JOHN RYAN RETAIL ENVIRONMENT
Are trade shows still worth attending? John Ryan looks at the long-awaited return of trade shows and discusses how useful they may or may not be to retailers in these changing times.
n off. On off. That, pretty much, is the story of trade shows at the moment and more generally the tale associated with lockdown since March last year. The shops, however, are open once again and have been trading as ‘normal’ for a little while now (well, except that everybody now wears a mask, but that’s fine). But on trade shows, a traditional mainstay of not just the greetings card sector but almost any industry you might care to think of, is it worth signing up and getting ready for the things, only to be told that they have been delayed once again? The answer is short: yes. But it’s a qualified affirmative. In ‘olden times’ we would have arrived at the trade show, met a range of suppliers, some new and others familiar and then gone away with a good idea of the status quo, having placed a few orders. And the point about the whole thing was that it was not just about the orders that
were placed, but the sense of the direction of travel about what should be in your shop(s) that was one of the main reasons for attending. Potential ongoing delays to trade shows mean that the normal order of things is disrupted and if you’re not careful you are operating somewhat in the dark and hoping that instinct and commercial savvy will carry the day. Well, perhaps they will, but operating sporadically means more work. You can still see all of your suppliers, but it will mean a lot more schlepping around for you and them. Having everybody in one place has very obvious advantages for all parties
“Keep attending, even if it is sporadic”
concerned, but this may not be the case currently. Unless you’re a real risk-taker, therefore, making sure you get out and about is essential. Of course, there will be trade shows and of course they will be worthy of your time, but the way things are you will have to go over and above what you normally do to keep things on an even keel. This might actually do some good insofar as making a trip to see an individual supplier will mean that you take more time considering their ranges and end up being better informed. Few things, however, are better for deciding what to do than the supplier, coffee, supplier, coffee, supplier routine that is the trade show hallmark. Keep attending, even if it is sporadic.
John Ryan is Stores Editor of Retail Week, a position he has held for more than two decades, and managing director of Newstores, a daily information service on what’s new in retail across the world. @newstores | www.newstores.co.uk | +44 7710 429926