Rilos + MiMi recently went on an exciting new business adventure by participating in a regional market buying show in Minnesota called MinneapolisMart. I had wanted to take Rilos + MiMi products to a buying show for a few years but did not feel like I had my products lines, fulfillment, and marketing materials ready until now.
Why Your Company Show Exhibit at a Buying Show
With social media and online websites to sell your products both to retail customers and wholesale customers I still felt like I wanted to go.
- Connect with other business like mine and hear their process, stories, and advice.
- Get a better understanding of how buying shows work.
- Meet and connect with sales representatives that carry and sell multiple brands of products and listen to how their process works and get their feedback on what they link of my products.
- Get my products visually in front of store owners to see and hear their opinions of my products and be able to see their expressions as they view the products.
- Hopefully get some new retail partners to carry Rilos + MiMi products in their store.
How to Pick Your First Buying Show
There are tons of buying shows year round and across the country, it’s difficult to decide exactly which one to attend first. Here are a few tips that helped me to determine why I went to MinneapolisMart.
Determine the best market for your brand. Shows are categorized by types of items stores are looking to buy. The MinneapolisMart is a Home + Gift show which means most of the store walkers owned gift shops or home and kitchen stores. I felt this was the best fit for my first show because it allowed me to show all my products from babies, kids, and adults versus just a baby store show. There are fashion + accessory shows, jewelry shows; you name it there is probably a show for it.
Location + Size + Cost. Don’t get me wrong, the big national shows like America’s Mart in Atlanta, Magic Market in Las Vegas, and NYNow definitely enticed me and I researched information on attending all of them but I chose the MinneapolisMart because it’s a regional buying show. That means a few things, it’s in driving distance. I didn’t want to worry about flying with or having to freight my booth on top of worry about attending my first show. It’s also smaller and targeted to an area close to my home state so I wouldn’t feel too overwhelmed for my first how. Lastly, cost was a big factor. The national shows are really expensive to exhibit at plus all the added cost of airfare, hotel, and freight quickly adds up. The MinneapolisMart is reasonably priced for a first time show.
Research the Market. Most shows have their own social media accounts on Facebook + Instagram that you can check out and view pictures but what I like to do is perform an Instagram search on the hashtag of the show. For examples if you search for #NYNOW on Instagram you will see thousands of pictures from both other companies that are exhibiting and store buyers that are attending. You can check out what booths looks like, how busy it seems, but also what buyers are attending the show and if they are in the correct demographics for you brand. If it looks like modern boutiques are attending the show then it might be a great fit.
Timing. Retail stores typically buy in seasons and you want to make sure you pick a show during the right season of your products. I picked the March MinneapolisMart show because several of the products are most popular in summer and March is the typically season for store owners and summer resorts to be stocking their summer products. Make sure you research the best timing for your products before determining if a show is a good fit. Several shows have multiple shows in a year. The MinneapolisMart has another show in August to catch the fall and holiday seasons for stores.
Booth Set Up for Buying Shows
Remember buying shows are for the store owners buying for their store, you want to set up your booth for them. Display how your products might look in a store or to give them an idea of how they might look in their store. You only need to bring samples not a ton of product, unless you feel that’s how your brand displays well. I brought one of each print of every product I have and felt that was enough.
Since this was my first show I didn’t want to spend any money on a booth and my booth is what worried me most. I didn’t want to show up and have my booth portray that I was a complete armature. I researched booth displays deeply and saw all these elaborate set up that cost thousands of dollars. I spoke with a friend who owns and store who also attends buying shows and she told me it’s big mix from fancy set ups to literally a table with their products on it. Reluctantly I went with a similar set up as my retail shows and you know what, my friend was right. There was a complete variety and I wasn’t completely out of place. Although I had some fancy embellishments like tassels that I ended up taking down the second day as I thought it distracted from the products too much.
Planning for Buying Shows
Line sheets. You want to make sure you have product information to give the buyers. This is typically a line sheet that has the products you offer with images, skus (internal codes that uniquely identify your products), descriptions of your products (materials, sizes, etc.) your pricing and minimums.
Order sheets. Carbon copy duplicate orders sheets to write down your orders on that you can also give a copy to the buyer. You can order customized order sheets from printing companies like www.uprinting.com or you can pick up a generic order book.
Business Cards. Make sure you have plenty with you to hand out to store owners and the business connections you will make like sales reps and other business owners.
Planning for Sales at Your First Buying Show
Know your stuff. Buyers will want to know your minimums whether it’s an opening order minimum amount and/or a minimum quantity of products, and also what your reorder minimum is. For example- my opening order minimum is $300 worth of products with a 6 products type minimum but prints can be mixed, meaning 6 reusable snack bags but doesn’t have to be 6 of the same pattern. Of course since I am the business owner and sales rep I was open to adjusting that to accommodate buyers.
Buyers will also frequently as the wholesale price of the products as you talk showing and talking to them. Make sure you have this down and are able to tell it to them confidently. Some buyers will ask if you have a suggested retail price, or if you sell online yourself. I don’t set a suggested retail price but make sure that I do not sell my products for less than a 50% mark up on my wholesale price. For examples a diaper clutch wholesales for $10 and I make sure I don’t sell for under $20 unless I am having a clearance sale.
Buyers will ask when they can expect to see your products in their stores, some want products as soon as possible while some stores are buying for a particular season and don’t want you to ship until closer to that season. Make sure you know how long it will take to get them your products so you don’t disappoint them on your first order.
Shipping can get expensive and buyers will want to know what your shipping costs are. It appears to be most common that the shipping is calculated and then charged back to the buyer when the order is processed but you can also do a standard flat rate shipping for wholesale orders or what I decided to do was orders placed during the show over $300 got free shipping.
As buyers walk the show and you pitch your products or line and you hear, “I would like to place an order,” from a buyer, what happens next? Some booths have a separate, small table and chair set up for the buyer and you to sit down and go through the order. Because of my setup and not wanting to purchase anything new for the show I just stood infront of my main display table with a clip board and order form to take the orders.
Once you have your order written down, the most common process is for the store buyer to give you their credit card for you to write down the number and charging details on the order form. Then when the products are ready to ship you charge their credit card. Some stores will have you call them when the order is ready to get their credit card details from them. I had not talked to anyone who has stores charge their cards directly at the show.
Things to Bring to Your First Buying Show that You might Not Think Of
- Stapler- when writing orders you can staple business cars to the order forms for your infrormation or some people staple your business card to their copy or your line sheets.
- Buyer treats or stoppers. I had gold hersey kisses in a jar for show walkers.
- Business Materials- order forms, business cards, line sheet.
- Make sure to check with the show director on what is provided in each booth. The MinneapolisMart provided a waste basket and two chairs.
- Buying shows are a lot slower then retail shows so expect some downtime. You can visit with neighbors which is what I like to do but some people brought their laptops to get some work done or magazines.
I think Rilos+ MiMi’s first retail buying show was a success. I didn’t have any expectations for my first show and was more looking at it for a learning experience. Companies that attended the same show in the past and show organizers said the show was really slow this year compared to previous year which might have made my expenerice a little skewed but I did pick up six new retail partners for my company. I call that a success!
I did meet with some sales representative and learnt a more about the sales process during retail buying shows which I will share in a future post about my buying show experience so stay tuned.