Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Showing At Shows (part one)

Handblown Mexican Glassware

There are several important reasons to exhibit at a trade show, and the number of reasons expands as does a new company’s  customer base.  In the beginning when a company is just starting out and there is perhaps one key category of merchandise or even just one product, it is still the quickest, most effective way to get a market read on a new item, concept, or service.  Of course one must overcome the fear factors; such as, does my product serve a purpose; is the price something someone will pay; and who the heck will buy it anyway?
When it comes to customers, I always recommend that one start selling to specialty retailers first.  The specialty retailer is generally an individual or small chain of stores, who is as interested in a good value as any major “big box” retailer;  the difference is that the specialty retailer does not compete with a larger competitor on a particular item and certainly not on price.  They may, for instance sell the same category of goods; such as dog beds, but the specialty retailer will sell a better product; and while the bed will certainly be more expensive, the quality will also be higher than what one typically finds at a “big box” retailer;  the name of which provides a hint of what to expect inside.
The first Trade Show that I participated in was the Gourmet Show in San Francisco around 1990.  A sales representative that I convinced to help me sell my first handblown line of glassware from Mexico helped me set the booth with some cardboard pedestals and some wooden shelving he already had from previous shows.  As I recall, I didn’t really have enough merchandise to fill the booth, but then I wasn’t sure how much merchandise one should have anyway!
I don’t remember exactly how it went but I do remember that we wrote some orders; which were in the range of $150. each.  It was very exciting.  In my mind it had been a success as I knew definitively that there was a market for the items I was trying to sell.  I had not begun to design stemware yet, I was merely selling some existing styles from a factory that I was working with in Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, a small town on the Texas border.  And while this was a small beginning,  retail in the U.S. was strong and there were many players and opportunities, just waiting for a little creativity, which I was more than ready to provide.