For all practical purposes, a permanent trade mart is an ongoing trade show. Most major U.S. cities have one or more such marts, each one housing hundreds or thousands of showrooms where wholesalers and manufacturers can display their product wares. Jeff Walton, General Manager of the Minneapolis Mart (MPLSGiftMart.com), defines trade marts this way: “They’re a one-stop shopping solution for retailers – thousands of different lines and products all represented in one place.”
For Your Convenience…
Integrating permanent marts into your product sourcing strategy provides you with considerable advantages. Their year-round presence allows you to schedule your sourcing at your convenience. And most merchandise marts don’t permit any overlap in product selection from showroom to showroom, which means that you see the largest possible variety of products.
Many merchandise marts also supply tools to help you maximize your sourcing visits: the option to work with a knowledgeable sales adviser, websites that provide a great deal of reference material and order information, and buyer’s directories that give valuable supplier contact info. And they hold temporary tradeshows several times a year, bringing in hundreds of additional suppliers and offering seminars to educate you, as a retailer, on market changes that affect you.
What You Can Expect
There are two kinds of permanent marts – national and regional, and each offers different advantages. National marts usually carry much deeper selections within each product line, and retailers can often buy directly from the manufacturer. Regional marts, on the other hand, tend to cater to smaller sellers; their suppliers are often more willing to work with Internet retailers who need to purchase in smaller quantities. Sourcing at a smaller venue may mean more personal customer service and follow-up, as well.
To make the most of your sourcing experience, there are three items you want to keep in mind as you make your plans. First, be aware that not every supplier showroom is open every day. If there is a particular supplier you want to speak with, make sure you set an appointment before you go. Second, realize that wholesale marts are not open to the public, so be prepared to provide proof that you’re a legitimate retail business. And last, research the mart you plan to attend. Some specialize in specific product types, so you want to ensure that you’re visiting the mart that’s best suited to meet your product needs.
Once Is Not Enough
Wholesale marts are a tremendous resource for finding quality goods and suppliers. But no matter how many excellent products you find for your eBiz, you can’t expect to just reorder them indefinitely and see continued selling success. The market is always changing, and you have to get out there, to see what direction it’s heading. That means constantly exposing yourself to upcoming trends, innovative products, and new suppliers. States Walton, “You need to keep coming back. That’s how you’re going to know what’s happening in your market, and continue sourcing the best merchandise for your eBiz.”