As a retailer, you know that market time is one of the best perks of the business. You get the thrill of discovering the next hot thing and equally important, renewing old industry connections while forging new ones.
Yet the laundry list of things to do at market grows ever longer – with more showrooms and products – and the hours in which to do it all seem woefully inadequate. The struggle is real. Is there anything a harried buyer can do? The short answer is: Yes. Here are a few quick takeaways to make your experience at market as productive — and fun — as it can be.
1. Check off basic items from your to-do list as soon as possible. Register ahead so you can skip lines and often snatch early-bird discounts. Make hotel reservations in advance so you can avail of discounted rates and have more options to be situated close to the center of the action.
2. Use each Market’s website and online tools to plan your shopping strategy. For example, the Las Vegas Market website features a Market Planner to organize your schedule and maximize your trip and Catalog Gallery for sourcing product in advance, says Dorothy Belshaw, president of Gift & Home Décor for Las Vegas Market.
3. Judi Collins of the Pala Casino Spa Resort in Pala, CA, recommends making appointments with companies as a way of ensuring undivided attention from sales reps. While it’s best to schedule these before market, attending to this task on the first day you’re there should also be fine. Collins additionally suggests browsing the showroom before your scheduled appointment time so you’re a more informed buyer.
4. The devil’s in the details. Be prepared with everything you need for market. Mary Plathe at Orange City Area Health System in Orange City, IA, recommends organizing folders with materials such as address labels, including email, to ensure your information is correct on order forms; credit references; shopping lists including budget with dollars divided by product category; vendors; and purchase records so you can track what will arrive when.
5. Market-related apps, if any, are great because they have useful information such as floor plans and exhibitor deals which you can use to optimize your shopping route. Once at market, your smartphone can be a valuable tool to post finds to your store’s Instagram and Facebook feeds. This creates a sense of excitement for your customers as well.
6. Come to market with some specific needs you want to fill – be it jewelry or a new line of children’s apparel. Ask store staff for input and track sales to find out what current and future needs could be.
7. While planning is always good, don’t go overboard. Leave room for an unscripted stroll around market. Ray McKenzie of the Asian Art Museum in San Francisco, CA, suggests exploring everything because you never know where you will find hidden treasure. Also, don’t assume all showrooms carry the same lines as other markets, vendors often stock unique finds in each market.
8. Mingle, suggests Kathy Moe of Trinity Gifts in Fort Dodge, IA. Eat lunch with a stranger and get a different take on what’s selling. It’s a great way to discover products you might have otherwise overlooked. At market it’s okay to eavesdrop. Listening to conversations on shuttles and on escalators is an education and saves valuable time in surveying market.
9. The early bird gets the worm. Take an early shuttle which is usually not very crowded, recommends Greg McKay, of the Denver Art Museum in Denver, CO, and you use the ride to plan the day and review merchandise needs and orders.
10. While at market, gather business cards and immediately jot down a quick note about point of contact. It’s difficult to remember post-market how you met the person and in what context. Smartphone apps that scan business cards and allow note-taking are a good addition to your arsenal. Finally, follow-up with vendors and other contacts as soon as possible.