Sam and I attended the NY NOW trade show recently. It’s a show centered on home, lifestyle, and gift products, and is a great way for designers to connect with retail shops. You can get my overview of what that show is all about here: Walking the NY NOW Trade Show.
Before we left, we asked all of you if you had any questions, and one that was popular was how to make your booth stand out and attract attention. I’d like to share some pictures of booths that caught my eye, and share some stories of exhibitors that stood out to us (good and bad!).
Being in the right location, and standing out among competitors
People are interested in what the best locations are. One of our clients had two booths this time around – one in the Handmade section, and one up in the bigger marketplace in the Lifestyle section. The impression we got from talking to her was that while there was more traffic through Lifestyle, it wasn’t as targeted. The shoppers who came to the Handmade section wanted handmade and knew what they were looking for, and it felt like a better experience there.
A few people asked me about selling jewelry, being concerned that there would be too much competition, and it would be hard to stand out. There was a lot of jewelry there. What I noticed was that jewelry booths were easy to overlook when you’d been past five similar jewelers in a row. Jewelry booths stood out when the product itself stood out – it’s not all about booth design, but booth design helps.
For instance, we had been walking past a lot of gold and silver jewelry, but stopped right away to check out Zoe Comings’ dainty porcelain jewelry. And likewise, we stopped to gaze at Veronica Riley Martens’ tagua nut designs. This is not to say that you can’t do gold and silver, but if you do choose a common material to work with, make sure your designs are uncommon and that they all stand together in cohesive collections.
We noticed that being a bit unique in your area was helpful. For instance, the jewelry seller surrounded by stationery was interesting to look at. But being in the total wrong place was not. We chatted with a talented designer whose sophisticated art prints had somehow ended up among the baby and kids’ section, and I don’t think that was the ideal place for him to be.
Making your booth design stand out
As far as what you can do with your booth to stand out, three main things really worked for me:
- Doing something super creative with your booth. The kind of thing that makes people want to post it to Instagram. Like Emily’s manifesto, Impressed by Nature’s wall of flowers, or the little fairy world you’ll see in my photo below.
- Having a super clean and spare booth that makes your products the star. Booths such as the Oh Hello Friend booth felt like a fresh breath of air amid the hubbub. And the simple background with plenty of white space really lets you focus on the product.
- Setting your booth up like a little shop feels so welcoming. This can be harder to do with the smaller booths, but can look very professional when done right.
What you can do as the exhibitor
The most important thing is your product, of course. Then I’d say the second most important thing is how you work with your potential buyers. A beautiful booth with an unfriendly exhibitor is not going to do well. People spend a lot on their booths, and I’d suggest hiring help with the in-person sales if you aren’t a vivacious, friendly person who can easily talk about your own products for nine hours in a row, four days in a row. This seems like an easy investment to make if you’re an introvert, or just not the best salesperson. How many extra sales would your helper have to make to pay for herself?
I do think it’s important for the designer to be in the booth, especially in the handmade section, but there’s no reason you can’t have some help and company there with you. Here were some salespeople that stood out to us:
One woman selling baby items spent her time right at the front of her booth, on the aisle, and as we walked past, she stepped even farther out, sized up our name tags, and started telling us why her product sells well in Seattle. Her booth wasn’t mindblowing, but I imagine she made a lot of great new relationships.
The Butterie was selling a remarkable butter dish that solves all the problems you didn’t even know you had with your current butter dish. This friendly entrepreneur stepped out and handed us bite-size squares of buttered toast that she had just toasted one moment ago! You seriously can’t go wrong handing people who have been on their feet for five hours a square of hot toast. We munched and learned all about her butter dish.
We walked past a booth with a knitting tool, and saw it had a huge crowd around it. They had set up a TV and were playing a video of how the tool works.
Even better than a video was seeing the product in action. One man was selling a robotic barbecue cleaning brush. Kind of like Roomba for your grill. He had a BBQ grill set up and his robot was taking care of business.
We stopped by the Bees Wrap booth, a product both Sam and I were interested in before the show. We asked some questions, and they gave us each a small square of Bees Wrap to take home and try out on an avocado. Having small samples to give away is great.
And Brooklyn Owl was throwing confetti. I don’t know if that got old or not, but I bet it got them some attention! A guy wearing a unicorn horn knocking himself on the noggin with confetti has a way of attracting the eye.
We have more tips on trade shows up our sleeves, and we’ll be calling in some experts (both exhibitors and buyers) to share some advice with you as well. Subscribe to my newsletter to be sure you don’t miss these future posts!
Shipshape Collective Freebie
14 stationery companies shared their own trade show packing lists with us, and we’ve compiled it into a master list.