With quilt show season at its height, I thought I’d share some tips for shopping large shows, both wholesale and retail.
1. Pack comfortable clothes and shoes. You can easily be on your feet for eight hours or more. Take to heart the Quilts Inc. admonition, “Remember at Market, fashion stops at the knees!”
2. Take some healthy snacks with you, like fruits and nuts. All the booths will have snacks of the chocolate variety and while a bit is fine, you want to be sure to keep your stamina up. Once you start walking the floor, it’s hard to leave. Something new or an old friend catches your eye. That sugar rush just won’t sustain you. And, don’t forget to bring water or an empty water bottle to fill to keep hydrated.
3. Take advantage of the learning opportunities. Quilts Inc. has lectures and classes the day before Market opens and then the mornings and evenings when the vendor floor is closed. This is a wonderful opportunity to take back knowledge to share with your staff and customers and to build your business. At retail shows, you can often find wonderful classes that will teach you something to share with your customers. Even just bringing back knowledge of “what’s new” is important.
4. If you go to Quilt Market, don’t wait in line for Sample Spree. I always check the lines for Sample Spree and often find the same people at the front of the line every show. They recognize me coming now! Some of these attendees get in line at 2 pm for an event that starts at 8 pm. They miss half of the Schoolhouse Sessions and terrific learning opportunities. Once the doors open, most everyone in line gets in within five to 10 minutes. Even latecomers get in. Last I heard they weren’t giving a prize for first one in the door!
5. Don’t forget your business cards. You are going to meet shop owners and quilt business owners from around the world in addition to buying for your business. A good tip is to make a note or two on the back of the card as a memory jogger for when you get home. And, to make it easy for ordering, try printing the information on labels to make filling out forms easier.
6. Start with a plan to shop the floor. Spend time the night before going through the show program, marking those you must see. Set a schedule that includes any appointments you have with fabric companies or distributors. If you are shopping with a group, be sure everyone knows the schedule. Many shop owners walk the floor and collect literature during the first day, go over the material at night and then buy the second or third day. Other shop owners know what their shop needs and buy on the first walk through. Figure out the plan that will work best for you.
7. If you are traveling with a group, be sure you’ve got everyone’s phone numbers programmed in to your phones. Market is really big, and it’s easy to get separated from your group. Even keeping up with your group at a small show can be a problem.
8. Keep a journal so you can track what you see, need to follow up on, etc. I usually have a small 5″ by 8″ notebook where I make notes about what’s new, action I need to take when I get back, and secure business cards I collect. It’s fun to see what’s transpired over the years.
9. Look for ways to connect. Everyone has to have lunch and/or dinner. Look for someone at a table, go join them. You’ll probably pick up a business tip and be able to share one, too. And, likely you’ll make a new friend.
Please share your thoughts below.