Top Drawer came and went in a bit of a blur, we got back from honeymoon in Cuba (more on that later) and I had just 3 days to get myself ready and prepared for setting up my stand...!
My little stand was just 3m x 1m so nowhere near as large as some of the others in the show but perfectly sized for my small business and my first ever appearance at a trade show. It was great fun but definitely a learning curve for me - I thought it would be useful to give you a little bit of a run down...
First things first - even for the dinky little space I had - Top Drawer is expensive.
The total cost for the basic shell was over £1400, even with the money raised with my Kickstarter project (approx £890 after Kickstarter's fees), this was a hefty financial commitment.
Something that was also a surprise to me is how much everything else costs. To have lighting at your stand is extra (about £50 per bulb), to have the walls of your stand covered with MDF and painted is extra (approx £300+ for my small stand), parking is charged at full London pricing... the list goes on!
I chose not to have extra lighting or panelling - purely based on cost. My stand design ended up being simple, white and cost effective - I used a combination of foam mount board, pins and clips to keep my cards displayed.
Jon was really good and came along to help me set up on the Saturday afternoon. A bit of scalpelling and a lot of velcro got everything set up and ready.
For a second show I would definitely invest in lighting and perhaps consider finding a way of bringing my own panelling (I still resent paying hundreds of £s for MDF!).
As soon as the first order was written out the nerves were gone and it was full steam ahead!
- Order forms - consider using carbon paper to give a duplicate to your buyers
- Make sure you take contact details, postage details and names!
- Always take business cards from people who stop at your stand
- ...And write notes on them to remind you of who you met, it's hard to remember everyone
- Get lots of catalogues, product sheets and business cards to give away
- Have somewhere you can hide your extra catalogues/bag/coat so as not to clutter your stand
- Extra stock is useful in case anything happens to your products throughout the day
- Know your business inside out: stockists, terms of payment, minimum order, carriage paid, best-sellers, wholesale pricing, re-order details are all things people ask again and again.
- If you can, take a chair. The days are long and it's worth having somewhere to perch
- No money is allowed to exchange hands on the day so make sure you have some free samples ready!
It could be handy to have someone to man your stand with you.
I chose to do the fair on my own mostly due to the small size of my space and because nobody else knows my business as well as I do. At some points it would have been useful to have someone else there - for the obvious things like loo breaks and lunchtime - but in my case I made friends with the lovely exhibitors on the stands around me and they were brilliant at keeping an eye out if I had to nip off for a bit.
Do make friends with your stand-neighbours. I picked up some great advice and tips from the other people around me. It's great to get to speak to people who are in a similar situation, some of the advice I was given definitely was really useful.
Be prepared for different buyers on different days. From my experience and what I was told from people around me, Sunday is popular with smaller independent business buyers and the weekdays see more high street and bigger buyers appear. Some, particularly the bigger buyers, will not necessarily place an order on the day. Plenty of orders and follow ups appear once the show is over and done with, so be prepared!
All in all, I would say Top Drawer was a brilliant experience and in the end was worth the financial outlay, time and stress! Not a small undertaking, these kind of events are not for the fledgling business - it would make much more financial sense to put the time and effort into hunting out new stockists online and building a customer base first in my opinion. And definitely get out to craft fairs so you get used to selling and talking about your products in detail. But if you think this is the next step for your business it is definitely a risk worth taking.