A Beginner’s Guide to Going to Market

When we started Hanner Clarke, we envisioned an online only store. And online will remain the main focus of our marketing. But over the holidays we dipped a toe into the retail world and were pleasantly surprised with the results. So, with that experience inspiring us, we recently attended our first trade show. For anyone considering exhibiting at market for the first time, here are our impressions.

First, make sure the show is a good fit for your product. There are lots of trade shows out there, and you want to make certain you are choosing the right one. We attended F.I.G. (Fashion Industry Gallery) in Dallas, which has a number of permanent exhibitors, as well as temporary ones like us who are there only for the show. See fashionindustrygallery.com. The show was aimed at the contemporary retail market (a good but admittedly not quite perfect fit for us). The space was lovely, spacious and well lit, and the F.I.G. Team was extremely helpful and easy to work with.

Second, do your homework in advance. Find out which buyers will be attending (if you can), and reach out to those you think will be interested in your product. The trade show likely will not provide you with buyer emails, so that may take a bit of sleuthing on your part!

Third, try to set up appointments in advance. We had envisioned buyers leisurely strolling by booths and checking out the merchandise, much as we do at an art fair. Wrong! The buyers tend to come in knowing which booths they will visit, and they go directly and exclusively to those booths. Don’t expect walk by traffic!

Fourth, get to know your fellow exhibitors. You’ll spend several days with these folks, some of whom are well known and established brands and others who are relatively new. You can learn a lot by talking to them and hearing about their experiences, at trade shows and otherwise. We found other designers friendly and quite willing to share their expertise and advice!

For example, we were positioned near Three Bishops, Yana KTrask, and Stellan & Wilde. They were so helpful to us!

Fifth, here’s a secret—some exhibitors will do “personals,” meaning they will sell to you individually at a wholesale price. So whatever your success with buyers, you can have a successful shopping experience of your own!

Good luck, and have fun out there!