9 lessons learned exhibiting at KID Show Las Vegas

Today we have a guest entry from [a DE I will call] Vivian about the lessons she learned at her first market launch. She wishes to remain anonymous in public but originally posted her advice in the member’s forum where she encourages you to ask questions or direct comments. In my opinion, Vivian did very well at the show. Many designers don’t take a single order at their first launch.

Without further ado, here’s a few words from Vivian about her experience exhibiting at the KID Show in Las Vegas on February 14-16, 2011.
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Overall, it was an invaluable learning experience to exhibit at a trade show. There’s no other way to really know how this works unless you’re in the thick of it. I paid a few hundred dollars extra to be at a corner booth. The exposure was great. This show was my launch and the first that anyone has seen me or my line.This is a smaller show which was perfect for a first timer like myself. I didn’t get as much interest as I would have liked. I only had a few orders. But, I’ve had quite a few orders after the show as a result of follow up emails. And there was a lot of interest from several reps, some of whom contacted me after the show. One rep said “You’re going to do really well. But, I’d like you to have some fulfillment under your belt”. Which is to be expected.

I did pick up an LA rep who I’m very excited about. This rep said that retailers need to see your brand at least ten times before they become comfortable and familiar with who you are. I heard from several people that until you have about 25 pieces or so, your line will drown in a showroom. I think that there is some truth to that, but you also need a good rep who is your cheerleader and loves your line. You can really tell when you come across a rep who believes in you and your talent. They will seek out your business.

Below are the 9 lessons I learned from exhibiting at Kid Show Las Vegas.

1. Not a single person noticed my care labels. There were many well established brands who didn’t have care labels/logo labels at all unless they were a sample from production. In my opinion, if you’re starting out and funds are limited this is a waste. Hang tags are a must.

2. People are ok with you saying “This sleeve will be 2 inches longer in production”, for example. They know that these things happen. Obviously, don’t go in with too many of these types of statements because it will taint their over all view of the line. But, if there are one or two styles that will be changed slightly for production, people will understand. I saw a lot of exhibitors who were saying these types of things. Buyers get it. They know it takes a while to make a piece perfect. If they love it, they’re gonna love it with the sleeves one inch longer for Fall. Certainly do your best to make everything complete and as it will be for production.

3. Some of the competition will probably be snooty or turn their heads as you say hello when they walk by -until you walk over and introduce yourself. Tell them how much you admire their line (only if it’s true) and you will be shocked as to how much advice and information they divulge. They could easily turn out to be your ally and mentor.

4. Pink was a no-go, for me. I read Caletha’s post (The secret to starting a successful children’s line) and after speaking with her on the phone, I decided to scramble and make two samples in pink. Not one single person picked up the pink set or even so much as looked at them. Maybe my line just doesn’t look good in pink? Who knows. It didn’t hurt to try and I wouldn’t have done it differently. You’ve got to listen to advice from those with loads of experience, but it’s anybody’s guess whether your line will do well in pink or whatever other color. I will still try to incorporate pink somewhere down the line just because a lot of people like pink -including my daughters.

5. Have some duplicates of some of your best pieces to sell for some quick cash on the last day of the show. It’s usually prohibited during the show, but it’s a free for all on the last day. There were a few things I only had singles of that I would have sold several of if I’d had more. I left the show with a nice bit of cash I hadn’t expected!

6. I bought a generic purchase order book from Office Max; it was a disaster. It’s not set up for this business and makes the task of writing up orders harder than it needs to be. Spend a little extra money but don’t print too many. Make a custom order form in Excel and have them printed as triplicates. It’s unlikely that you’ll use more than 25. It’s more professional and makes the process so much smoother.

7. There will be phonies at the show who are spying. We know this happens. Don’t be paranoid. Just do your job and sell your line. I don’t like standing the whole time waiting for bait to walk by. You might engage someone with a look and a smile as they glance at your line, but people are more likely to stop in to look if they don’t feel like they’re being herded. Not everyone will be there to buy garments. Some will be buyers for big department stores that send their buyers to shows with clear objectives. If they’re interested there will be some clear sign that you should engage.

8. If you can avoid it, try not to say “This is my launch! I’ve never had any orders! You’re my first!” I heard some brands saying this and I was mortified. They weren’t getting orders. You have to exude confidence otherwise retailers won’t have confidence that you’ll deliver. Avoid saying these statements if at all possible. Inflate the response to the line -it actually works. I saw a seasoned rep across the way from me do this over and over – he finally told me that he was bluffing but that people eat it up. Gotta love it.

9. Pick anyone’s brain who’s a veteran in the business. Think of the show like it’s a clinic for a college course and you know you’ll be tested when you get home. Immediately write down any valuable information so that you can review it when you get home.

Hope this was helpful!

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KF adds: If you are less than impressed by the KID Show web site, it is to your detriment. KID Show is owned and managed by the same people as the WWIN Show. I don’t think it is an exaggeration to say the latter is the most popular and best managed show in the US as rated by buyers, exhibitors and visitors alike.

