Do you attend our industry’s trade shows? If you do, you already know the value they return to our industry. If you haven’t been to one before, I make the case here that you should budget at least one trade show a year and if you do it right, attending a trade show can pay dividends throughout the year.
Our industry has two major trade show events every year: Global Pet Expo in March in Orlando, Florida; and SuperZoo in July in Las Vegas, Nevada. Both shows have evolved and reinvented themselves over the years to become truly international venues attracting suppliers from around the world.
With proper planning, you will take away three major profit-building advantages by attending a trade show:
• A better relationship with the vendors who are important to your store’s well-being.
• A calendar of promotions that you work out with the vendor that could span the entire year.
• Extra discounts on products that you sell in volume, gaining an edge on local competition by receiving them earlier than other retailers in your market.
Not every attending vendor relies on trade shows to introduce new products, but they still want to write orders and will give discounts to retailers willing to write at the show. Although the deals may be available later in the year at distributors’ open houses and other shows, you still get an extra buy-in and can plan store promotions to bring customers into your store, gaining an edge over your competition. It also means that rather than buying huge quantities to get the deals, you will probably get the best discounts on lesser quantities because the vendor wants to tie up early sales on new products or programs.
Another great advantage you’ll receive by attending a trade show will be that vendors who are important to you will have their sales representatives present, ready and waiting to engage with you. You may also have access to national sales managers and even owners. Where else would you be able to interact with suppliers from around the country, or even from foreign lands? And they’re all in one room, focused on you, looking for ways to increase their business and are willing to give back to do so.
Being an independent retailer, you might think you’re at a disadvantage when competing with the big chains and mass market stores. But in reality, your business is more nimble and a potential trend-setter, simply because you don’t have to worry about a corporate office making decisions from afar. For this very reason, you’re important to both manufacturers and distributors because, without you, the industry’s product offering would eventually be dumbed down to basic general merchandise that produces volume but little innovation.
The best way to take advantage of your place in our industry is to attend at least one trade show, choosing one that best represents your main product and service category. When attending a show, plan ahead; don’t attend just to get a deal on what you would have purchased anyway. Present your ideas, letting vendors know that you have a sales plan with promotions, advertising and in-store events.
Visit the trade show’s website for a list of attendees, then set aside a few evenings and work up a preferred manufacturer list with an outline of what you think those manufacturers might be willing to do for your business. Create a yearlong advertising/promotions calendar and present your program to your preferred vendors. You may be surprised by what they will agree to do for you. All they really want from you is a positive outcome, which is your support at retail.
The same thing goes for your distributors. Talk to your distributor sales manager and present him or her with your promotional plan. Even though distributors run promotions and have trade show and open house discounts, that doesn’t mean they won’t support your ideas