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February 27, 2015

It’s that time of the year again. The annual plethora of national and regional trade shows, along with distributor open houses, will take place between March and September in 2015. Will you be taking advantage of these money-making opportunities?

In the past, trade shows were held as order writing events and, in some ways, this still holds true. Since the advent of digital communication, however, most manufacturers don’t wait for show events to reach out to their customer base when introducing new products. That’s not to say deals won’t be offered at shows. It just means that those deals will probably be available to you again at distributor open houses and other trade shows throughout the year, so you won’t be required to outlay a large chunk of cash at one time to get those deals.

We all know that our industry has gone through a period of consolidation that has affected both manufacturers and distributors. At first glance, it might appear to reduce the options of retailers. But if you look closer at the reality of these changes, you will see that, for the most part, these consolidated larger entities offer increased professionalism as well as a range of services that just weren’t available to retailers in the past.

Being an independent retailer, you might think that you are at a disadvantage when competing with the big chains and mass market stores. But in reality, your business is more agile 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 are important to both manufacturers and distributors; without you, the product offering would eventually be dumbed down to basic general merchandise that produces volume but little innovation. This is something manufacturers and distributors already know.

The best way to take advantage of your place in our industry is to attend at least one trade show; choose according to what best represents your main product and service category and then plan ahead. Don’t attend trade shows and open houses just to get a deal on what you would have purchased anyway; go to present your ideas for yearlong promotions, advertising and in-store events. Think about what you do to market your business, what promotions you run and what advertising you do during the year. Set aside a few evenings and work up a preferred manufacturers list, with an outline of what you think those manufacturers might be willing to do for your business. You may be surprised by what they will agree to do for you. All they really want from you is a positive outcome, plus your support at the retail shelf, and they are generally willing to reciprocate.

The same thing applies to meetings with your distributors. Talk to distributor sales managers and present a promotional plan. Even though distributors run promotions and have open house discounts, that doesn’t mean they won’t support your ideas. This way you don’t have to rely on specific events to plan for your store’s profitability and you’ll be able to take the time at their open house to cement relationships with the vendors you support.

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