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Candace D'Agnolo

3 Key Mindset Shifts to Prepare For and Buy at Trade Shows

It all starts by looking at your inventory.




WHETHER YOU’RE GOING to Global Pet Expo this month or another buying show this year, in this article I’m going to help you “work it” on the trade show floor, and it all starts by looking at your inventory.

Your store is not a museum. You must move merchandise before it celebrates a birthday with you. But I know you hate giving discounts and don’t want to train your customers to buy only when you’re running a sale, so let’s untrain that motivator for them by having lots of great merchandise they do want to buy at full price!

Bring in the Independent Brands

So many retailers like to get all or most of their products from distributors because it’s easier … fewer invoices to reconcile, fewer mess-ups to handle, fewer people to have to talk to. However, what happens is you start to look like every other store in town and like the big boxes, too. It’s OK to have some items that are your “eggs, bread and milk”-type best-selling basics, but the majority of your items should make you look and feel unique. You opened a retail store. Part of being in retail is hunting for products that your customers will think are fresh and new. Stop waiting for the next best thing to be pitched to you by a sales rep or an email, and go discover what you know your customers will love. And remember, it’s OK if they don’t have a distributor.

Every Item Has to Pull Its Weight

Will it compete with another product on your shelf? Will it cause you to be over assorted in that category? Will it move out fast or slow? Does it require lots of explanation? All important questions to answer before you invest and place an order of new items. On the flip side, look at your current inventory: If an item or category isn’t selling through every 90-120 days, consider getting rid of it and trying something your customers will like better. Analyze this before you go to the show by paying close attention to what your customers have actually purchased in the past (not just told you they like), and buy more merchandise like that. Maybe you’ll find opportunities for things that flew out the door that could develop into larger or new sections in your shop.


Negotiate with Vendors

While you’re walking the miles of aisles, and looking at some of the show specials — which are definitely not as deep as they used to be — don’t pass up the opportunity to ask for additional discounts. This is the perfect time, when you are face-to-face with your vendors, to ask for better prices on their products — permanently.

So, make sure you’re talking with the right person, the one with the authority to give you improved pricing. Have margin goals for the department or store and negotiate with that goal in mind. Ask everyone. Make asking for discounted pricing part of your conversation with every vendor. Don’t assume some are too big, or too small, to negotiate with. You never know until you ask, and the worst they can do is say, “No.”

I’ve been in your shoes … no matter if you are just buying until your credit cards are maxed out, or if you’ve got your sales figures and vendor data at your fingertips. Both can make a show exciting, but it’s definitely more powerful when you can leverage what you learn, what you do and who you talk to at a show all year round.



NASC Media Spotlight

At first it was just an idea: Animal supplements needed the same quality control that human-grade supplements receive. But that was enough to start a movement and an organization —the National Animal Supplement Council — that would be dedicated to establishing a comprehensive path forward for the animal supplements industry. In this Media Spotlight interview, NASC’s president, Bill Bookout, talks to PETS+ interviewer Chloe DiVita about the industry today: Where it’s headed, what’s the latest focus and why it’s vital to gain the involvement of independent pet product retailers.

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