Trade show season is upon us for retail buyers throughout the UK and indeed the world.
Having a plan for any show visit is critical to not only maximizing your time but for the bigger shows especially, to keep you going!
In my position as the only buyer and purse-string holder for my e-commerce businesses, I have visited all of the major UK retail buying trade shows over the past 14 years. I’m still going!
Here are some of my top survival tips for independent retailers this trade show season.
1. Register in Advance
Never travel to a show without having already registered. Many require more than basic information and you will need a printed or electronic badge or pass. You may not be granted access on the door.
2. Plan it Out
Depending on the size of the show, carve up the floorplan into workable sections. This may not be the same as the organisers’ sections as you may have some areas with more stands to visit than overs. I aim for about 2 hours per section with planned stopping places.
3. Take as Little as Possible
A bag on wheels of some description is an absolute must for all those brochures. Many manufacturers have embraced the memory stick or emailed PDF but there is still an awful lot of paper being dragged around. I often take my Mum on her mobility scooter (or rent her one from the venue) for this purpose and her company of course! Make sure your bag doesn’t fall over when you let go of the handle – it will drive you crazy every time you stop at a stand. You also need a bottle of water, comfortable shoes and a stack of business cards. I also find an eye spray very useful for large events, although the advent of LED lighting on stands has made the glare and drying effect on eyes in exhibition halls a lot less tiring.
4. Book Appointments
Once you have your sections worked out, make appointments with any exhibitors you really want to make sure you meet with, at appropriate intervals. Let them know roughly what time you expect to be in their area and book a time in. I find this most useful for existing main suppliers who I need a comprehensive update with, or someone I want to place an order with at the show.
5. Check out the Deals
If possible, find out who is offering deals on orders at the show and how long after the show the deal is available for. Don’t waste time placing orders on stands for deals if you don’t have to. If attending for more than one day and the order needs to be placed on the stand, work it up in the evening for the next day.
6. Leave some Cruising Time
I used to plan out almost every last minute of my show visits. Now I try to leave about a third of my time completely unplanned so I can investigate areas I wouldn’t usually be in or look at some alternative providers.
A note about hotels
Hotels at trade event times are worse than the school holidays for hiked prices. Anywhere within walking distance tends to go through the roof so always look a little further away to save some business cash. For the NEC in Birmingham try Coventry across to Kenilworth or even central Birmingham for lower prices within easy driving distance. There are quite a few reasonably priced chains around Excel in London but again going a little further out will be cheaper – check out the bus routes as you can get a Bus only day Oyster Card for a lot less than a full Travelcard. This applies just as well to other exhibition venues and stadiums such as Olympia, Wembley and The Olympic Stadium in Stratford.
Enjoy the show!
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