This “best of” Specialty Shop Retailing blog is chosen from popular past posts.

Summer time may mean picnics, swimming and camping to some folks, but to shopkeepers it means it’s summer trade show season. Of course it can be expensive to travel to a show, so you may be tempted to take a pass. That may 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, and to stop by some retail stores in the city you’re visiting. There is nothing like the inspiration we get from admiring the best ideas of our fellow shopkeepers – even the big ones – and imagining how we can adapt them to our own stores. 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 to find new products for our stores. Even if you’re pressed for time, don’t skip the temps, which is where smaller new vendors will be exhibiting. Most shows also have a “discovery” section that is worth browsing. If you’re looking for something specific, you can use the show app to do a search beforehand to target a line that fits your needs.

Shipping preferences are something you’ll need to think about as you write orders at the shows. 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. Buying heavy items from vendors in your area will save shipping costs, as will consolidating smaller orders into a few larger ones.

Show specials offering free shipping, dating or discounts 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