Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Designer Shares Tradeshow Experience

One of fashionCEO's wonderful and talented members, Sheela (of Kuukivi jewelry line), recently experienced her first tradeshow. She had a booth at Accessories The Show in Las Vegas in August and has been generous enough to share her experience with the rest of us.

Overall impression of the show?

Sheela: The organization of the show was good. The booths were set up and things that were missing were fixed really quickly. The staff (like electrical etc) were really helpful and the service was good. This was my first show but I heard that most of the shows don't provide any lunch etc. Here, they gave breakfast, lunch and beverage coupons and had nice sandwiches and even cappuccino:) The organizing staff were around the whole 3 days stopping by at booths and asking how things were etc.

Sheela: The amount of foot traffic and diversity of buyers were not what I expected/hoped for. It was quite slow, at least in our row, and didn't see many buyers that were interested in the handmade unique jewelry (although got heaps of compliments). There were at least two other major shows going on in Las Vegas at the same time, namely Magic and Project. I don't know if that helped or affected the foot traffic.

Were the exhibitors mostly established companies or were there alot of emerging indie designers?

Sheela: It was a mixture. I did meet a few new indie designers and a few that came to the west coast for the first time to expand their business.

What was traffic like in your booth?

Sheela: It was in bursts but never more than 3 people at a time. It was quite slow in our row in general where there are more indie designers. More than half the people who came in to see my jewelry were "just looking" and there were quite a few people from outside US (like Thailand etc).

What type of buyers were there (boutique, dept store, etc)?

Sheela: Mostly boutiques, although I heard there were a few department stores too.

Had you set up appointments before the show?

Sheela: No. I sent out invitations to the boutiques I know about, mostly in the Bay area and LA but that's about it.

What did you feel buyers were looking for?

Sheela: The buyers who actually gave feedback before leaving (and after complimenting the designs) said that they were looking for low price items and hence gemstone handcrafted jewelry might not be the thing for them right now. We did see that the booths with mass produced goods had quite a few buyers in them. Within Indie designers, I saw more buyers at booths with jewelry that are much bigger in size than that of Kuukivi (like multiple strands of big pearls/corals/resin beads).

What tips did you learn from the other exhibitors?

Sheela: Since it was slow traffic for all of us in the aisle, I had the opportunity to talk to the neighbors and learn a thing or two. I learned that gift shows might be worth trying especially in the NY area. In one of the neighbors experience, the San Francisco gift show is way better than the California gift show. Shows in Florida also seem to be good for indie businesses.

Sheela: One of the main things I learned was about booth setup. Probably not a problem for most of them, but I felt I wasn't prepared enough for the show. I didn't even have a curtain to close the front (didn't know i needed one) and one of the neighbors lent me an extra they had. I learned different ways/techniques of setting up a booth and how to present the pieces to catch the buyers attention. One of the designers (fourth daughter.com)came by and actually helped me with the setup on the second day. She also put a Kuukivi piece in her booth and when that sold, told me that its presentation and marketing that gets people's attention and the designs will sell themselves. Seeing the slow traffic on the first day, she hired her friends teenage son to wear her jewelry and walk around the show passing brochures and she said it paid off quite well.

Sheela: One of the booths had a TV with a slide show running about their jewelry and another had a small digital picture frame showing a slide show of her jewelry pictures. They said it helps catch the eye and make them look at a design or two which might trigger enough interest to stop at the booth to look at jewelry.

What were the biggest lessons you learned?

Sheela: That I/Kuukivi was not ready for a wholesale show. That I needed more designs and better display units to get attention. Although in this particular case, even people who have been doing shows for a long time weren't quite busy as they usually are at other shows. And that really new Indie designers might need some time to get the name out and can't expect instant sales in the first show. And that I need to learn to sell my designs and talk to the customers when they walk into the booth:) (yes, I know it seems so obvious but I feel like I am intruding on them while they are looking and I'm mostly nervous).

What would you do different next time (booth, appts, etc)?

Sheela: I would definitely have a better setup in the booth and would do one or two retail shows before going for wholesale. I would wait till products are in a few boutiques and expand it at the shows than start off with the show to get into boutiques.

Will you do another tradeshow?

Sheela: Yes. Can't decide not to based on one show although I would pick a retail show or a gift show to attend next. I would probably wait a while before going back to Las Vegas too.


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Anonymous said...


Very interesting interview, we were in the same situation shortly ago and finally through tradeshows (Paris) we manage to be present in many boutiques here in Europe... so our advice to Sheela keep on trying on this hard task especially at the beginng, it's worth the effort!!!

By the way check our designs at www.sard.es if interested!!


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