Getting ready for a trade show can be daunting, especially for the first time jewelry designer exhibitor. My company, Pam Older Designs was at the August 2011 New York International Gift Show at the Javits Center so I have some recent experiences and advice on how to do a major trade show. I started out doing a few smaller regional shows before hitting NY. It gave me an invaluable introduction to the process. My booth design has evolved and improved over time and yours will too.
I hope this makes it easier for you to set up your handmade jewelry booth.
It’s all about your product. If you have a good product priced competitively you will sell! Sometimes it takes a few shows for people to start to really recognize what you have. Other times you could be a hit right away, don’t get discourged, it’s a marathon not a sprint. Develop a color story for your products a couple of months prior to your show and make your samples. I find that seasonal collections are essential for jewelry and apparel, but sometimes you have customers from different climates, so don’t omit your prettiest styles just because they are not in season. A month ahead of the show, get all your samples labeled with wholesale prices and style numbers. Put them all in plastic bags to bring to the show and resist the urge to start taking them out! For me this is the most time consuming part- once I get it the jewelry packed I feel I am ready to deal with the rest of the many details, but at least the design and manufacturing is complete.
Start sending promotional emails to your customers telling them your show and booth location many months prior to the show! Closer to show time you should offer an incentive for them to come see you. Perhaps a few show specials or a discount for an order over a set amount. Of course you should be using Facebook and Twitter to drive traffic all through the year. This year I id a video for FB showing us setting up the booth- from unpacking and setting up to the final booth ready and open for business.
Arrange for extra help to help you set up the day before the show and someone to help man the booth during the show. It’s hard work, don’t think you are lazy! Two people for a small booth is not overkill. Just don’t crowd your customers. Pre-register online and eliminate the time spent on getting badges the day of the show. Usually you will also need to get a badge for your set up crew if you have movers.
Design your booth and lay it out to scale in your garage or living room so you can see if it is going to work in your booth space. Stick to a style and color scheme , consider light weight and folding shelving, pedestals and tables. You will regret heavy items or things that are not compact, especially if you are planning to pack and move it along with your merchandise and displays. Walk the show before your actually exhibit there to get ideas of how you would like your space to look. Pay attention to the various sections – for instance the NY Gift Show has Personal Accessories, Handmade, NY’s Newest and other sections where you might be placed- or that you can choose from.
Lighting jewelry is vastly important – so figure that aspect out ahead of time. I always have a track light for my booth plus additional lighting to shine on all the surfaces. Pay for additional lighting or wattage if you think you will exceed the minimum feed. This time I signed up for electricity and brought my designer lamps. I found I did not need to buy any additional track lighting due to the convention center’s placement of overhead lighting. I was lucky, it doesn’t usually work out so well, but from now on I will wait until I see the actual booth space and the light. You may be able to save 100.00-200.00 if you do not need to order additional lighting. Most shows do not provide light- so make sure you check out the details. Lighting is paramount.
I display my earrings on upright racks to save space, and highlight my best pieces on necklace busts, T stands, and bracelet stands. Risers can double your space! Mirrors or natural stones look great as a backdrop for tabletop displays as well. I pin some of my pieces on padded canvases that I put in pretty silver frames and hang them for hooks secured on the booth frames for interest. They work especially well for long necklaces. Look for unusual display ideas – a good place to find the is at discount stores or online. Get your signage ready- you are going to need a vibrant banner or poster with your company name and logo and images- that will pull people into your booth. I pack all my displays, table coverings, frames, scissors, tarp, clamps and other assorted items in large rolling suitcases. If you have room in your car a folding dolly is indispensable.
You will need a minimum of two people to transport all of your things to the show AND into your booth. Arrange for that person to come at the show’s end to help move back as well. SOmeone usually has to stay with the vehicle while you are unloading and then you will be required to move the vehicle. Usually you can avoid expensive freight charges if you have a large vehicle, a dolly and a strong mover – all of which will make the process go faster! Some shows include drayage and packing in fact it is often part of your booth fee. This means you can unload your vehicle at a loading dock and get it brought to your booth on a skid. A large show may take a bit longer using this method, but it works for a small show. Sometimes it may take a little longer (you have to wait for them to bring out your containers) but you can do it without as much heavy lifting and carrying items to and from your vehicle.
The week before the show assemble everything in one place. Pack all your jewelry displays, branches, vases, magazine clips, signage, table coverings, sheets for covering the tables at night and a big tarp to close off the front of your booth- using clamps to close it up. Also bring fishing line to hang things, extra price tags and business cards, fine point sharpies, calculators, order sheets, and chargers for your phone and computer. I have a check list that I refer to for each show:
comfortable shoes to change into after the show
water bottles and candy (for you and your customers!)
extra chair (the show usually provides one but you may need an extra)
Computer and phone
Chargers for your electronics
email sign-in book
Brochures or promo materials
Business Cards/resale tax number
folding tables or pedestals
Checks for things you might buy at the show!!
hooks and hangers, double faced tape
plastic bags for jewelry or your jewelry cases when you are ready to pack it all up
Candy for customers
organizing boxes to store things under your tables.
Plastic bags for packing up orders prior to packing up.
Your Jewelry (if you can believe it, I forgot mine once and had to have someone take the train 3hrs to bring it me!)
Ok- your’re finished. Allow a 4-6 hours minimum to set it up so that it all works! Cover everything up, seal your booth with your tarp and go get a good night’s sleep!
The next day get up much earlier than you would like, get a cup of coffee, open your booth, take a deep breath, smile and start selling! Good luck!