What an amazing trip! We had a blast in New York and made some great sales and great connections. Every night and every day was full to the brim_ from the moment we stepped off the plane to catching that last cab to JFK. Even though I have attended the National Stationery Show in NYC for 8 years! … every year has been a totally different experience for me and this year was no exception.
The last two years have completely changed my perspective since we launched our own wholesale line and became an exhibitor at NSS. I thought I had gleaned some insight into what buyers wanted last year when we displayed with the Ladies of Letterpress: I asked lots of questions (of both buyers and exhibitors), got lots of business cards and did my best to follow up. Going all in for our first full booth for 2014 seemed like the obvious next step, it seemed easy enough. In a lot of ways it was, but I underestimated the importance of a few key elements.
1. Planning: I signed up for my booth in August of 2013. I had almost a full calendar year to prepare but as it often goes, life got in the way (Yes, I’m a huge procrastinator). With the store and preparation for the holidays and then the holidays and then the post holiday clean up and inevitable tax freakout_ add two kids, a husband and two dogs on top of that and what you have is complete mayhem. So basically I didn’t really get started until well into February.
2. Our Booth Design: Our booth was fine, but it in no way represented what I feel we are capable of. However, being at home in your studio with all your regular tools at your disposal is a lot different from being in NY with a limited time to make it happen. I was also super concerned about budget_ I didn’t want a $10,000 booth. After much deliberation we decided that this year we would go with basic white foam core walls that cost a whopping $1500_ the custom pantone colored walls were more like 3 grand! This comes back to the whole planning thing_ I would have liked to have made some reusable hard walls, but the logistics were tricky and frankly I didn’t have the time to figure it out for this year. The take away for me was that if you go with white FC walls you need some eye catching decorations to draw in the buyers and get them interested. (We actually did make some wall decor but they just didn’t look right when we got there so we didn’t end up using them.) The good news is we spent just under 5,000 on our booth, which considering the obstacles and expenses, is pretty darn good even if we did sacrifice some style.
Here you can see the “framing samples” as we affectionately named them and decided not to hang… oh well.
The booth in various stages of set-up… hanging the cards took forever_next time_shelf.
3. Pre-show Mailers and Outreach: We didn’t mail anything. I really wanted to but with a last minute snafu with a die I planned to use, I decided to relieve myself of that area of stress. I don’t regret that part, one must have sanity after all. But I realize now, hindsight being 20-20, that I could have printed those way in advance. We did send and email blast which is also important.
Enough of what we did wrong_ here’s a few things I think we did right. Yay go us!
1. I printed enough of everything to get most orders out right away when we got back … small victory perhaps, but it made life easier especially after a particularly taxing few months.
2. We found an awesome vintage and antique furniture rental company called Octavia & Brown (thanks Danny of Oh Hello Friend!). This meant no dragging our sorry behinds to Ikea, saving us hours of our lives and relieving the city of the burden of what to do with one more cheap shelving unit.
3. We made a really cute give away. Green and Chamomile teas with letterpressed and edge painted tags. The give aways are my favorite part of NSS and a real chance to show your personality.
4. I talked everyone’s ear off. Sometimes making a complete fool of myself to be sure but talking all the same. I think this is pretty important. If I learned anything the last two years it is that unless you’re… (insert one of the many awesome stationers that we carry in the store here) you have to work hard to make most sales. Especially at NSS where talent abounds. There were a lot of people I met from companies that I would give my right pinkie toe to work with that might not have stepped foot in my booth had I not actively engaged them. I didn’t worry about being annoying, after all one hopes people are there to find new lines, speak with a variety of exhibitors and ultimately to BUY.
With my list of pros and cons in hand, I am already really excited to start planning for 2015. I have a few ideas of how to make our booth better with out too much stress or expense. I also realized at this show and in the days leading up, what a great support system we have already in place, it seems there is no shortage of companies in the stationery industry willing to share their ideas and knowledge, and I intend to take people up on their offers of advice. If you are reading this because you are thinking about exhibiting at NSS, I’d be more than happy to pay it forward_ feel free to email me firstname.lastname@example.org.
The very last thing I did in New York before I left was go to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. I hadn’t been since I was a child with my mom and I am so glad I went. Though I wish I’d had the whole day, I left full of inspiration, ideas and color palettes swirling in my head … now to act on them.