For students or other people wishing to exhibit at a trade show her are some tips to get you started.
Research the show
It is worthwhile visiting the show before you intend to exhibit as trade shows cost quite a bit of money up front before you get any money back. Sometimes it can take 3 times exhibiting at the same Trade Show to gain orders from the buyers. Once they start recognising your work and see that you are a sustainable business then they may buy. Some people are lucky and get orders straight away but it is the risk you need to take to get your work out there. So it is good to research what show(s) would be best suited to your products and find out if your target market visits the show.
Dealing with buyers
Trade Shows are totally different from a general public craft fair/exhibition as it is only for trade and people won’t buy and take the goods away with them on the day. Some galleries will ask if you do orders on a Sale or Return (SOR) basis. It is up to you if you are willing to offer this but It is good to start out with having your work on SOR so that you can get your work out there. Don’t be scared to stick to your own terms and have confidence in yourself. However, I feel that it is best to do orders on bought in, Pro-forma basis, where the gallery places an order and pays for the pieces up front before you send out the pieces. The gallery places the order at the show, then it takes 4-6 weeks (or what ever your lead time is) to make the pieces. Once the order is ready you invoice the buyer. Once payment has been made you then post out the goods.
Make sure you have Pro-forma invoices at hand, a small biography/CV, CD with images, trade catalogue with images and codes and clear price lists to give to interested buyers. I make up gallery packs so it is easy for them to take my details away and hopefully they will come back to order.
Always ask for the buyers card so you can follow up after the show and make sure you bring a notebook to take notes of what specific ranges they are interested in so you can follow up. Make sure you have worked out your trade prices properly as you don’t want to undercut yourself just to get some orders. You have to be realistic and work out how much it costs to make a piece and what you need to sell it for to cover costs and make a little something at the same time. You are not a mass produced machine so you need to make sure your prices are accurate and you are making some money.
Less is more! It has taken me a number of years to find out how best to display my jewellery. At trade shows I use glass display cabinets, with perspex blocks and busts. I am always wanting to update and change my display to keep my stand fresh and eye catching. Because I have so many different ranges I feel that cabinets are the best way to display my work. There are so many innovative ways to show off your products. Some designers display their work on a table, use shelves or hang products on the walls. You can hire furniture from the show or bring your own. One thing to take note is that you can not hammer nails into the shell scheme walls so you will have to use hooks and invisible thread or Velcro tabs to stick things to the walls.
Lighting is extremely important for jewellery so make sure the cabinets are well lit. If you are bringing lights you will have to pay for a socket. You can also hire lights from the show. Branding is extremely important so make sure you have your company name and logo and blown up images of your products on the walls. I like to have a tall folding chair so that I’m not standing all day (it also helps to keep your posture straight) and a table to put brochures, business cards on.
It is worthwhile taking a large bottle of water and some grapes on the stand. These shows can get really warm and you spend lots of time talking to potential buyers so you need to keep hydrated and your sugar levels up.
Enjoy the show and don’t put too much pressure on yourself. A smile goes a long way!