Here’s the second of today’s entries from Marguerite.
NEAC (New England Apparel Club) show report
Background: Before I went to MODA I had shown my clothing to NY reps (three partners who rep Linda Lundstrum, by the way) who were interested but divided about taking me on. We were still in discussions when I learned about the NEAC show that started a few days after MODA. So I suggested they take my line. Long story short, only one of them was going to NEAC and since he didn’t have time to learn my line, why didn’t I go and show it in their booth? So, I quickly got myself and my clothes to MA for the show. It cost me $200 to be in the show as a manufacturer in the rep booth.
Set-up Day: As with MODA this was easy because the rep brought everything to make a great booth, and he also had a mannequin form for me to use. I got to walk around the show and see a lot of the same reps and clothes I had just seen at MODA. The show access is super easy, and everything ran very smoothly. The rep also told me where to stay cheaply (I had a hotel room with a kitchen for $50/night). It was nice to see familiar faces from MODA and it helps to be seen again.
Day 1: Slow. Lots of time to talk with the rep in my booth. He’s been in the business a long time and he’s very generous with his input. He does not want to take on a new designer, and he’s worried that they’ll sell more than I can handle. I’m not sure I want a show room fee, nor do I want to let them down by not being able to grow quickly. So, knowing we’re both leaning towards “no fit” gives us easy conversation. I literally picked his brains for three days. Some of his advice: get a business plan, get exposure, don’t jeopardize your home, build up a customer base to give to a rep. More tips on line sheets (comparing mine to ones he has), tips on closing sales, contacting people afterwards. Lesson: reps are a wealth of information —pick the brains of any you can find.
Wrote a nice order to a woman who talked with me at MODA. Another woman stopped by because a customer told her to. That was nice! Wish she’d written.
More networking. A woman came to my booth and loved my fabrics and clothes, but she’d just bought a batik skirt for $10 around the corner. Well, I had to go look. Spent a lot of time talking to a woman who manufactures in Bali. Told me the pros and cons. I’m still more focused on producing here in PA, but I see the competition I face. She manages to sew after taking orders because she uses air freight.
I thought people would be ordering for fall. My colors are a bit dark.
3 PM. Cookies and water distributed. That’s nice.
Day 2: Nor’easter has the show nearly shut down. Very few people, but I did manage to write an order. Spent the day walking the show, chatting with reps, designing. Slow, slow, slow.
But, I got a rep! The “newbie” rep that was recommended to me at MODA was here helping in another rep’s booth, and she and I met. She’s been doing this for a year, but has a background in retail and has been helping other reps, so it’s a good fit. We’re both new and she won’t grow me faster than I can handle. That’s nice.
Day 3: The show was slow, but I handed out a number of line sheets, I took a couple of orders. Overall, it was a good show. I made a profit and nearly made up the loss from MODA.
I consider these two shows a success (MODA & NEAC). I got exposure, met reps, got a rep, took orders, got new stores, and got contacts to follow up on. Sure, I’d rather have made tons of money, but I have not heard anything that discourages me or makes me think I can’t have a successful business.