make much of a difference. I suspect that if you’re a well-known, established brand, with a higher minimum order that buyers would be more excited about a show special you may be offering.
The days are long, but worth it. There are four general types of attendees: buyers, press, reps, and designers doing research to start their own companies. The attendees’ badges are color-coded according to category (except for designers doing research, usually you don’t realize that’s why they are there until you start up a conversation). It really is important to greet everyone who walks by your booth, and to qualify everyone who steps into your booth. Make sure you’re giving the right materials to the right people. I also think it’s critical to have someone else in the booth helping you out, since your booth must be attended at all times. Being able to take a half hour off to sit and eat lunch was really helpful to me. Of course, you can always ask someone in your aisle to watch your booth for you, but it’s nice to have someone there that knows about your products and can help you sell.