Are Trade Shows Worth It?

PHOTO CREDIT: Matthew Tait

PHOTO CREDIT: Matthew Tait

Last week, we covered the basics of wholesale in our post How Wholesale Works. As we shared, one of the major ways brands can find new accounts to work with is by attending trade shows. This week, we wanted to talk about the future of wholesale purchasing, and the question we’ve been pondering is this: are trade shows worth it?

First, a quick recap of why trade shows can be a useful tool, and the benefits we’ve gotten out of exhibiting at them over the years. Trade shows are a great way to meet a large amount of buyers in a small period of time. If you attend, it’s pretty much guaranteed that hundreds if not thousands of buyers will walk by your booth. Especially if you’re looking to work with larger accounts or big box stores, those types of companies often send full teams of buyers to trade shows.

For buyers who can afford to attend, trade shows are an excellent way to meet hundreds of vendors in just a few days. Buyers have the opportunity to see products in person and have the chance to ask vendors questions in person.

But something we didn’t touch on in last week’s post is how expensive attending a trade show is, especially if your company is not based in the city where the show is located. For example, let’s walk through the fees associated with exhibiting your brand at a trade show in New York. If you’re a company based out of town, you have to be prepared for the additional costs.

First and foremost, the cost to have a 100 sq foot booth in most trade shows starts around $5,500 and as you increase the booth size, the price can go up to $25,000 or more. Now let’s say you’re sending two individuals to represent your company – which you’ll most likely want to do as the days are long, and buyers may walk away if there’s an unstaffed booth or a wait to ask questions. That’s two plane tickets, one or two hotel rooms in NYC, meals throughout their stay, the cost to ship your products back and forth, printed catalogs and business cards, the cost and time of building the booth (or the cost to pay sales reps to build the booth for you), and the cost of your employees to be working the show. If you’re working with sales reps, a cut of each sale goes back to them as well, typically 15%.

If your company has a large marketing budget, or you’re already located in the trade show’s city, these expenses can be manageable. And there are often alternatives that run at the same time as the mega-sized shows, like highly curated smaller trade shows or brands that band together to exhibit their products at their own showroom. These are options that are usually more affordable that still allow your brand to present products in-person to a wide variety of buyers. Many of them are working hard to re-design the trade show experience, and we applaud their efforts.

But still, in 2019 are trade shows worth it? The last five to ten years, attendance at trade shows of all shapes and sizes has dwindled for both buyers and vendors. More and more buyers aren’t coming to shows, preferring the convenience of finding new brands online rather than paying the fees on their end to fly in and attend. And as fewer and fewer vendors are seeing returns on exhibiting, they too are choosing not to participate.

With all of these realities looming, we started looking for another option. In April 2019 we found Faire, a company on a mission to completely upend the wholesale purchasing experience and replace the need for trade shows. They’ve created a clean and easy to navigate website that makes it so buyers can purchase products at wholesale online – something that has not existed on a large scale until now.

Not only can buyers shop online whenever and wherever is best for them, but the information on Faire is always up to date. With trade shows, buyers have to wait for the next season to see what is new. As a brand, it’s very easy to add a new product to Faire or update any necessary information.

The other positive feature about Faire is that we’re able to offer amazing terms to our buyers. Net 60 payment terms, free shipping on their first year’s worth of orders, and a $100 credit if they’re new to the platform — these are terms we could not offer if we built an internal wholesale portal ourselves. Buyers often come up to vendors at trade shows looking for deals, and deals are difficult to offer when trade shows are so expensive! But on Faire we’re able to extend great terms year-round.

The only part of trade shows we feel is missing on Faire is the ability for buyers to see our products in person. To meet this need, we’ve implemented a new policy in which buyers can request samples from us of any products in our line. We’ll ship samples directly year-round, allowing buyers to see our products in person anytime they’d like. All they need to do is write in and ask!

This choice means for us no more trade show fees, and no more planning our entire year (both budget and timelines) around trade show preparation, exhibition, and takedowns. So far, Faire is less expensive and a smoother experience for both vendors and buyers. We’ve only received positive feedback from both seasoned buyers and new accounts, and appreciate how streamlined the process is. Overall, it gives us the opportunity to refocus on what matters most: building great products that last a long time and hiring Detroiters to help us do it.

Of course, our business is ever-evolving, and we may do a trade show again in the future. For now though, we’re excited about Faire and eager to hear what you think on this topic. Have you had success at trade shows? Are the costs worth it to your brand? Is your brand on Faire? We’d love to hear, please let us know in the comments below.

If you have any questions about trade shows or Faire feel free to reach out to us anytime at contact@taitdesignco.com.

Thanks for reading!
Audrey / Co-Founder


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Audrey Elkus

Co-founder of TAIT Design Co.