Whether you call it ‘going to market’ or ‘attending a trade show’, many independent retailers choose to attend shows to do a significant portion of their seasonal buying. In order to maximise on your efforts of attending these shows and not get yourself in hot water for over-spending, here are my top 5 ways to prepare before you go…
- Analyse your sales data.
Take a good look at your sales data as a starting point. Unless your retail store is not open yet, data is your friend here. Look at it in a few ways – by category, by brand and by price point. Look at what is selling seasonally in case it is skewed by holiday sales or another peak sales time. For example if you are visiting the show now in Q1, likely delivery of products will be for spring/summer so focus your data on that season. The more you know the better you can make buying decisions. Look for slow selling stock items too so you know what to be wary of buying.
2. Create a detailed budget.
It’s not enough to just check your bank statement before you go and work out a rough estimate of what you can spend. To effectively work your cash flow, you need to know what funds you have now versus predicted available funds when suppliers will need payment.
Take into consideration payment terms, deposits and show discounts such as volume purchasing. If you are in fashion for example, a lot of pre-season buying will require a percentage down-payment and the balance at the time of delivery. This needs to be carefully planned for as it will eat into your current available cash without any immediate inventory to sell and you can also easily build up quite a large due amount if all the orders are delivered in the same month. I suggest creating a payment calendar here that you take with you. Allocate potential available funds for each month and ‘buy’ against it. Always check for show discounts, perhaps on volume purchases or on any potential immediate available stock they might have. It’s a great idea to have some reserve cash flow for these discounts as they really help to increase profit margins.
3. Make a list.
Be prepared. Using the above sales data, make a detailed list of what you are looking for including key brands, products that you need to source and people you want to meet. It is easy to lose a lot of time at these big shows so make sure you know what your priorities are. Take a look through the online list of exhibitors at the show and highlight any you would like to see.
Top tip – if you are attending for more than 1 day, try to visit the ‘new’ and unknown brands on the first day so you can potentially schedule time with them on the remaining days if you know you want to buy.
4. Schedule key meetings.
Plan ahead. Email your current key suppliers and schedule in enough time with them. Prioritise mornings for key brands when you will be at your best. Allow gaps between meetings as you may run over and/or need coffee/food breaks. You need to be energised for making good buying decisions so allow enough recovery time throughout the day. If you are making some appointments just for introductory purposes and glancing through their collections, then you don’t need as much time allocated as when you are planning to make orders.
5. Market your business.
For newer, smaller retail businesses, it’s important to sell yourself to the bigger brands. You need to look professional and organised. Practice a short verbal description of your store and be ready to explain it to someone who asks. Whilst you are the one buying their goods, you are still going to be a representative of their brand so they will be (should be) analysing your suitability. Business cards and a few photos of your store are great assets to have with you at the shows.
Enjoy the show and try to spend as much time as possible finding the less obvious products and sourcing new brands to work with. Keep detailed notes on what you agree to buy as you go through and use the opportunity of meeting your suppliers in person to build up great relationships.