This year I decided to embark on the journey of doing a trade show. Taking my brand Merry People [Dani is the owner of designer rainwear label Merry People] to a wider audience to obtain orders & exposure to the Australian and New Zealand fashion and lifestyle industry.
For those unfamiliar – a trade show is where a business sets up a shop front within an exhibition type building over a series of days. Retail buyers come through to look at your products or service and potentially make wholesale orders. Media, stylists, and agents also come through the show.
I am going to write about my experiences as a small designer who embarked on this journey at the Sydney Life in Style, February 2016. Life in Style is the biggest Lifestyle show in Australia and it’s an opportunity to really create your presence within in the market.
The decision to do Life in Style was easy. I had a number of new products for winter 2016 and needed the exposure to grow my stockists. Whilst the cost was high to participate, the costs of doing the show outweighed the costs and time associated with travelling around the country visiting individual stores.
Day 1 – Arriving in Sydney
I was on a massive high. All of my work over the previous months: getting my samples, my marketing materials, and my stand organised, was coming to fruition. I was with one of my best friends/housemates/assistants (Richard), we were laughing and having a great time and even upgraded to the best seats on the plane, I thought nothing could go wrong. Until I was waiting at Sydney airport baggage collection and my bag with all my samples, my sign, brochures, and business cards didn’t come through. My heart sank as the baggage carousel stopped. My mind was flickering a million miles an hour: what would I do if I didn’t have the bag in time for the show, how would my stand look without the contents of that bag, could I rectify the situation within 18 hours?
What I learnt: Don’t put critical contents into checked in luggage if possible on a business trip.
I filled in the lost bag form and explained the importance of the bag to the service desk. As I sat down to have lunch, my stomach turning, I did burst into tears; no other samples existed in the world, and I wasn’t sure if I could get my business cards/brochures professionally printed in time. At around 1pm I received a call advising my bag had been found, that it was at Sydney airport and would be couriered to me (what a relief!). I didn’t end up receiving my bag until 6pm upon when Richard and my Sydney friend Ben helped me set up my stand.
What I learnt: It is so important to have supportive people around you when you have a business, but more so when you’re doing something like a trade show. Not only do you need the physical support but equally the emotional support.
Day 2 – Start of the Trade Show
I was exhausted from the events of the day before, however I was beyond excited, nervous, and 100% ready to talk to the flood of people waiting at the gates. It was a really busy day (maybe the busiest day of the show). We spoke to so many retailers and obtained lots orders and feedback on my products.
What I learnt: Trade events are not only about getting sales, they are also about exposure and learning what products retailers respond well to. Listen to what the retailers say and document this for future product research and development.
Day 3 & Day 4 – The Trade Show Continues
The Friday and Saturday of the show were both quieter days. There were two other smaller trade shows in Sydney at the same time, so a lot of buyers moved between them. During the quiet times we talked to our neighbour designers who were a lot more established than us.
What I learnt: Network with as many designers as you can at a trade show, learn what they do and get ideas on how they grew their business. I always freely share information on the things I have done and this is one element of the fashion/life style industry I absolutely love. Everyone is so supportive and encouraging. You develop so many meaningful friendships and connections.
Day 5 – The last day of the show
Sunday was also a very busy day (similar to day 1). Many retailers came back in on Sunday to finalise orders, so we did really well with orders and I was also on a happiness high from the event!
What I learnt: Celebrate! Despite being on a health detox I decided to take a day off to thank Richard and Ben for their support with some cocktails. We discussed what worked well and what we would have improved — which I later documented.
Would I do it all again? Absolutely! One thing I love about creating my own designs and owning my own business is the emotion. You actually feel something real and genuine when you do embark on something big like a Trade show. It is very exposing and can make you feel very vulnerable, but is also the most rewarding feeling I have ever felt.
If you’re interested in doing Life in Style or a trade show – drop me a line! I am more than happy to discuss my experiences and answer any questions.
Email Dani email@example.com