The National Stationery Show is a big deal show for anyone in the paper and gift industry. Many businesses have been launched there, and many rely on the yearly show to stay in touch with their retailers, find new ones, show their new product lines, make connections for future collaboration, and get press for your business.
For those of you planning to exhibit at the NSS next year, or who are building up to showing at the NSS or any other trade show, such as NY NOW, the Atlanta Gift Market, or your own local trade shows, you might be wondering how to get started, and what you should know.
We asked NSS exhibitors how the show went for them, and what tips they could offer. We got a lot of replies, and I’ll be sharing these posts for a few weeks building up to summer’s NY NOW gift show. These trade show booth tips right from show exhibitors about will be helpful if you’re doing any kind of in-person selling or setting up a booth, so read on for National Stationery Show tips and expect more in the future.
This interview is with Sierra Zamarripa of Lovewild Design. We’re working with her on her website right now! So fun, because her products are so well thought out and her photography is beautiful. My questions are in bold, Sierra’s are not.
How many years have you been in business?
We started with our first retail market (Renegade Mini) in May 2013 and launched our wholesale side of Lovewild at the January 2014 NY NOW.
Roughly what percentage of your business is wholesale vs. retail?
We’re currently about 80% wholesale however we’re working on expanding our direct retail.
How many years have you exhibited at the NSS?What did you learn? Will you attend next year?
This was our second year exhibiting at NSS and third year walking. We’re debating as to whether or not we’ll be exhibiting next year. While I love doing shows and seeing all of our wonderful stockists and friends, it feels like the Stationery Show shrinks a little every year. Another big factor for us is that booth costs are essentially the same as much more profitable shows. 70% of the orders we write at the show are reorders, so while it’s great that our products are selling, those are orders we would have received whether exhibiting or not.
Do you do any other trade shows, markets, or craft fairs? Which ones, and how do they compare for your business?
Yes! We love markets and craft fairs. We found the most success at Renegade. They have a large following and the shoppers are so enthusiastic and there to shop! We always pick up quite a few wholesale accounts at Renegade so we’re always sure to remember our catalogs and info. We also have a permanent booth at Artists & Fleas in Brooklyn. People go in search of Brooklyn products or made in Brooklyn goodies – so it’s perfect for us! I would love to try some of the craft fairs we’d have to travel for. West Coast Renegade is something I’ve had on my mind for a while but we’re definitely wary of it. With local markets we have the luxury of running back to the studio to stock up on whatever sold out, but when you’re traveling it’s kind of a gamble!
Would you like to share a mistake you’ve made or a problem you’ve had at a trade show, and/or your smartest tip or best moment?
We definitely think more about layout after doing a few shows. I loved our booth for our very first trade show, but it was a little awkward. We had my beloved mid century couch centered in the back of the booth and displays on either side. It looked great (we went for a groovy living room look), but when it came to talking about our products while struggling to squeeze in between the end of the couch and a 60s credenza, it was completely awkward. We now know the importance of corner displays and accessibility. Every show, we take a lot of care coming up with a completely different theme. We’ve done 60s living room, winter cabin, 40s kitchen, Coyoacán (think Frida Kahlo’s house) & backyard! It really pays off when a ton of people stop by to appreciate the booth even if they’re in the market for something we don’t offer.
One more important tip would be to not hold your breath when it comes to leads. I see a lot of new exhibitors get really excited when they meet a potential buyer. While most of our leads turn into something, it can sometimes take a year or more to get the ball rolling. You may also have to go through a vetting process with larger companies, so don’t count on an immediate chunk of change.
What does your business get out of attending the NSS?
Wholesale accounts, press & custom work! We write orders for new stockists, catch up with our older accounts, show them what we’re working on and link up with businesses looking to collaborate. We’ve also started to meet people that work on licensing agreements (for use of our illustrations). NSS, along with other shows, serves as a one stop shop where we meet people that we wouldn’t normally know how to get in touch with.
So interesting and helpful, thank you, Sierra!
I have a bonus for you today! 14 stationery companies shared their own trade show packing lists with us, and we’ve compiled it into a master list. You can also peek and see each business’ exhaustive list, with things like how many catalogs they bring, etc. The one thing everyone agreed on was to bring at least four different kinds of tape! Want this? Sign up and nab it below: