Fashion trade shows can easily intimidate small business owners, especially if it is their first time attending. But, don’t worry because I have done my research and I am here to help you navigate them. Attending fashion trade shows is an effective way for you to introduce your brand to the fashion industry and share your products. You will also be able to connect with buyers, scope out the competition, and learn from professionals by participating in events.
Trade shows do have high costs, but if you make wise decisions, they can result in huge benefits and propel your fashion brand forward. You do not want to waste this opportunity, therefore you need to have a plan.
Here is a list of the 5 steps you must follow in order to achieve success at fashion trade shows:
- Prepare in Advance
- Set Up Your Booth
- Attend Seminars, Workshops, or Fireside Chats
- Follow Up
1. Prepare in Advance
Preparation is key. You will want to be completely ready before arriving at a fashion trade show. The first step to prepare for these events is to establish your goals. Don’t attend an exhibition without having a purpose. You need to decide your main objectives whether they are to generate leads, learn about upcoming trends, present a new product or announce your fashion brand to the industry.
Next, do your research. There are countless trade shows that occur all over the world in the fashion industry. Therefore, you must figure out which ones will be the most beneficial for your retail company. For instance, if your brand does not focus on menswear, you will not want to attend Pitti Immagine Uomo in Italy. There are well-known international trade shows that you might consider applying to exhibit in such as MAGIC in Las Vegas and Pure in London. However, your fashion business may be more successful showcasing your products at a regional trade show where there is less competition and more opportunities to interact with local experts.
It is also helpful to check if there are any additional exhibitions going on in the area. If you traveled a long way, you might as well look into other events happening around the same time. If you find any, it can be a great way to gain exposure for your fashion business and continue meeting more people in the retail industry.
Then, identify your desired buyers, so that you know who to reach out to and personally invite to visit your booth at the trade show. Leverage social media and email to connect with these potential customers and other attendees, while creating anticipation about your products. It is essential to contact your target retailers and set up appointments with them months in advance. With so many rows in the large exhibition hall, filled with fashion designers, you will want to ensure they are at your booth excited to see your products. In addition, find out who the speakers are at the trade show. Read about the speakers beforehand and choose which you are the most interested in listening to. Then, you can have comments or questions prepared if you have the chance to engage in conversation with them.
I strongly recommend deciding exactly how you will allocate your time, so that you will have a successful experience at the exhibition. For instance, you can create a schedule in advance of all your vendor appointments, the events you wish to participate in, and when you will be able to take breaks.
Furthermore, map out your travel arrangements way before the day of the fashion exhibition. You cannot afford to miss a single appointment or event. Make sure your team’s plans are settled and they know precisely where they need to be as well.
2. Set Up Your Booth
Prior to the fashion trade show, it is important to check that all the products you will display in your booth will be delivered to you ahead of time. You do not want any logistical issues or else you will not have your new clothing items to show.
Once you know the location of your booth, share it on all your social media accounts and reach back out to your target buyers to inform them. The more attention you can bring to your retail company and excitement you can create before the trade show, the better engagement you will have during it.
Now that the big day is here, arrive early to the fashion exhibition so you will not be pressed for time. You want to have your booth set up in case some attendees come early. An added benefit of being early is that you might have the opportunity to switch to a more favorable location if another business cancelled.
You need to decorate your booth in a way that represents your fashion brand. You can use bright colors for your booth and have eye-catching posters, which will stand out and increase foot traffic. In addition, setting up an interactive display will engage potential customers and create a fun environment. Lighting for your booth is crucial to consider as well. For example, you can incorporate LED lights and add a spotlight depending on the atmosphere that matches your brand.
You should have flyers or brochures available at your booth for your desired retailers to learn more about your fashion brand and products. Not all buyers enjoy reading, so incorporating the same information into an entertaining video is another way to introduce your retail business to them. If you have a laptop or tablet on hand, you can show possible customers your social media and encourage them to follow you.
While participating in the fashion trade show, people will gravitate towards snacks and beverages. By offering food such as popcorn and drinks at your booth, more attendees may stop by. An effective method to get retailers to remember you is to provide bottles, cups, or napkins that are branded with your company’s name. You can also attract potential customers to your booth by having unique giveaways.
