My last blog talked at length (O.K. I have inherited my father’s penchant for wordy and lengthy writing and I can see my two sisters rolling their eyes about this) about new products and many of the deliberations that go into selecting products for our store, Lisa’s Gift Wrappers.
So, now what happens when I can’t find what I need or I want to catch some items that will be a part of the trend, say in colors, or textures or a new manufacturing technique.
I first look for trade shows, as they are quite simply a great way to see tons of new things, generally in one location. And, they often have great lectures and seminars that I can use to educate my clients and broaden our identity as a company.
Over the years, I have heard many great speakers and have heard design inspirations from great designers like Anna Griffin or color trends from Leatrice Eiseman, Eiseman Center for Color Information and Training.
Sometimes, I go straight to a vendor and see their factory or meeting their staff so I can understand their business and see how it could work with mine.
One of my must-do’s each year is to go to the New York Stationery Show in May. It starts on Sunday, but I arrive on Saturday to take the tour available to see what New York retailers are doing trend wise. It is great for spotting trends, seeing display options and in general learning more about retailing.
When the show starts, so does the sensory overload- colors, choices, patterns, you name it. The Jacob Javits Center is huge- and there are lots of rows of vendors to see, especially with multiple levels. I make sure to plan my time so I can see and hear everything and then digest it all.
The whole point is to find new products. And I get to see them in the real instead of on the Internet or through a catalog. It takes time and money to bring these to you, our customers and potential clients.
Sometimes I find an instant winner. Sometimes it’s a vendor that I will keep in my resource file, for that certain time that I need that product. Some vendors may not even an item or product that fits with my store, but I need to know about it because it keeps us well-informed about the bigger world.
I go to regional shows, mostly Chicago, at the Design Mart. Mostly smaller manufacturers are represented; they only do a regional show until they build up their base and can afford to attend a national show like the NY Stationery Show.
I also look for new vendors on the Web. It is not a particularly easy way to find new products because you have to sift through different ways of finding vendors and then look at their show schedules. If you get lucky, they may have a local sales representative or one that travels in your area on a specific schedule. Sometimes, it’s the process of getting samples to see what the item looks like and if it will fit your product mix.
I balance all this research and travel with running my business.
I am always looking for holes in my offerings to see what I should do
and where I should go.
Sometimes it means staying home. Last year, I stayed in Michigan and took several classes to build my business knowledge. So the cost of those classes versus traveling to shows was about the same.
This year, I will definitely go to New York and probably a new regional show, to get more insight and see hopefully some different vendors.
When I travel, I am always thinking of you- my customers- and how to make Lisa’s Gift Wrappers the best it can be.
So as they say-I’ll be on the road again soon.