How to Source Products at a Trade Show

Is your retail or ecommerce business looking for hot new products to sell? One of the best places to scope out new products is at a trade show. Trade shows are where manufacturers and wholesalers show off their hot new products, and offer a great venue to comparison shop among different product lines you might want to carry.

Here are some tips for sourcing products at a trade show.

Start by checking out trade shows that might be good for your industry. You can find directories of trade shows around the world at and find industry-specific ones through your industry association. These days it’s easier than ever to scope out shows ahead of time by visiting their websites. You can see who the exhibitors will be and whether they’re worth your while.

Be prepared. Pre-register for the show so you don’t waste time the day of the event. Bring plenty of business cards, your business checkbook and/or credit cards, and a rolling suitcase or other method for carrying documents, samples or brochures you collect at the show.

Plan your attack. Look at the show layout online (or pick up a directory when you get there if the information is not available online). Determine key vendors you want to see.

At the booths, get all the information you can about the companies you’re interested in, including product catalogs, literature and samples. Talk to exhibitors and exchange business cards. It’s a good idea to have a list of questions to ask ahead of time so you don’t waste your (or the exhibitors’) valuable time.

Get a feel for trends. Don’t focus so closely on a few booths that you miss the big picture. Walk the whole show and notice what colors, products or materials stand out to you. For example, if you’re at a home décor show, maybe natural fibers and colors dominate this year. Take notes on what you see and use your smartphone to take photos, too.

Take breaks. Wear comfortable shoes and take breaks now and then to grab a drink or snack. While you’re resting, gather your thoughts, take notes and plan the rest of your day.

Place orders. You can often get good deals at trade shows, so if you see a product you’re interested in, place an order now. If you don’t want to pay right away, see if the vendor will let you place an order now for delivery in three or six months and still give you the “show price.”

Follow up. When you get back from the show, organize your data, go through the literature you gathered and follow up with companies you’re interested in while the show is still fresh in both of your minds.

HOTT3D is an exhibition specialist company that designs, manufacturers and builds exhibition stands, trade show booths and experiential marketing concepts. We are based in Cape Town South Africa.
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