The next few months promise to be busy ones for most stores with trade shows and group meetings taking up a good chunk of the calendar. Often, depending on their store location, this presents the only opportunity for some store owners to meet with other store owners and to purchase from vendors.
Attending a trade fair or buying meeting can involve some cost, but present many opportunities to gain valuable insights and information for your business. Like any investment however you need to make sure you maximize your return on the time spent there. With accommodation, airfares, meals and entertainment, sometimes for more than one person, it is crucial to plan your trip to ensure you make the best use of your time and give yourself every opportunity to take advantage of the knowledge and buying opportunities that will be presented.
In this month’s article I am going to cover a few of the key steps you need to do before heading to the event:
1. Set yourself the goal of learning one strategy from a colleague or consultant that will pay for your trip. I know one retailer who was always watching for the “ah-ha!” moment from each show or meeting he attended. This would be the one idea that he could implement in his store to cover the cost of the trip. He never failed to come away with that one idea, mostly because he was looking for it. Make sure you are watching for that “ah-ha!” moment at your buying meeting. Make an appointment with someone who can help you work on your business – either a consultant or a colleague who you admire and respect. Again, making that appointment lets them know you value their time and knowledge and makes it clear that you have a purpose.
2. Schedule appointments with your key vendors. Yes, you need to make time to chat with people along the way, but setting up times to go and see your key vendors gets you better organized and let’s them know you value their time as well. Once an appointment is scheduled it forces you to get organized before you go, as opposed to simply wandering from booth to booth
3. Determine your objective from each vendor. You may be looking for new product or wanting to discuss exchanging existing product with the vendor. Whatever it is have a goal of what you want to achieve from the meeting.
4. Get your printouts done before you go. The key reports you will need are:
- Inventory report by vendor
- Sales report by vendor
- Stock by Age report
Use your Stock by Age report to determine what departments have too much inventory and identify where more product is required. You can then use the inventory report by vendor to look at the particular product for that vendor. Ask yourself questions such as:
- What product does the vendor have that I might need? (Software such as AdvantEdge can help you pinpoint what is selling well elsewhere that may sell well for you)
- What product of the vendors is not selling for you? Now is the time to discuss this in more detail with them. Are they able to help? Can they make any suggestions?
- Use your sales reports to look at what has sold that you haven’t reordered. Should you get it back in?
5. Ask yourself what area of your business most needs work. Is it your marketing? Then seek out someone who can help with this area. Do you need to develop your staff communication? Then look for help on this subject. Is your inventory out of control? Then there is advice to be had on this. Guest speakers are at many of these events and have a wealth of knowledge to share. Make sure you take advantage of this.
There is no reason, with careful planning, why a buying meeting or trade show can’t yield some wonderful opportunities for any progressive retailer. Making sure you plan ahead will give you the best opportunity to use these events as a springboard to new growth.