You make money when you buy items. You've probably heard that many times, because, well, it's true.
But how do you source the right products? Where do you find them? You can go the online route with wholesale directories, drop-shippers and so on. But nothing beats old-fashioned face-to-face communication, and trade shows are a great place for that.
Always have backups. Always compare! Keep your supplier on their toes and force innovation, quality, service, and pricing
They're a great way to stay ahead of the competition and forge great deals. That's probably why trade shows are thriving. New ones pop up all the time.
We spoke with Jason Prescott, co-author of Wholesale 101, about sourcing and trade shows in particular. Prescott operates 2 of the country's top wholesale and trade platforms: TopTenWholeSale.com and Manufacturer.com. Yet he's the first to say you can't rely on online product sourcing alone.
"Trade shows are an absolutely critical element to any e-commerce business," he says. "A trade show not only offers a venue to meet face-to-face with your supplier and form a valuable relationship, but for the following reasons they are absolutely necessary:
- Education/ seminars. If you are not learning and engaging, you are not growing.
- Meet other suppliers. There are lots of sellers out there. Always have backups. Always compare! Keep your supplier on their toes and force innovation, quality, service, and pricing.
- New ideas. Trade shows spark creativity. Spot new trends. Develop a new awareness and get inspired.
- Meet new people. People power business. Business does not power people. Nothing replaces a handshake.
- Culture. While many Americans are OK with merely sending an email, texting or scanning social media, this is not the case in most countries. Breaking bread still exists!
- Credibility. It is more likely than not that a company exhibiting at a trade show is credible. Does your supplier attend industry events. If not, why?
- Window shop. The Internet is a great tool for discovery. Online sourcing is also great for the savvy, [but] nothing replaces holding, seeing and interacting with a product."
The Web is here to stay, he adds. Online sourcing continues to grow. Many have great success with using just the Internet. Yet trade shows are also here to stay. They are also growing, and it would be flat out foolish to never attend one.
With Prescott's help, we compiled a list of the best trade shows to source products.
For fashion & apparel
The Off Price Trade Show: Here, you'll meet "jobbers," wholesale merchants who sell directly to retailers. These "off-price retailers" mostly sell clothing and accessories from major-label brands at a significant discount, according to the show's website. The companies exhibiting often buy overruns, canceled order and forecasting mistakes made by their counterparts in the retail world. The next show is August 13 to August 16 in Las Vegas.
MAGIC: This event claims to be the world's biggest fashion marketplace. It consists of 11 communities that display the latest in apparel, footwear, accessories and manufacturing. It's held twice a year, in February and August in Las Vegas. The next show runs from August 15 to August 17.
Trade shows are here to stay. They are also growing, and it would be flat out foolish to never attend one
ASD Market Week: This show is huge and claims to be the "most comprehensive B2B trade show that brings the world's widest variety of retail merchandise together." Having attended the show ourselves we don't doubt the claim.
You'll find gifts, home and fashion items, toys, consumer electronics, and more. Most recently, nearly 1,600 exhibitors and 45,000 buyers attended. It's wise to take a day to do reconnaissance if you decide to stop by, so you have a list of exhibitors to check out more closely the next day. The next show is July 31 to August 3 in Las Vegas.
Tools and hardware
The National Hardware Show: If you're interested in sourcing in any of these categories you'll want to add this show to your list: building products, electrical farm, ranch hardware and tools, lawn and garden, outdoor living, paint, pet products, plumbing storage and more. The next event is May 9 to May 11, 2017, in Las Vegas.
The International Home and Housewares Show: This show features more than 2,100 exhibitors and is located at Chicago's McCormick Place Exposition Center. The shows organizers say it's the world's premier exposition of products for the home. The next show is March 18 to March 21, 2017.
Internet Retailer Conference & Exhibition (IRCE): Want to learn and source technology "solutions" to help you run your business? Then this show is for you. You'll find a packed agenda of seminars and industry speakers, and an exhibit hall filled with more than 600 exhibitors or "solution providers." Solutions pertain to marketing, social media, mobile, technology, operations and logistics and more. The show is held each year in June in Chicago.