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.
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!
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.