This Episode: Man At A Gift Show

Now more than ever, it’s important to go in to trade shows with a plan. Watch this new episode of Real Retail TV and learn how to navigate trade shows like a pro and avoid simple trade show buying mistakes.

Rather Read The Episode? Click Here.

Hey, it’s Bob. And I’m here in Atlanta. And behind me is the Mart where many, many, many shows, including, right now, the Temporary Gift Show, happen. I spoke this morning, and I’m speaking again tonight. But my session this morning inspired me to make this episode about mistakes that people make at shows and a couple of ways to avoid it, avoid them.

And the mistake that I’m talking about is this whole idea of going into a show and just walking the aisles and buying a bunch of stuff. When my brother Steve and I used to the New York Toy Fair, we used to call it buying a boatload. We’ll use the word “boat.” We would walk around. And we would look for something that we thought was going to be hot. If we thought it was going to be hot, we’d buy a boatload of it.

And then what, of course, was left over at the end of the season? The boatload of that particular thing that, of course, we had to mark down and sell at a deep discount. Of course, that hurt our margins. And it never worked the way it was supposed to.

So just going to a show and buying whatever you feel inspired to buy or buying whatever your vendors have the best deal on is a sure way to get stuck with merchandise that isn’t right for your store. And there’s two things that you can do to really combat this problem. And the first is to have a plan. And when I say have a plan, it’s best to have a plan that you create with a professional, like Management One, or a plan that you take from the open-to-buy that you create on your own– say if you have the Retail Mastery System and the Inventory Management Kit– I apologize for all the sound there. But have a plan.

So instead of just coming in and spending a bunch of money and spending up all of your money, have a plan for what you’re going to buy, what categories you’re going to buy into, how much you’re going to spend in each of those categories. And this is why we’re so passionate about having a professional buying service work with your store because they’re going to help you come into your shows with a plan. Of course, they’re going to help you with your plan all through the year, but particularly when you come into shows so you don’t overbuy, so you don’t get stuck with that merchandise, so your margins don’t suffer unnecessarily.

The second thing– and this comes from your assortment planning module in your Retail Mastery System– is this whole idea of having a merchandising philosophy. And a merchandising philosophy is a statement, a short statement– usually a sentence or two– that describes what you sell and acts as a filter to buy through. So for instance, at the Mackinaw Kite Company, our merchandising philosophy was colorful, quality, hands-on fun. And that statement helped us determine what we were going to bring into our store.
Your merchandise does a lot to define your store in the eyes of your customer. And a merchandising philosophy keeps that definition clear. Now this is important. You want to have some flexibility in your merchandising philosophy.

When we wrote our merchandising philosophy– colorful, quality, hands-on fun– we intentionally did it so we wouldn’t sell electronic games, plush, dolls. It wasn’t what we wanted to do or be. Now when I talk about flexibility, Beanie Babies came along. And Beanie Babies didn’t fit into our merchandising philosophy. And Brother Steve kept saying to me, Bob, we’ve got to bring in Beanie Babies. We’ve got to bring in Beanie Babies.

And I’m like no, no, no. It doesn’t fit our merchandising philosophy. And, of course, it was a big mistake. It was close enough to what we did that it would have worked. And, of course, we would have sold– we probably missed out on a couple hundred thousand dollars worth of sales that year– not probably. We missed out on a couple hundred thousand dollars of sales that year.

So just recognize when you come into a show, be prepared. Come in with a plan. Know what you’re looking for. Know what you’re wanting– how much you have to spend.

If you could do it in conjunction with a professional, great. If you can’t, really, really be clear on how much you have to spend. Don’t spend all your money just because the deals are good. Make sure that you’re being smart about it.

And if you have your Retail Mastery System, go in, go into that assortment planning module, spend some time with Susan in that video. And think about your assortment plan. It’s an important part of what you do. And it will help you become a more sophisticated and a more– whoa– successful merchant. That’s what happens when you try to hold your phone up for five straight minutes.

But anyway, I’m here in Atlanta. I hope that you found that helpful. If you have any comments, if you have any questions, by all means, put it down below. You know I love you. Buh-bye.

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