Exhibiting at Top Drawer - Spring Show 2023
It's taken me a while to write about this, as quite honestly it was an incredible show and we've not really stopped since! We exhibited at Top Drawer in January 2023 at Kensington Olympia, London, on the new Launchpad section right at the front of the show. I wanted to write a bit for any other small businesses thinking about exhibiting and also to just document that we actually did it (pinch me was that real?).
If you're a small business and you're thinking about exhibiting at a trade show it can be quite a daunting and expensive affair, so follow my top tips to make it work for you!
1. Be prepared
I was quite fortunate in that I had worked in designing trade show stands in my previous roles but not all shows are the same so it is really important to read all the information they provide you with. Make sure you book your parking slot / set up time and print off all your permits!
Also, ensure you have insurance sorted, not just the exhibition insurance but also public liability insurance and a risk assessment of your stand design.
2. Have a stand design
When it comes to your stand design you need to make sure you have a plan, design your stand but be prepared to turn up on the day and for things to be not quite as you planned. Ours was meant to be a 2 x 2 corner stand, I had a call the night before to see if we would take on an extra piece of space, fortunatly it worked so well for us!
You need to really consider lighting, our stand came with lights fortunately, and electric, do you need to charge your phone, computer etc?
When designing your stand really think about your products, try not to clutter your stand with props that don't make sense and that might confuse your potential customers as to what it is you're selling.
Really consider using the height of the walls to display what you're selling along with any clear USP's, buyers don't have a lot of time and they'll want to be able to see what you do at a quick glance. You need to really catch their eye!
Think about how you're going to attach things to the wall, some people use decals, but these can be tricky as they might not stick or peel off.
Don't forget to have somewhere concealed to store your coats / bags / extra marketing materials on the stand.
3. Products & Pricing
Pricing for wholesale is a lot of work, if you're VAT registered you'll need about a 2.4 mark up from the ex VAT price. This really blew my mind and led me to having to change all my prices for wholesale and retail. Top Drawer coincided with us having to go VAT registered in the January anyway so it worked for us. You need to really learn your wholesale and retail prices, as buyers will ask you on the spot about what prices your pieces are. Make sure too that your products are labelled with your prices and in their wholesale packaging - exactly as your buyers are expecting to receive them.
You'll need at least 1 of every style including different colours as buyers will want to pick up and build a collection with your products.
4. Printed Marketing Materials
- Catalogue / Lookbook
We created lots of printed marketing materials including a catalogue/lookbook featuring all the product variations, their product SKUs (codes) and other important product information. I didn't include prices in this as I thought it would work for consumer customers too or for any events where I might need to introduce people to our brand.
- Range Plan / Price List
I created a separate spreadsheet to sit alongside the catalogue listing all our styles and colours, this would act as a quick reference guide for buyers listing all the product SKUs, colours, materials and prices.
- Business Cards / Postcards
It's also handy to have something smaller as a lot of buyers won't have space to carry bulky catalogues. Have these available for buyers to pick up easily without having to ask you.
Also have a think about how you're going to take orders and record customer data. We went old school and took paper order forms, it seemed like the simplest solution without having to rely on Wi-Fi or electricity. It meant a bit more work at the end of the show but it worked for us.
5. Set Up
On the day you'll need to be super organised with all your products, your stand furniture and then also all your tools for set up. Think about using suitcases or something wheelable to carry all your stuff!
If you're painting your stand, get there early and start painting straight away! Don't forget a step ladder for those hard to reach places.
6. Good luck! You've got this!
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