Attending a fashion trade show is a great opportunity for a new designer brand to announce its arrival on the fashion scene. For those more established, exhibiting at trade shows is just another way to access new national and international buyers.
You’ll expose your work to new stockists that were unaware of you and build brand awareness. It is also a great opportunity to find agents or distributors, source new trade buyers, meet the press, stylists and bloggers; see what your competitors are doing and get inspiration and new ideas.
However, you’ll need to be very clear about what you hope to gain from attending as some events are more a PR exercise than a sales event.
Don’t be disheartened if you fail to recoup your expenses or even place orders the first time around, as buyers prefer to see you for a couple of seasons before stocking you.
Preparation before a fashion trade show
Carefully plan the sample collection that you intend to show at the fashion trade show. It should contain a selection of stand-out pieces, that will attract attention, as well as more commercial pieces that will sell.
Here are some tips to prepare in advance for a fashion trade show:
- Don’t produce too many items, as your stand will look overcrowded and messy.
- Ensure that the colours you’re showing compliment each other and keep the alternatives, such as basic shades elsewhere but available for fashion buyers to view should they wish to.
- Have a good balance of price points from entry level through to mid and high as this will attract a broader range of customers.
- Get regular updates from your sample maker and ensure that you’ll receive them in time for photographs.
- Make sure that your press material is ready for pre-show promoting and look-book creation.
- Set yourself measurable goals – for e.g. – 5 new stockists, 10 shop leads and 10 press contacts…etc.
- Get in touch with the buyers on your sales list and send them an invite at least three to four weeks ahead of the fashion trade show’s start. Be aware that the majority of their buying will have been done weeks before the show. If you can peak their interest with a great invite, lookbook and originality, they may take the time to make an appointment and to visit you on your stand.
- Shout about your impending fashion trade show participation on your social platforms. Post teaser images, videos and information that will capture the imagination of buyers and press (Here are some tips to write a killer fashion press release). Run a competition to entice your followers to share your posts with others and award one or two lucky people with an invite to meet you at the trade show.
- Organise the delivery of your samples (or collect them yourself) and displays to the venue and ensure that your samples have been insured in transit, on-site and in storage.
- Select reliable freighters and shipping agents if you’re exhibiting overseas. Be sure to check that they have all of the relevant customs and import documentation in place.
Smart tip – spend some time planning the look of your stand well in advance. Make sure that all props and mannequins, extra shelves or rails are pre-ordered.
Presentation Material for the fashion trade show:
- Order forms or books with sales terms and conditions.
- Lookbooks are a catalogue of well-styled images that tell the story of your brand.
- Business cards should include your contact details and information about your social platforms.
- Linesheets are sales tool designed to visually communicate all of the information necessary for a buyer to make a decision about purchasing your collection. It will include lots of facts about your collection that makes the buying process seamless. It’s a no-frills document that’s meant to answer questions at a glance.
Offer branded bottles of water or other small edibles as these will serve as a reminder of where they received them from.
- Make your stand as attractive as possible and include great photographs, bright colours and clear, bold signage.
- Ensure that buyers and clients feel your passion through proper merchandising within the allocated space.
- Have a good variety of different display options that will appeal to different people. Some like video while others prefer flyers, pamphlets and reading materials.
- Consider taking a tablet to showcase your website or social accounts like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, etc.. This will encourage visitors to ‘follow’ you.
- Have shelving and posters displayed above head height so that your stand is visible in a crowd.
- Your brand identity should be recognizable on the stand and at subsequent shows so keep the look consistent.
- Include a small table and chairs where you and the buyers can write orders up.
Smart tip – offer branded bottles of water or other small edibles as these will serve as a reminder of where they received them from.
Once the trade show begins…
- Arrive at your stand at least 30 minutes prior to the doors opening and make sure that you have everything you need.
- Wear comfortable clothes and shoes and have a supply of water, for yourself and your team.
- Be approachable, especially on the stand. Smile at everyone and ensure that your team do the same as visitors may want to engage with you and your team and ask questions. Don’t stand at the edge of the stand as this creates a barrier.
- Buyers will want to know where your collection is produced, wholesale and recommended retail price points, when it can be delivered, and the shipping costs.
- No eating on the stand, so make sure you have cover for breaks.
- Keep the stand clean and dust-free.
- Always ask visitors for business cards and offer them yours.
Smart tip – If your team are new or temporary – brief them so that they’re knowledgeable about the collection and the sales terms.
Remember that when you show for the first time you may not see immediate results.
After the fashion trade show is over:
- Follow up on any order confirmations and contact any buyers who showed interest. Get in touch with everyone you saw and thank them for visiting your stand.
- Continue to post images and videos from the event, after the show. Social media provides you with the opportunity to present branded content in such a way that will allow potential customers to learn more about the brand.
- You can create an article about your experience or new collection with images, on your blog or any free blog provider like Blogger. You can then create your Pinterest account and pin images there. The shelf life of any pin or image on Pinterest is the highest. So, even if a buyer sees your image after weeks, they will be able to find you easily. Read our article on ‘How to grow your business exposure with Pinterest‘.
- Produce a final budget working out expenditure versus sales – was it worth it? Remember that when you show for the first time you may not see immediate results.
Persistence is key if you don’t get the initial results you desired. Stay in touch with the buyers by getting their contact details and keep them informed of any events you may be hosting or any new products you may be launching.
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