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Trade Shows Year-Round - What Permanent Merchandise Marts Can Do for Your Retail Business

A Beginner's Guide to Buying Directly from China Suppliers

The Inside Scoop on Trade Shows - What They Are and How They Work

by Chris Malta
Last updated 8/22/2018

The Nuts and Bolts
Suppose you run an online business specializing in floral arrangements. Imagine coming across a huge mall devoted entirely to - you guessed it - flowers. You'd probably be pretty excited to find such an amazing source for products and ideas. Well, when you attend a trade show, that is basically what you're getting. At a trade show, many vendors within one particular industry set up exhibits to provide information on their products and services.

Different tradeshows typically represent different industries, and only members of legitimate businesses within those industries are allowed to attend. So to go, you'll need to prove you own, or buy for, a qualifying business - whether you run a brick-and-mortar store or an online business. That means you'll need your business card, tax ID information, and probably a credit card or check with the name of your company, or an invoice from a vendor, indicating you're a buyer in that industry.

What's In It for Me?
Steve Bergon, Senior Vice President of CTI Convention Staffing (CTIConventionStaffing.com) whose company provides staff for hundreds of trade shows annually, feels that the most important thing a retailer gains is information. There are conferences and products all centered on your specific field of interest. Bergon enthuses, "This is where you can pick up a great number of ideas. You can see exactly what your competition's offering."

Additionally, many vendors at these conventions will bring out their newest products - ones that may not hit the market for months - and allow you to pre-order them. And sometimes exhibitors will have specials on specific products and give you discounts for buying them at the show.

3 Tips to Being Prepared
When you invest time and money to attend a trade show, you want to make the most of it. That's why it's so important to be prepared. Here are some simple steps you would do well to follow:

    1. Pre-register. Most of these shows allow it and many require it. In addition to potential savings on registration fees, you can save yourself considerable time when you get to the convention.

    2. Have productive questions ready for the exhibitors: how quickly can they deliver, how quick are their reorders, etc.

    3. Think ahead - anticipate your needs:

      a) Pad and paper - you'll want to keep track of who impressed you.

      b) A sufficient amount of business cards. Typically an exhibitor can scan your ID badge and get all your contact information; however, if that's not the case, you want to be ready.

      c) A bag. You're going to be collecting information all day and carrying it around - you'll want some place to put it.

How Do I Find the Trade Show I Need?
There are quite a few sites dedicated to trade show calendars. You can type in your industry and your city, and they'll show you the events that are coming into that particular venue.

If you live in a smaller city, you may have to be willing to drive a bit. But Bergon feels it's well worth the sacrifice. "You get a marvelous opportunity to get a heads up on your competition and reap the benefits and rewards. Zone in on the trade shows that you feel would be most appealing to you, or maybe closer proximity to where you're living, and take it from there."