When you are at a fashion trade show, your booth must never be empty. Imagine this scenario: While you are at a seminar, another team member is participating in a workshop, and the rest of your team is out to lunch, a potential buyer visits your booth. Since there is no one there to have a conversation with, that retailer leaves and you lose out on a lead. Plus, your fashion brand ends up looking unprofessional. To avoid this situation, schedule shifts and breaks for everyone, so that a member of your team is running the booth at all times.
Networking is a key part of attending a fashion trade show. You will be surrounded by business professionals in the retail industry. Take advantage of this opportunity to connect with others because you can learn a lot from them, build your presence, and form relationships. It will be helpful to think of conversation starters before the exhibition, so you feel comfortable going up to any of the attendees. Don’t just talk about yourself, asking questions and listening to others can show that you are interested in their experiences and ultimately be more valuable to you.
Your introduction about your fashion business and products should be polished for when possible customers visit your booth. Before a trade show, you should practice your pitch over and over again. Keep it concise, but captivating and informative. While at your booth, you want to be welcoming and smile often in order to look approachable. Put your phone away and make direct eye contact with your desired buyers. Your main focus should be on forming meaningful connections.
In order to be successful, you and your team need to know all the information about your brand and products. Retailers will inquire about pricing, quality, minimum order quantities, manufacturing, and more. Therefore, if you want to make an excellent impression, everyone must be ready to answer in full detail any question thrown your direction.
It is important to ask those who you interact with for their contact information such as a business card or email address. Then, you will be able to connect with them after the exhibition. You should have your own business cards that you can give them, too.
4. Attend Seminars, Workshops, or Fireside Chats
Fashion trade shows are not solely about managing your booth and networking. There are seminars, workshops, and fireside chats for you to attend. Seminars are educational sessions that focus on relevant topics in the fashion industry. If you are passionate about a particular subject or you believe ideas will be discussed that will positively impact the growth of your business, I encourage you to attend that session. Sitting in on a seminar is also a great way for you to stay up to date on new trends in a rapidly changing world.
Another type of event at fashion trade shows are workshops. Workshops are mainly created to help you improve existing techniques and develop new skills. By participating in one, you will be able to build expertise, brainstorm ideas for your fashion brand, and find inspiration from other attendees. If you prefer a more hands-on session, workshops are perfect for you.
A fireside chat is an informal discussion between a guest and a moderator. The moderator keeps the conversation organized and incorporates questions from the audience into the chat, often by using technology. Many times polls are utilized to increase audience engagement. You can learn from experts in this casual environment and gain insight into their personal journey in the fashion industry and how they achieved success. They may offer advice to small business owners as well.
5. Follow Up
In order to get the most out of your time at a fashion trade show, you must follow up. You should reach out to all of the attendees you introduced yourself to. By doing so, they will be reminded of your retail business and you will maintain your relationship with them. Furthermore, I recommend sending out personalized thank you notes or emails to everyone who visited your booth, especially your target buyers.
You should follow up on any leads within a few days. By not waiting to contact those who showed interest in ordering, you will have a higher chance of getting sales and growing your fashion company.
If you have a blog, you might want to consider writing about your time at the exhibition. Sharing about your experience can continue to bring attention to your fashion brand. If there are pictures of the trade show, post them on all your social media accounts, too.
Attending retail trade shows is an amazing opportunity for your fashion brand. In this article, we discussed the 5 steps you must follow in order to be successful at these exhibitions. First, it is necessary to prepare in advance. You need to identify your goals, research the right trade shows for you, set up appointments with your desired buyers, establish a schedule, and arrange your travel plans. Then, the second step to fashion trade show success is to set up your booth. Check that all your products will be delivered and ready to display, arrive early to decorate your booth so that it represents your brand in the best way, and never allow your booth to be empty.
Third, network with target retailers, experts in the fashion industry, and other attendees. Know your introduction and all the details about your fashion brand and products. Don’t forget to get the contact information of everyone you connect with, so you can keep in touch. Fourth, attend seminars, workshops, or fireside chats. You should determine which events interest you and would benefit your business the most. Then, pay attention to the speakers or instructors and embrace the knowledge they share with you. The fifth step for you to take to be successful at retail exhibitions is to follow up. Send a personalized thank you to all your visitors and potential buyers. Reach out to any leads and write a blog or post on social media about your experience at the trade show.