Trade show review 1: POOL 8/2008

This morning we have a trip report from Tifany Hoffman of Recycle Bin who shares her experiences as a first time exhibitor at POOL. Actually, although she’s been in business for over 15 years, this was the first time she’d ever shown a line at a trade show. Thanks Tifany!
For me, the show actually started the day before I was leaving for Vegas. This day began with the most important lesson of my entire trip. Since I have a brother in law who lives in Las Vegas, and not wanting to take a chance of losing my luggage during the flight because of a change over, I decided to ship everything for my booth including my samples to his house. Well, I’ll just put it this way… the post office still can’t find my packages! And, I found this out only two days before I was leaving. I’m thankful for my sewing contractor who was able to make 7 of my 15 samples the day before I left. I had to drive 11 hours to go pick them up. I learned to never let your samples leave your side. Everything else can be replaced when you get there, but not your samples!

To make matters worse I received my shipment of business cards and postcards the day before I left too. I placed the order a month in advance and told them the deadline of when I needed them. I opened the box of lovely business cards but there were no postcards! Tell me this is not happening. But guess what….it was. And just like my sample fiasco I had to think of something to make it work. Talk about a crash course into the world of a DE!

My plane left at 6 AM the day before the set up day. I’m so glad I booked that ticket the day before because I had the time to run around Las Vegas like a chicken with my head cut off. I had to get the postcards printed, and everything I would need for my booth. Thankfully Vegas is a big place and I was able to accomplish the tasks at hand. I even found all eco friendly decor I needed for my booth. I figured since I am an eco-conscious company this was an important factor.

Set Up Day:
Sunday rolls around and it is the first official day of Pool, well for us exhibitors anyway. I arrived to set up my booth, and I noticed as I walked in, the place is fairly large. From a new DE’s perspective it was huge. There were isles and isles of booths. For a brief moment I felt overwhelmed by the number of DEs there actually were and for the first time, I got a minuscule picture of just how big this industry is. I finally found my booth and got to work. Everyone was busy putting things together. Man oh man was it hot. I mean it was so hot in that building during set up I was a sopping mess in the first 15 minutes. While I was putting the backdrop up, I needed a screwdriver. So I moseyed on over to another booth that I saw had tools (something I wish I would have brought), and asked if I could borrow a screwdriver. They were so nice and lent it to me. As the day went on I saw people so willing to help each other out. And at that moment I didn’t feel the largeness of the industry anymore. I saw that there is room for all of us.

I was happy with my booth location. The eco section was well thought out, and was differentiated from the rest of the show floor by being on bamboo flooring. The booth numbers were also highlighted in green on the show map directory. After I set up my booth I walked the eco floor, and I have to say that they did a great job of placing DEs with others that complemented each other. It didn’t look like a hodge podge of mixed matched styles when you walked down an aisle.

First Day:
Well it’s Monday, the first day that the doors open to buyers. Honestly it seemed slow, but I kept thinking what did I know?, I have never been to this show before. As the day went on other DEs who had been coming to Pool for 4 or more seasons said it was slow compared to previous years. I’m not sure if it is because of the economy or not, but it was a little discouraging. I did notice that traffic picked up before lunch and a few hours after toward the end of the show day. As I observed my surroundings I noticed a lot about the buyers. They didn’t seem to place a lot of orders this day. Unless the DEs had made an appointment, they didn’t get actual written orders. I did notice that the buyers took more information like postcards and catalogs though. So I held my head up and smiled and gave out as many cards as I could. But a lot of DEs around me, including me, left feeling discouraged. It was especially hard on those of us who were there for our first show.

I wore my best outfit including heels, and I didn’t bring back up shoes! OUCH is all I can say, I will never do that again. The next two days I wore my fancy schmancy jeweled flip flops. My feet just wouldn’t go into anything else considering the blisters they had. Next time I will remember to hunt down and bring nice shoes that are comfortable.

Second Day:
I left for the show with the attitude that this is a new day and another great opportunity to get out there and make contacts. When I arrived at the show you could feel the same attitude from others in the air. The doors open to start the day, the music starts, and it feels good to be there. The DJ was great. The music was upbeat, not too loud, and made for a great atmosphere. By this time I had met the other DEs around me, and all but a couple were very friendly. There wasn’t a cut throat attitude which was extremely nice.

The foot traffic wasn’t as much as the first day, but there were more orders being placed which made up for it. The talk on the floor was whether Magic’s eco section was any better. I got a pass so I could tour that section so I took a break and headed over to Magic. I only had enough time to see the eco part though. The first thing I noticed was this section had been placed in the far back left corner. It was a small section also. There didn’t seem to be much foot traffic either. But Magic did do a lot to advertise the section and the DEs in there. There were signs everywhere for the eco section. They even put them in the Pool show directing traffic that way. There was a large sign that would flash each company’s logo. They also offered a runway show every day at 11:30. I would think that would attract buyers and media. I’m still not sure which show would have been better for the eco conscious DE.

I went back to Pool and finished the day. It was a fun day. I made good contacts and got to know the other DEs a little better. The positives about Pool that I experienced today were: helpful staff, good music that wasn’t obnoxiously loud, great upbeat atmosphere, and good food. And they gave you enough food coupons to at least buy one meal a day.

Third Day:
Well, it’s the last day. I went to the show feeling like this is it. You either sink or swim. When I got there it was much different. I had expected more of the same, but it was quite the opposite. It was so unbelievably SLOW. Other DEs said that is normal for the last day of this show. One thing that really stuck out about the last day was the buyers that did attend, were placing orders. They had taken their notes from the previous days and they knew what they wanted. Most of them even had the show map directory highlighted with the booths they were going back to. What a great lesson this was. It showed me how important those first two days are. Even if you don’t write any orders you can’t give up. You have to keep smiling and handing out information because they might come back the last day.

This day went by the fastest. Before I knew it, we were all breaking down our booths to go home. It was a great experience, and I hope to go back in February. Overall this show was great in most every way.

Things I learned on my own and from observing others:

  • Have an upbeat attitude and always smile (even if your feet are killing you)
  • The first two days are so important in making contacts with buyers
  • Put your booth number on everything you’re planning on handing out so they can find their way back to you on the last day.
  • Never hand out your line sheet without getting the buyers contact information, even if it just a business card.
  • Staple all business cards to a notebook pad with notes
  • Wear comfortable shoes!
  • Dress the part. Look presentable. A lot of DEs wore things from the collection they were showing. It’s okay to be artsy, but be sure to look professional. (I saw a difference in how buyers interacted with the DEs because of this.)
  • Never let your samples out of your sight.
  • No matter what happens hold it together and make it work out.

But most importantly, There is room for all of us DEs, but to truly be able to make a living at this: …read “The Book“! I saw the importance of the book at this show. I saw some DEs with great product doing things that will hurt their business growth progress. Not all DEs will be famous, but we can make a decent living at something we love if we are smart about it. I’m re-reading the book for a second time.

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One comment

  1. Jesica says:

    Tifany I’m glad that over all the show went well for you and you made it work. I’m glad you got a chance to pop into magic too and check out the eco section. It was really great meeting you!

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