Before attending a trade show, do your homework and research the show:
- Learn as much as you can from the show’s website
- Ask the show organisers about the people attending the show? Who are they? Retail buyers? How many? From what geographic region? Covering what craft/design areas?
- Find out what other craft products will be exhibiting at the show – are they complimentary to your craft offer in terms of design, price or target consumer?
This information will confirm whether the show is right for you.
Sales Packs and Pricelists
Next, start to put together your ‘sales pack’ – the complete package of information that you will give to an interested retail buyer. Typically, this contains images of your products/designs, referenced by size and/or code; information about yourself; and your pricelist. Design your pricelist so that it can be used as an order form to be completed at the show or afterwards.
Buyers make their first assessment of your product when they see your stand display; they assess it again when they see and touch the product itself; and afterwards your pricelist helps to reinforce the positive perception they have of you and your product. Your pricelist should be user-friendly and accessible for buyers (in their own language, ideally), making your product easy to remember and easy to buy. It should communicate that you are a professional craft business.
Know the quantities / units you can supply in a given period. If you cannot meet or do not know whether you can meet an order, do not commit – check and get back to the buyer. Do not take an order you cannot meet. Do you hold stock of your craft in your workshops for orders? Think of specific quantities etc. Will you hold stock for a particular buyer? Think of cash flow.
Agents and Distributors
Many agents, representational agencies and distributors will research and attend trade shows – ‘looking for a new line’ to represent. As a craftsperson, you must ‘attract’ these overseas agents and distributors by making them believe that your work is ‘worth’ representing. ‘Worth’ means your craft work will sell in their retail accounts – as only when your work sells do they make money, since they sell on commission. Ask to see existing and past products that the agent or distributor has represented to see whether they are an appropriate fit with your own products.
Agents’ commission varies from 10% to 40%, relating to the ‘risk’ taken by the agent. Do they purchase and/or hold stock? If so, they will need a higher commission to cover their costs. Do they represent you at trade shows? If so, they may wish you to pay for this representation, in addition to commission on sales. Do they offer a ‘central delivery or collection’? If so, they have to cover their costs. And last, will invoices to retail buyers come from the agent – or direct from you as the craftsperson? This makes a difference to your cashflow – and to the agent’s.
Trade Shows and VAT
For trade shows within the European Union, clearly state your VAT number on your pricelist – if you are not registered, state this equally clearly. EU retail buyers need to know this for their financial records where they must record ‘intra-Community supplies’ and ‘intra-Community acquisitions’ – these terms relate to goods (crafts) supplied by a business in one EU Member State to a business (retailer) in another, which have been dispatched or transported from the territory of one Member State to another as a result of such supply.
When a retail buyer comes to your stand and wishes to place an order, they may ask you to advise on or suggest the make-up of their first order. It is good practice to give an option of a ‘starter order’ to a new retail account. Make this order not too expensive for the buyer, to minimise their risk, but ensure that it represents your craft work well and is a worthwhile order for yourself.
Select work that would look good on display in the shop. Have a photo of your ‘starter order’ to show the buyer what it would look like displayed in a retail location. This helps the retail buyer to visualise your work in their shop.
Research buyers and their needs, especially if you are exporting and know
- Their VAT or sales tax % - this will influence their mark up in retail
- The currency exchange rates between the euro and their currency
- Your bank charges, etc if there are differences in overseas payments
Remember that your peers are not only your competition, they also can compliment your craft offer. Consider whether you can work with them in terms of
- Sharing stands
- Buyer information / contacts
- Shipping costs
Sharing an agent or rep?
- Pre-show activity is as important as the show itself
- Don't take anything for granted – check – and then check again!
- Be pro-active on costings and shipping
- Know the buyers, institutions and outlets that you want to sell into
- Do a pre-show mailing / emailing / telephone call to any buyers you know that might attend the show. Send them information on your work: a pricelist, cover letter, image of your work and your stand number at the show
- If there are other outlets or retailers in the city / location of the show, could you ring them and invite them to the show or arrange a meeting pre- or post-show?
- Follow up on inquiries as soon as you return from the show
- Send info, images, samples, whatever has been requested at the show
- Take feedback on board
- See if your objectives have been reached
- Make sure your product lives up to the standard you promised
- Meet your delivery dates