Again, if you have questions for Vivian, you can post them here. You are free to comment on this entry but I don’t know if she’ll answer as she wishes to remain anonymous.

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12 comments

  1. Eric H says:

    Cool!

    1. Was CPSIA compliance an issue for any of the reps/buyers?

    4. Is it possible that it’s good to have something in pink just to show that you can do the compulsories?

    6. I wonder if there are any on-line purchase order books we could steer everyone to? What about the Office Max pad didn’t work?

    Sounds like you’re off to a good start, now you just need to make sure you come through on those orders.

  2. Bente says:

    Eric; I could probably answer some of those as I have been at market several times now.
    CPSIA is never mentioned if it’s not me mentioning it!
    Agree with Vivian about order sheets. I started out making 20 copies (Office Max) for my first market. Then I felt some small changes would make it easier for us and I improved for the next show.
    You will have to make your own Buying conditions. You can find templates to work from by searching on the net.
    Vivian: Thanks for taking your time writing this. I will join in on the forum with my experience!

  3. Kathleen says:

    Re: order sheets and terms of sale

    You can find templates to work from by searching on the net.

    This has been such a popular topic that I elevated an all-in-one thread in the forum as a sticky. If you lose this link, it’s at the top of the page in the Sales and Marketing folder.

  4. Kathleen says:

    Forgot to say, I recommend the above link rather than what you find on the web because it is specific to this industry. Searching on the net yields a lot of returns from people from other industries with aspects that don’t apply to us. Or, the apparel ones you do find, tend to be built on whatever they cobbled together from public sources and so are a bit green themselves and again, not specific to standard practices in the trade.

  5. sabine says:

    I have a comment to #1: In Canada care labels are mandatory, as far as I know, not for samples, but they ARE for anything that you actually sell, including the CA# or an RN# if you export to the states. I do not know the US regulations on that.

    And thank you so much for sharing all that! It is invaluable advise as far as I am concerned, I really needed to hear #8!

  6. Vicki says:

    Sabine, I was only referring to samples for exhibiting at a trade show – the lessons I learned exhibiting at Kid show. Not selling :) #8, very important, glad it will help you.

    Bente, thanks. And, right on about the triplicates.

    There’s so many little things that if we only shared with each other, would make the process so much easier. Alot of DE’s just want us that are “coming up” to learn it for ourselves, “after all.. no one told ME! I don’t want to make it easier for my potential competition.” Ya know what? Those that are gonna make it, are gonna make it. Those that wont, wont. Regardless of whether you are willing to lend a hand and share what your experiences were and what you learned.

  7. Caletha says:

    Hi Vicki,
    I’m glad you had a successful show! Orders at a first show are exciting—and relatively few and far between. Retailers typically like to take a wait-and-see approach so you were clearly offering something they wanted. No pink, eh? Well as a rep told me years ago, you have to have enough pieces in the line for a buyer to say yes and no to (which also relates to the 25-style minimum that the rep mentioned. Your line has to be large enough to make a statement and to giver buyers options.).

  8. Annik Van Steen says:

    people are more likely to stop in to look if they don’t feel like they’re being herded
    Absolutely. For me: say hi when I pass, and be available when I want to talk. Otherwise, just let me have a look. And please don’t watch me all the time; if you don’t trust me, I’ld rather you come along with me and talk to me.

    The same goes for shops. There are shops that I would prefer to go to, but never visit, exactly because of pushiness or constant watching.

  9. Victoria says:

    Read all comments and glad to hear every ones thoughts. This helps a lot. I own a wholesale business selling children designer and especially boutique clothes. And its been going great. BUT what I noticed working in years with clients all over country is that like Vicky said….” Not every one likes what you like”!!! That is soooo true! I had a client recently from Nigeria who own a boutique store, and I offered her the most amazing beautiful styles from Little Mass and Le Pink and few others, as to find out she told me she doesn’t like it, and she chose one of the cheapest lines that was not attractive to me at all! I am not saying we sell junk, by any means NO, but that specific line is so plain that I would never purchase for my kids. And yet other clients like me look for funky and unusual styles. So its really hard to make that decision when you make your own line.

    I am in process also making my own line, and my #1 goal is (what most moms like) to have:

    1. Good quality
    2. Good fabric
    2. Beautiful styles
    3. Great affordable prices

    These are #1 things that every mother looks for. So by working for many years in children industry and still am, this is what I am learning from every client. And that is what their customers (moms) look for. So I am hoping with this said that my new line this year will be loved by many, because I am putting my effort into those things. I will be attending one of the shows soon.

    What is the best show to start with as a new designer? Let me know your thoughts.

    P.S. By the way Vicky. I know Pixie Girl line VERY well!!!! You have amazing styles that I LOVE!
    My daughter wears your clothes. I recently again bought your gray dress (Rossette Maxi dress) and two piece outfit the gray stripped dress (poppy grey stripped tunic) with gray pants (grey peony pant) and HUGE ruffles. I get stopped every where moms asking where in the world I bought her clothes. lol
    So this is a compliment to you!

  10. Katherine Morris says:

    I was wondering if I’m allowed to ask during the show for samples or do I have to wait until the last day

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