Walking the NY NOW Trade Show

This is the intro to an article I wrote for the Craft Industry Alliance. Follow the link at the bottom to read the whole thing (and discover the other great info at the Craft Industry Alliance site).

Interior of the Javits Center

Interior of the Javits Center

I run a web and graphic design studio, Aeolidia, that serves creative product-based businesses. I attended the NY NOW trade show with our project manager, Sam, for the first time this winter.

The NY NOW show happens twice a year in New York City, in January and August. It used to be called the New York International Gift Fair. It has 500 Handmade designers, 1000 Lifestyle exhibitors, and over 1000 exhibitors in the Home category. The NY NOW site says that they get over 25,000 buyers.

The show is open to the trade only. This means that attendees are mostly buyers for shops – both small boutiques and large department stores. “Suppliers to the trade,” such as Aeolidia, and non-exhibiting manufacturers may pay to walk the show as well. The primary purpose of the show is to make new wholesale relationships and connect with existing wholesale customers.

Why did we go? We wanted to see what it was all about. Many of our clients attend this show, either as exhibitors or buyers, and we wanted to meet them in person. It was inspiring to see what new products, businesses, and trends were out there. I was also in blogging mode, having collected a bunch of questions from our readers. I had a goal to find out all I could from an exhibitor’s perspective, to share when I got back home. Of course it would also be delightful to be able to work with someone who may not have found us if we’d stayed behind our computer screens.

This show is huge. Huge! If you’ve ever been to a big urban craft fair, multiply the size and amount of people by at least 15, and you have NY NOW. We had talked to buyers before the show, to get a feel for what to expect. We learned that many buyers will take 3 or 4 days to walk the show. This makes sense if you’re there with half a year’s budget, and you’re sitting down making orders at many booths.

Sam and I started in the Handmade section, which is off on a floor by itself. We felt right at home. We saw so many wonderful things there! I fell in love with a few different pottery booths (Elizabeth Benotti! L & M Studio!), I met a favorite doll maker (Snuggly Ugly), and we chatted with some beloved clients from long ago about mobile websites.

That took us 3-4 hours, and we were having pretty quick chats at maybe half of the booths. We had nine hours the first day, and we walked the show for all of it, except for a brief lunch and a coffee break. From Handmade, we moved to Accent on Design, and started through the section of Lifestyle that had our favorite stationers and gift businesses.

Huggable wall of Blabla dolls

Huggable wall of Blabla dolls.

On the second day, we were glad to find that we’d done a good job covering the areas that most of our clients would fit into. We were able to spend the second day walking the elaborate booths of the big businesses in the Home category. Elaborate crystal, china, and areas where we felt we were browsing an upscale department store. Did you know Lionel Richie has a homewares line? We would occasionally find one of “our” businesses tucked away amongst the glitz and stop for a chat. This section was fun to see, but we buzzed through it pretty quickly.

I learned a lot! There are a lot of ways to reach out and communicate online. Whenever I attend a business event, it confirms that there’s no true replacement for the kind of conversations you can have in person. Are you curious about selling wholesale, or how you can improve what you do at trade shows, markets, or craft fairs? I am putting together blog posts right now on what I learned. Expect posts on:

  • The best locations for handmakers
  • Which time of year to attend
  • What lead times shops expect
  • Standing out when surrounded by similar businesses
  • What to put together to make it easy for shop owners to buy from you
  • Learning more about sales reps

You can follow my blog or join my newsletter, to be sure you don’t miss these upcoming posts.

This was originally posted on Craft Industry Alliance: Walking the NY NOW Trade Show