With the S/S 18 selling season upon us, many fashion brands are in the last stages of preparation for exhibiting at London Fashion Week. Planning is key to making the most out of the experience.
This seems a good time to highlight what I learnt in my 15 years at showing at both national and international trade exhibitions.
Define your aims and expectations
Trade shows give you access to new national and international buyers and build brand awareness with stockists that wouldn’t otherwise know about you. They can give you the opportunity to:-
• Find new trade buyers
• Find agents/distributors
• Also meet, press, bloggers, /stylists
• See what your competitors are up to
• Offer inspiration and new ideas.
Be clear about what you hope to achieve and why you are showing. Some shows are more about the PR than actually taking orders. If it’s your first time exhibiting, don’t expect to recoup all your costs in orders and sales at your first event. Buyers often want to see you for a few seasons before having the confidence to order.
Set yourself measurable goals – Eg 5 new stockists, re-orders from existing customers, 20 new leads.
Tips and checklists
• Contact existing and new potential target customers – send them an invitation for the show and follow up with a call – try and get them to make an appointment to see you on the stand.
• Use your social media presence to promote where you are showing. Post information, pictures and/or videos (perhaps a preview of a new product or video invitation to visit the stand). The goal is to let people/prospects know the who, what, where, when and most importantly, the why they should visit you at the stand.
• Be constantly in touch with whoever is making your samples to make sure they are on schedule.
• Plan carefully the sample collection you are taking with you to the show. Don’t make too many pieces as nothing looks worse than a cluttered stand – have some showstoppers that will attract buyer/press/stylists – they may not be the pieces that sell but will attract attention. Ideally your collection should include entry/mid and high price points to attract a broad base of customers.
• Design your stand ‘fit-out’ in advance. Check what is included in the stand package and order extras. It’s often more expensive if you order on the day.
• Make sure you’ve organised the delivery of your samples/displays to the venue Ensure your samples are insured on site, in storage and in transit.
• If exhibiting overseas, choose reliable freighters and shipping agents and check they have all the relevant customs / import documentation in place.
• Make a checklist of everything you need to take with you.
• Don’t have a physical barrier between you and the buyer.
• Keep your display simple and minimal.
• Maximise space especially vertically.
• Ensure you order enough lights.
• Have some display above head height so it can be picked out over a crowd.
• Keep the look of your stand consistent with your brand identity so that buyers recognise you at subsequent events.
• Allow for a space to sit a write orders
• Think about taking a computer display or tablet to show off your website/videos or to encourage and to give access to your social media pages to allow users to “Like” the brand on Facebook or follow on Twitter
Staffing the stand
• Take water – often hot at exhibitions
• Wear comfortable shoes and clothes
• Brief all staff (as they may be temporary)so they are knowledgeable on the product and terms
• Staff should always smile be friendly but not overbearing – not stand at edge of stand and make a barrier.
• Keep your stand clean, tidy and dust-free.
• No eating on stands! Arrange someone to give you a break
• Always, always ask for business cards from visitors
After the event
• Follow up order confirmations and chasing new leads. Contact everyone you saw and thank them for coming.
• After the show, continue to post pictures and video from the event. Again social media can also assist with your follow up. It provides the opportunity to present images, messages, video and other branded content in such a way that will allow potential customers to learn about the brand.
• Produce a final budget working out expenditure versus sales – was it worth it.? Remember though, with a trade show can’t tell for a while as takes a while to generate orders.
You can find out on other sales channels in our forthcoming Selling Fashion Online workshop on 5th October 2017.
By Alison Lewy MBE