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Wholesale Trade Show Experience

January 26, 2013


Beckman_s_SquareRecently I was a guest at The Chicago Market’s bi-annual wholesale trade show.  This is located at the Merchandise Mart in the heart of downtown Chicago.  The Mart is so large that until recently, it had its own zip code!  When the Merchandise Mart opened in 1930, it was the largest building in the world (source).  It has been and continues to be a “leading retail and wholesale destination.”

The Chicago Market boasts a wholesale trade show consisting of gift, gourmet, boutique, jewelry, fair trade, clothing, and many other product categories, and draws in roughly 10,000 wholesale buyers over 4 days.  Beckman’s Handcrafted is a subset of this, which focuses on quality, handmade goods available for wholesale.  The exhibitor booths are grouped according to category, and each includes a show provided sign with the category clearly marked and color coded (so buyers can easily see in which section they are shopping).  The show also provides a product directory to every buyer and exhibitor (click here), further simplifying their shopping experience.

One could easily spend hours shopping…and s/he can given the cafe located on the same floor as the show (no need to leave the building for lunch!).

Here are my overall impressions:

  • The show not only draws in Midwestern buyers, but also from both coasts.  Buyers wear badges with their name, brick-and-mortar shop name, and town.  I saw buyers (and exhibitors) from VT all the way to CA.
  • This show is a huge, huge opportunity for anyone truly serious about his/her handcrafted business.  I spoke with an artisan from San Francisco.  This is her first wholesale trade show, and she had already received her first wholesale order in the first 2 hours of the show (…and bear in mind…this is a 4 day show!).
  • There is a constant stream of traffic.  There is not much downtime.  This is business…real business.  One must be ready to converse with a potential buyer at any moment.
  • Booth design and appeal is very important, and must be done strategically and with a mind on marketing.
  • Lots of product is crucial.  Buyers want to browse through styles and designs…they can afford to be picky.

Here are some things we will focus on to make our booth a success:

  • Design and appeal.  This is crucial!
  • Marketing takeaways.
  • Comprehensive wholesale line sheet (possibly a tri-fold brochure) including all the lines from participating vendors.  This will be available to all buyers who walk by and / or enter our booth.  Of course we want orders (and orders and orders!), but this takeaway is essentially an ad for your business, allowing for future orders after the show has closed.
  • Giveaway.  This may include a “fishbowl” type giveaway whereby buyers drop in their business card for a chance to win a giftcard to any vendor displayed in our booth (we would provide the giftcard..perhaps $50).  This helps increase our networking base, and helps our participating vendors get additional exposure.
  • Personalization.  We are working on ideas of how to convey the artisan to the buyer…each product line will have some type of identifying plaque so the different vendors are distinguished from one another in our booth.  We want to lend just a touch of a “meet the artist” feel.

Overall, I am thrilled at the opportunity to exhibit at this show in July, and represent some incredible talent!

I went into the show with some original booth design ideas, and I left the show with some additional ideas.  I have a general picture in mind of how I’d like our booth to look…and I’ll try to convey that to you in a future post!  Other subsequent posts will include “Wholesale Trade Show…Hidden Costs,” “Tradeshow Tips from a Buyer’s Perspective,” and “Trends in Trade Show Booth Design.” 

If you have already registered, we’re sure you’re already sharing the excitement with us.  If you are thinking about it, take your time and make the best decision for YOU.  Full details and pricing can be found under Services at this link.

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