Wholesalers and Suppliers - How to Choose Which Exhibitions to Attend

Planning and promotion for the 2020 Spring trade fairs is in full swing – the first events on the calendar begin early in the New Year. But as a wholesaler or supplier, how do you decide which exhibitions to attend?

This week's blog comes from Puckator sales director Matt Shaw. Having done his first trade fair in 1990, Matt has been there and done that; he's seen trade shows evolve, and he has some great advice on getting the most from them in today's retail climate.

Let's be honest – there's no doubt that as high street retailers have moved online, so trade fairs have got steadily less busy. The days of taking huge orders at the show itself are gone – you've got to be prepared to do a lot more following up afterwards. But the big shops and businesses still want to go – including those who are predominantly web-based. They want to see the products and to be able to negotiate prices.

Game Over Range and Games Machine at NEC Autumn FairSelect carefully

Rather than stretching time and resources going to every fair you can manage, it's worth being selective. Choose the events that best suit your brand and your product base. Look at who else exhibits and who attends – organisers can provide statistics from the previous year. We have been in the position once or twice where we've gone to a particular show and then asked ourselves why on earth we were there. So, once you've made a shortlist, scope out a trade fair you might want to attend, either the year or the edition before. This gives you the chance to see what other exhibitors are doing and to observe how busy it is.  Once we've got all this information - and if the visitor numbers are good, we'll usually give it a go!

Know your purpose

Because visitor numbers are lower, you've got to really focus on why you're there and get the most out of it. Are you primarily looking to strengthen relationships with existing customers, make new leads, or launch a new product? When we attend a show we've visited before, around 80% of the people we see are already customers of ours, and especially if it's a very busy fair like the Birmingham NEC, we'll contact them in advance to make appointments. We'll also get in touch with some of our selected customers prior to the fair with offers on tickets and travel to the event.

Make an impression

You've got to stand out from the rest and look good. We invest a lot of time in innovative stand design and in novel ideas for our promotional material.  Arcade games to promote our Game Over range has proved a great success.

If you're attending a trade show for the first time, keep it small and simple – you can make a better statement with something striking in a small space, and by targeting your audience, than if you're struggling with a large area to fill.

Think laterally

Venturing into a new genre has worked well for us. We're from a giftware background but we now have quite a lot of lines in beauty accessories. We've started attending beauty shows, and we attract attention because our original designs make us a little out of the ordinary at those events.

It's not just about on-the-day sales

When you're appraising a show, don't be too disheartened if the initial return seems poor. Cultivating leads, making new contacts and the potential business that can result is now just as important. We've also recruited some of our best sales people as a result of meeting them at trade fairs!

Another aspect of the shows is that they offer our buyers and designers a chance to look at the competition and gain an overview of the coming trends as reflected in the physical products.

Do you have any questions for Matt and the Puckator trade show team, or any of your own trade show experiences to share? Get in touch using the comment section below!

Maison and Objet 2019 Autumn Trade Show

Maison and Objet Stand Autumn 2019