Summer time may mean picnics, swimming and camping to some folks, but to shopkeepers it means it’s summer trade show season. I’m going to share with you a 10 minute tip that will make you seem like a pro when you go to your favorite trade shows. But first I want to make sure you’re going to a show – with the cost of gas and travel escalating, surveys show that some buyers are skipping their usual buying trips. That can work in the short run, especially if you have good relationships with your sales reps, however in the long run you need to refuel and reconnect by getting away from your shop and seeing what’s new.

Hopefully you’ll also take time to attend a seminar or two (I’d be happy to see you at the ones I’m giving in Chicago!) and to visit some other stores. There is nothing like the inspiration we get from admiring the best ideas of our fellow retailers – even the big ones – and seeing how we can adapt them to our own stores. An in this challenging economy, we need to keep our customers intrigued so they’ll come back time and again. 

One of the main reasons we go to trade shows is of course to find new products for our stores. And once you’re ready to place an order for a line, I hope you’ll think about the fact that the salesperson taking the order may be a bit tired and frazzled. (If you think it’s hard to walk the show all day long, even in good shoes, try standing in one spot for eight hours.) It really helps to prepare sheets of stickers (Avery 1" X 2 ¾" address stickers work fine) with your store name, address, phone and fax numbers to take to the show.  This may seem like a simple thing, and it shouldn’t take you longer than 10 minutes to do, but you’d be amazed at how grateful the order takers will be when you whip out your sheet of stickers and say "No need to fill in the store name and address – take as many of these stickers as you need."

When you write orders back in your store, you’ll want to keep those stickers handy for use on sales reps’ forms. But when you’re writing an order on your own, it is useful to have your own purchase order form that has all your contact information already on it. This is one of the two dozen forms available to readers of my book, Specialty Shop Retailing: Everything You Need to Know to Run Your Own Store that can be downloaded and customized. I’d like to share this form with you for free as a little perk of reading my blog. All you need to do is go to the link for and enter form number 4.4. It’s also available on the Gift and Home Channel resource site by clicking here.  Once you’ve downloaded this form you can insert the information relevant to your store. When you place an order, be sure to write in your rep’s name to make sure he or she gets credit,and give your shipping preferences.

Shipping preferences are also something you’ll need to think about as you write orders at the shows this summer. The cost of shipping is increasing constantly, and can really impact your bottom line. Give careful thought to the most economical way to receive your goods. If your cash flow is tight, and for most retailers it is, you can help manage your invoice due dates by either staggering the arrival times of shipments of merchandise, or looking for seasonal or delayed dating on your invoices.

Show specials offering dating or a discount can help stretch your budget this fall, and also help justify the cost of the trip.  Vendors sometimes offer more than the standard net 30 days to pay, especially on seasonal merchandise that they want to ship as soon as they can.  Delayed dating means you have the merchandise to sell for a longer period before you have to pay for it, always a plus. You may also find some discounts on merchandise if you order it at the show, and you can either use the extra margin to help your bottom line or pass some of the savings on to your customers.

One more tip about trade shows – be sure to take the opportunity to talk to your fellow retailers at lunch, on the show bus, or in the evening. We can all learn from each other, and outside of show season we often don’t get a chance to chat.

Happy Retailing,

Carol "Orange" Schroeder

Monday, June 23, 2008

Carol “Orange” Schroeder