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This Little Piggy Goes to Market

Ideas for attending a trade show

Have you packed your bags yet? This writer has as he will be speaking and visiting with retailers at the show in Atlanta the first weekend in February. Not only is it time to pack your suitcase, but it is time for retailers to be planning for the show. By planning for, going to, and executing a show plan you can do more for the profitability of your store for the next six months than most any other effort you can put forth.

This is probably a bold statement, particularly with the expenses involved in going to the show. After all, in attending there is: air fare, several days of hotel bills, 3 meals per day, perhaps some entertainment, and don't forget about the extra help that the store will need on the sales floor while you are gone. Obviously, you can save money by staying at home. But, let's plan on making some money with this exercise. Here is the plan that one successful retailer has for the show.

This store owner starts with creating a list of the every day sale price items for her store. These are the items that are heavily advertised in her market. If you do not have such a list, stop right now and begin to create one. Just listen to the radio and television ads, watch the newspaper, and write down the item and price of the items being advertised that you also stock.

An every day sale price list, properly used, can do a lot for the image of your store. A list will cost little to create, and will provide long term results. You do not want to have a lower price in town on each of these items, but your price needs to be in line with the mass merchants and chain stores. Shopping for these items at the show allows you to arrange for the best prices. If you calculate your anticipated needs for these items and are prepared to write orders at the show, you can actually have a profit on items that you might suspect would otherwise be loss leaders.

Examine your orders written last year at the shows you attended to determine items that had a high percentage or complete sell-thru. Are these items that you should again write orders for? Or were they items that were fashionable last year but not this year? From her experience, our retailer has learned to not get greedy and to expect tremendous increases in sales. This year's best seller can easily become next year's flop as easy as it can become next year's repeat best seller.

Our retailer then checks sales from the previous season, to locate which may have been ordered from a wholesaler on a "onesie" basis. Perhaps sales have been substantial enough to warrant ordering from the manufacturer to gain increased margin.

The retailer also places phone calls to the sales representatives asking them to send catalogs for the product lines which will be shown at the show. She has found it easier to examine the product line and write some orders in her store before the show, as compared to writing all orders at the show. However, for some product lines it is often helpful to examine the actual item at the show. She still goes to each of the display areas as often the manufacturer will have a last minute new item addition.
Finally, she never goes to the show with a blank check. She plans her spending by setting budgets for basic lines, promotional lines, and a small budget for new items, as well as a small budget for the new manufacturer she locates at the show.

As she departs to go to the show, she makes sure that all store operations are set to function properly in her absence. Her employees need to feel confident that they can handle the store in her absence. She lets them know where to reach her in case of emergency, but lets them know she trusts their decisions.

When she arrives at the show, she begins working by walking through the show display floor before writing any orders. This way, she seems to find more of those new lines she hopes to find at the show. As she wanders through the exhibits, she carries a notepad to list the manufacturers and locations that she will add to her previously created exhibitor list. When she does begin to write orders, she works the show according to the departments of her store, making sure that she is finished before moving on to another department. She writes the orders at the show so that the copy she leaves with the manufacturer is complete. With many orders she adds, "do not partial ship" as well as gives a "do not ship until" statement and a "cancel if not delivered by" date. She attaches the pages from the show catalog to the back of her copy of the order to give easy reference in case of disputed price or dating.

In the event of a special price or special terms given at the show, our retailer makes sure to write them, as well as the name of the sales representative, on the order. She said she finds this comes in very handy in case of a dispute with the invoice. She also takes to the show a list of manufacturers and wholesalers that have outstanding problems with her store; problems such as unpaid co-op advertising claims or invoice errors. When she is getting ready to write a show order, she reports she does have the sales representative's undivided attention.

She also checks the schedule of the show seminars to determine which seminars she needs to hear; not just what she wants to hear, but those she needs so as to gain additional management skills. When she gets home, she reviews all of the orders, rechecks the total of dollars spent at the show, and completes the necessary paperwork so that the merchandise can be checked in, price stickered, and put on display as soon as it arrives. Especially with seasonal merchandise, she often sends a postcard to her customers inviting them to come in to see the newly arrived selection.

At this point, she begins to make plans to implement these purchases into her advertising program, and begins to feel secure that she has made a profit by going to the show. See you in Atlanta!

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This article is copyrighted by Tom Shay and Profits Plus Solutions, who can be reached at: PO Box 1577, St. Petersburg, Fl. 33731. Phone 727-464-2182. It may be printed for an individual to read, but not duplicated or distributed without expressed written consent of the copyright owner.

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