Planning a trip to a retail trade show this year? Here are a few tips for a successful attendance.

Retail trade shows are important for retailers: they allow retailer brands to gain a comprehensive overview of what is happening in the industry, view product for themselves and build relationships with vendors. Some of the best retail trade shows have proven fruitful for companies seeking to grow their brands and establish a name for themselves. If you are planning a trip to a retail trade show this year (and as a retailer, you certainly should), here are a few tips for a successful attendance.

Set clear goals

Whenever you attend a trade show, you need to consider the proper preparation. Trade shows tend to be massive, with potentially hundreds of booths. Start by researching the trade show and learning more about attendants. This will help you map out where your priorities are and what you can expect. It also helps to have a thorough understanding of how you want to market your own retail company, and what your target audience expects from you. For example, if you have noticed Union Apparel has done well on shelves, this might be a niche area you want to pay more attention to. 

Check your numbers

One of the biggest areas of preparation is checking each of your numbers and making sure that you don't overbuy. Seeing so many great new products and vendors can jumpstart your excitement, but it is important to remember that everything you purchase has to go; do not let your enthusiasm allow you to make decisions that are not based on careful analysis and number-crunching.

For example, if you find that your sales were down 7 per cent last year, your new inventory should reflect that. It is alright to be optimistic, but it must be balanced with a healthy dose of realism. It helps to employ an 'open to buy' mentality. This is a purchasing budget used by retailers that keeps them committed to not purchasing a particular product until the current inventory of that product is sold-this helps prevent them from overbuying.

Strengthen industry relationships

Retail trade shows are not just about sourcing great products, they are also about strengthening industry relationships and setting up solid foundations with vendors. Although they may not admit or realise it, there are plenty of situations where vendors can play favourites with retailers, and this is something that happens naturally across any industry.

Setting up consistent appointments and going after face-to-face interactions will help make you a preferred client. For instance, if the opportunity for limited edition apparel comes around, chances are the vendor you have built a relationship with will turn to you before they give a call before other merchants.

Pay attention to trends

There are few places like the trade floor that you have the ability to look into the future of retail. After all, these shows are a reflection of the retail landscape, and you can gain valuable insight into where trends are headed. There is also a certain buzz and energy in the air for particular brands and products, and you will be able to follow this trail long before anything is released to the public. As you gain useful knowledge, you can bring it back to your store and leverage it to your benefit.

Post-show tips

After the trade show, it is important to take certain steps to determine if you have had a successful event. Compare your actions towards your goals to determine whether each of your objectives have been met. If there were certain goals you wanted to achieve, but did not, take a step back to analyse what went wrong and what could be altered in the future. The overarching goal is to determine whether your time and money spent at the trade shows was worth it in the long-run. Could you have achieved the same results without going to the trade show? What sort of value did the trade show bring?