Wholesalers and Suppliers - Attending a Trade Fair

In the first of our trade-show related blogs last month, Puckator sales director Matt Shaw gave his thoughts on why trade fairs are still such an important part of the yearly calendar – and offered up some expert advice on how to gain the most from these events in today's retail climate.

This month, we asked exhibition organiser Sofia Lindell to dig a little deeper into this subject. Attending a trade fair, particularly for the first time, can be a big investment and can feel like quite a risk. Here she explains how she and the Puckator team go about choosing which trade fairs to attend. 

Puckator is now attending more fairs than ever before – it's still such an important aspect of our business. We probably add a new event to our schedule every year or so as we try to explore and capture new markets. We've dropped some along the way, and we now exhibit at 20 plus fairs each year. We've always attended giftware shows as this is where our main business lies, but in recent years we've branched out into other areas. We've done beauty shows in Bologna (shown below) and Las Vegas, a pet fair in Madrid, and this year we'll be trying out a stationery fair and a toy fair in Germany. As we now have products that fit within some new fields for us, it has made sense for us to try and place ourselves in front of a new audience.

Cosmoprof Bologna

Research and Plan

Researching and planning ahead is absolutely the most important thing any business can do before selecting a new trade show to attend. One of the first things I'll do is have a chat with our existing customers about which events they visit – they might suggest one that we are not doing yet.

The next thing is thinking about the market we want to attract. If we want to develop our presence in a new area, firstly I'll gather some statistics. I'll ask the fair organisers for information on visitor and exhibitor numbers, and on which country or retail area the majority of stands and visitors are from. I might be a little cautious if all the exhibitors are from one country – this could mean that guests are using the show to see their usual suppliers rather than looking out for new ones.

Visiting the fair itself ahead of time is probably the one most valuable thing you can do, if at all possible! It helps us to figure out if Puckator will fit in, if the visitors are from the sector we'd like to attract, and also to observe what other companies are doing. Once we've been we'll sit down and evaluate, and if visitor numbers are good, we'll usually give it a shot the following year!

Don't be afraid to take a risk – but manage the risk

Attending a Las Vegas beauty fair was a totally new place for us, both in terms of country and industry sector. It's not cheap transporting an exhibition abroad, but it was an investment we were prepared to make. We did a lot of prior research and decided to keep it really simple – taking what was for us a really small stand (12sqm) and just our most important products. It was a calculated risk that paid off for us as we very much want to expand into the US.

Small can also be beautiful

As a giftware supplier, we'd count the 'must-attend' events for us as the Birmingham NEC Spring and Autumn fairs, Maison et Object in Paris, Ambiente in Frankfurt and Intergift in Madrid. But we also attend many smaller regional shows as well, and we also hold more intimate showroom events in certain cities, where we'll invite customers and potential customers from the specific location. We've found that with really careful targeting, a small boutique event can yield results just as good for us as the larger, more catch-all exhibitions.