Apparel trade shows are the absolute best way to get your brand into retail stores. Before you pick any trade show, research them. A lot. If you have a chance, attend a trade show before you exhibit-the more you attend, the better. Take pictures and really pay attention to what works. Try to put yourself into the position of the brands exhibiting and write down what you would do differently. Make sure you know what you are getting into before you fully commit to booking a booth. The more you know about how the whole trade show works, the more successful your showing will be. This will give you an idea of what you can and can't bring, how you can decorate, and how to sell your line to retailers. There are dozens of trade shows out there, you just have to chose the ones that are specific to your market.
1. Perfect Your Product
The first thing you need is your product. Make sure it is EXACTLY how you want it to be displayed in stores. They should have the hang tags, packaging, care labels, stitching and all other finishing you would want on your piece in the store. Your product that the retailer sees is going to be the exact product they expect to receive when they place the order.
2. Design Your Booth
The next thing you need is design your trade show booth. It needs to cohesive with the direction of your retail displays, so put a lot of thought into this. You want to make sure when a buyer approaches your booth, they fell the vibe and understand your vision for retail. You do not want to keep them guessing in any way. Have your packaging finalized and the displays ready to go.
You have put hundreds of hours into your brand by now and the only thing you need to do is show it off. The clothing will sell itself once you show it to retailers, but you need to get them into your booth first. (They aren't just going to walk into a booth that they have never heard of before and book orders.)
The best thing to do is to start posting on your social outlets, compiling an email list of all the stores you want to get into and email them a flyer giving them a sneak peek of your line with an invitation to your booth. Email some of the top retailers you want to get into and try to book appointments. These guys are hardened warriors of the trade show floor, they have been doing it for years so they are on a schedule the whole trade show calendar. They usually make a list of brands they want to see and book an appointment weeks in advance. So if you can sneak into their carefully planned schedule, the better off you are.
The easiest piece to forget are the little things. Make sure you have more than enough business cards, pens, paper, water, snacks, red bull and other things you might need throughout the day. These are necessities for the show as the days are longer than you expect and you get more tired than you think. Also, make sure you bring enough catalogs and line sheets for retailers to take with them. They will remember your brand 10 times more if they have something they took with them, even if it is a business card they stuffed into their bag. Plan to make stickers, pamphlets, giveaway product, swag and anything else that would make the retailer remember you. Remember, everyone likes free stuff.
If you need any help or direction at all, feel free to contact me about anything trade show related. I just finished my tenth trade show season and would gladly help you prepare for your next trip to MAGIC, Agenda, SIA or the Surf Expo. I can handle anything from professional consultation and advice all the way to orchestrating the whole tradeshow