Trade Show Buying Strategy Tips

By Ali Cudby

It’s trade show season – an exciting time for retailers and manufacturers alike.  The shows themselves can be overwhelming – so many pretty things to ogle, people to see, trends to absorb.  I crawl back to my hotel every night, my head stuffed full of information that takes time to process.

As a retailer, it’s even harder because you’re applying all of that data to your unique business.  It’s critical to have a strategy going into a show in order to stay focused on your product flow, your customers, and your numbers.

Industry veteran and Lingerie Briefs Publisher Ellen Lewis and I chatted about the shows and her experience tackling them with business goals in mind.

“As a buyer, I know you can get caught up at a show in the beautiful merchandise and gorgeous models – you’re in a visual environment.  Being at the show itself is great on the one hand because you’re focused on the job at hand and away from the constant distractions.  But you can also get caught up in the fever of being inspired,” says Lewis.

Before arriving at Curve, it’s helpful to make concrete financial plans.  If you haven’t done so already, here are a few tips to help you maximize your visit, and your buying for the coming year.

1)  Know your flow.  How much new merchandise do you want coming into your store each month?  Have those monthly numbers in hand so that you can plan accordingly for smooth, seasonally adjusted inventory levels.  Look at replenishment across a spectrum of your product mix, from brand and size to color and style.

2)  Don’t skew your view.  Resist the urge to buy based on what you think is pretty.  Rather, focus on your customers.  Consider a more data-driven approach, based on the sizes and styles that are selling.  Some retailers have sophisticated software that tracks sales by any number of categories.  Others make notes on paper.  If your system works for you, that’s great.  As long as it’s giving you the data you need to drive back to your financial plan.

3)  Test the rest.  Do you wonder if you should expand what you offer? Are you planning any new promotions or programs?  Do you want to consider testing a new customer demographic?  Be targeted about your testing in advance, and don’t try to test too much at once.  Select a few key business tests for the year, and isolate the tests as much as possible, so you can track any corresponding bump in sales


Most importantly, decide in advance whether your strategy is to write your orders at the show, or not.  The advantage of writing at the show is that it’s easy.  You’re away from your store, and you can focus on the job at hand and look at the merchandise while you’re sitting with the folks who can take your orders.  Once you get back to your store it’s easy to get wrapped up in the everyday drama of running a small business.

Lewis is a fan of writing orders after the show. “It’s better to absorb the entire market availability before making a final selection.”  While you’re at the show, it’s harder to focus on your numbers and make a strategic decision – who doesn’t want to get swept up in a vendor’s selection!  Lewis advises making a board, with month-by-month selections, in order to ensure the right color flow on the floor.

No matter when you buy, being clear-minded about your budget, your customers and your marketing plans will help ensure a positive – and more profitable – experience.  There is a lot happening at the Curve shows this month.   Pierre Nicolas Hurstel, C.E.O. of  Curve says “Feel free to contact the Curve support team! We’re standing by, ready to help and answer any questions about the show. Feel free to contact us about anything, including navigating the website, learning more about the brands and understanding what you can expect when you arrive at the show.”


2 Discussion to this post

  1. […] the fashion styles, the process quickly becomes more complex.  Ali Cudby wrote a fantastic article for retailers on calculating what to spend at tradeshows, but for our small shop, our buying plan revolves around […]

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