Norfolk Industries for Disabled People

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Blog » Our first Trade Show exhibit

Our first Trade Show exhibit

GLEE Trade Show – September 2017


Stand Reference 17Q66 (Garden Leisure and Entertainment Exhibition)

Having exhibited at our very first trade show in September, I thought that this would be a great subject for a blog!

We learned so much and had a really successful show and hope our first time experience will help others attending a trade show for the first time too.

10th September 2017 – Sunday afternoon

Alison Holmes (my manager) and I, Sharon Tooke, left Norwich for Birmingham NEC at 15:00 on Sunday afternoon.  Luckily we had already packed the car up on Friday before finishing work, but even though our show space was only 4 square metres, the 7 seater car was packed to the roof!

Upon arrival at the NEC Birmingham, the whole show was enormous and made up of a fantastic range of garden products, plants, sculptures, stoneware, garden furniture, burners, and everything that you could imagine for the garden or conservatory.

We had done a mock plan of our show space in our reception so we knew that everything would fit and that it would provide the storage that we needed.  After about 45 minutes, we had everything in place (including the display stand made from a pallet!) and we were very happy with the arrangement, although, someone suggested, we could have done with more pictures on the wall spaces to promote our disabled colleagues and volunteers. This was one of our newbie lessons!

Once done we retired back to our B&B for a well deserved cold cider!

11th September 2017 – Monday

We were up bright and early (the show opened its doors at 09.00) as we didn’t know how easy it would be to get into the NEC on show morning.21617868 1490466197687478 1737459462825909516 n

I would totally recommend advantage parking at the back of the halls, particularly for small businesses who are looking to put together their own stand and may need to replenish supplies etc.  At a cost of £90 for the 3 days this worked a dream.

Upon getting to our stand, everything was as we had left it and discovered we had been left a show guide with all exhibitors listed.  I decided to look through this completely in order to identify any potential customers.  We also looked at the lectures and other opportunities which were taking place throughout the day.

With information packs and samples ready, we waited for the crowds to come in.  To begin with it was more of a trickle but visitors gradually started to wander in and down the aisles. 

We made a few interesting contacts which would need following up once the trade show closed, notes were made in our book of contact information and what they potentially were interested in etc.  A laptop would have been great, note to self!  I also visited other stalls throughout the day and have received some really positive comments with follow ups to make note of.

You have to at least have 2 people at these trade shows as there always has to be someone on your stand at any given time, so if you want to leave to make contacts or see what’s about there needs to be someone still in place throughout the day.

We were very close to a coffee shop and so getting drinks was not a problem although they were, of course, expensive which was to be expected I guess!  For small businesses like ours though this is another expense which soon stacks up over 3 days.

We also had great neighbours across the aisle and spoke with them throughout.   It gave us a feeling of community within the show which was really nice. 

At the end of the first day there was a networking event, which we briefly attended but then we had a wander around the show to see who was exhibiting and there was an incredible array of products.  We arrived back at our B&B at about 19:00, so a long day, but an enjoyable one.  Just time to get some dinner and then make some notes about what we had learned and which contacts we had made.  Time to call home and then go to bed! Zzzzzzz

12th September 2017 – Tuesday

Back to the show nice and early this morning and looking forward, hopefully, to a busier day than Monday.  The traffic coming in had definitely been heavier and so things were looking good.

Again a few good contacts, but our neighbours proved to be the biggest pull of the day.  We had a wonderful conversation with a gentleman who just loved the stories of our volunteers, staff team and how we help people to achieve to the best of their ability.  He is going to help us with our branding through his marketing director, and he also introduced us to a couple of buyers in the Garden Centre world.  One buyer then visited our stall later in the day and really liked our products; another had an appointment for us to visit a couple of weeks later!  We couldn’t believe our luck!

Then, the marketing contact came back and talked about helping us to re-brand our product for free!  The day gets better!  This is just wonderful for our small non-profit Social Enterprise, as we would never be able to retain a company to develop a brand for us and in 2012 when we re-launched our bedding range, we put everything together ourselves which has served us well so far, but this was just amazing news!

By the end of the day, we couldn’t wait to get back to the B&B and document all that had happened whilst it was still fresh in our minds.  This could hopefully be exactly what our business needs to develop new leads within the pet sector and also to help us break into the garden centre market.  Went to bed feeling very blessed!

13th September 2017 – Wednesday

Our last day at the show, started with me losing my car keys and being late to the show!! Found them in my handbag of course, what an idiot!  As such arrived in a flap but needn’t have worried, it was still very quiet.

I decided to look at a few other exhibitors who could be interested in small pet products and again made some interesting contacts, so this is always a good thing to do in order to make the costs of attending these shows really work for you.  As a manufacturer there are always opportunities to sell to wholesalers, most of whom were at the show!

We spoke to a couple of really interesting people, one who ran a rescue centre and were also involved in zoo’s and exotic animals, they are doing great work, another who owned an independent pet store and was interested in our mixed pallets of product.

A great day again, but obviously not as good as yesterday’s, that would take some beating!  We were not able to break down our stall until after 16:00, but we did start to do some tidying beforehand.  At 16:00 we started to pack up but as the show had not been given the official closure you could only take out items you could carry out of the back doors of the hall and load them into the car (advantage parking brilliant again here of course).  As our stand was small and everything could be physically carried we were able to start breaking down the stand and loading the car.

Everyone else was waiting to get in with pallet trucks, sack barrows, lifting equipment, but were not allowed in until the official closure was announced.  By this time, 16:30, we had packed the car and were ready to leave!  So another piece of advice, make your stand so that you can break it down and carry stuff out by hand and then you can leave earlier!!

Really happy with how things went overall.  We are still following up contacts made and the re-branding of our products and have gained another 2 contacts from our amazing guy who is also overseeing the re-branding work!  He has also booked us into both of the PATS 2018 trade shows completely free of charge and we have already booked to go back to GLEE next year!  By the end of 2018 we will be Trade Show experts!!

We would like to thank Alix who arranged the stand for us and who actually introduced us to a great contact at the show.  You’re a star Alix!