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20-11-2005
  1
rising star
 
Join Date: May 2005
Location: Vancouver
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Posts: 179
tradeshows vs experienced sales rep
With my new company I am trying to decide how to go about marketing the first line. I am funding this all myself and I will not have enough money to do both so my choices are either to find an experienced sales rep and pay them on commission or to go to a large industry tradeshow myself. I do not live anywhere near where tradeshows happen so there will be significant travel costs associated and this is why I can only afford one or the other for the first collection or two.

As I am brand new to all this I'd really value the input of everyone. What are the pros and cons of either method? And if I were to go to a tradeshow myself, aside from the actual clothing what should I be bringing or be able to answer questions about? It will probably be obvious that I am a new designer but I don't want to look like an incompetent or uninformed one either, I want people to be able to put their trust in not only my product but me as a business owner as well.

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22-11-2005
  2
etre soi-meme
 
Lena's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2002
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i'd say go do a trade show, but first you need to go out there and check them out personally, see which one could fit best with your client target group/product/style etc ..just take your time and built up

tradeshows are great because you meet many potential clients and you get a first hand feel of what the market needs, order-wise dont expect too much from the first season, but really it will help you a lot.

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22-11-2005
  3
rising star
 
Join Date: May 2005
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Those are all great points and one of the reasons that I think doing the tradeshow is best as well. The one problem I face however is that there are no trade shows around here for me to go to. I live in Winnipeg, MB which is a city in the middle of nowhere. Nygard is based out of here though, we are the 3rd largest apparel manufacturing industry in Canada (3rd only to Vancouver and Toronto), but this is not a fashion hub by any means. I've looked into it, even to go to a completely unrelated tradeshow just so I can see how things work and there haven't been any all year. I do know that either Magic in Las Vegas or The London Edge would be the ones that would be most appropriate to what I will be doing, I am just afraid of going to one and having it not be worth while. I don't expect big orders in the beginning but if I don't get a single order then I've just blown everything because I am having to work another job to fund this new company and if I spend all that money and come back with no orders, not even enough to cover my costs of being there, because I didn't do things right, the company will basically be over, y'know? Which is why I thought an experienced rep with contacts might be a better choice. With this additional information what do you think? Do you think the tradeshow is still better? And if so do you have any advice about how to do the tradeshow? What is needed to bring, etc?

btw, you are always a great help and I hope you know how much I appreciate you answering the questions I ask that noone else will/can.

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26-11-2005
  4
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Lena's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2002
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you are welcome rockitgirl, its always a pleasure

i still think a tradefair is better than a rep, you will actually be approached by reps when participating at a trade fair.. my advice is to do a local fair at Canada, be it in Vancouver or Toronto, but first you need to invest in traveling and taking a look before making up your mind, where to show.
One needs just a good collection together with a lookbook, the extended range of fabrics in all possible colours for production and some good public relations (including a client base & invites) before and following the trade fair.

in the meantime, you can work with someone as a rep just to warm things up but a trade fair will certainly help you a lot.
Dont be pessimistic regarding the results, all feedback is good feedback

Here some details regarding trade shows in Canada:
Quote:
Despite the success of other industry events, Canada's only trade show dedicated to women's accessories and fashion items, the Mode Accessories Show, is looking to rebound after a difficult 2005. The Mode Accessories Show normally holds two shows a year, in Toronto and Calgary, but a scheduling conflict forced the show to host just one event in Calgary in February.

"We had a June show in 2004, but dropped it this year because it was too early for some participants," said organizer Alice Chee. "We [also] had a September date lined up, but it was too crazy for some people, because there are a lot of rep shows at that time of year."

In addition to the Feb. 5-6 show at the Calgary Stampede Roundup Center, a June show is being reinstated for Calgary at the Telus Convention Center June 18-19.

The Mode Accessories Show will also hold a Toronto event, scheduled for Jan. 29-31 at the Doubletree International Plaza Hotel. The show is already sold out, with 228 returning exhibitors signed to attend, representing a 97 percent renewal rate. The remaining 3 percent of spaces are being filled with applicants from a waiting list. Attendance at the Mode Accessories Show is expected to match the 4,000 buyers who showed up in August.

The National Snow Industries Association has moved its 2006 trade show to February from January. The event will take place Feb. 12-14 at Place Bonaventure in Montreal. The decision to move the show date was made based on feedback from suppliers, sales representatives and retailers, given during a series of town hall meetings, ad hoc meetings and from surveys, according to Anna Di Meglio, president of the NSIA.

"The NSIA is here to serve the snow sports industry and provide them with the right environment to accomplish their business," she said.
"Consequently, the consensus from our research was a February show."
The NSIA Snow Show is the largest of its kind in Canada, showcasing brands from more than 200 of the industry's leading suppliers, and attracting delegates from more than 800 retail stores across the country.

The Alberta Fashion Market women's trade show in Edmonton has merged with the Alberta Men's Wear Agents Association, which produces the branded Trends the Apparel Show. Trends will now incorporate fashions for men, women, juniors and kids, as well as streetwear and skatewear, workwear and denim. It will feature 225 exhibitors and draw an anticipated 1,000 retailers to the Northlands Park Agricom in Edmonton, March 9-13.

For the first time in more than a decade, Canada will have a truly national women's wear trade show when FashionNorth The Womenswear Show makes its debut March 19-21 at the International Center in Toronto.

The decision to introduce a women's wear trade show follows on the heels of two successful editions of a men's wear show, also organized by FashionNorth and produced by Meteor Show Productions.

"A significant number of exhibitors at the men's wear show convinced us that we should do something similar in women's wear, and some exhibitors will have booths at both shows," said FashionNorth producer Ralph Weil.

About 32 exhibitors were signed up by mid-October, and Weil was hoping for between 100 and 120 exhibitors to occupy 200 booths over 75,000 square feet of space. Those numbers are higher than the 100 exhibitors who filled 180 booths covering 50,000 square feet at the first men's wear show in February.

"I've been told I'm unrealistically pessimistic with those numbers, because we already have the exposure of two men's wear shows behind us," said Weil.

Like the previous men's wear show, Weil plans to have a keynote speaker for FashionNorth The Womenswear Show, and will send complimentary airline tickets and hotel accommodations to about a dozen American buyers. Organizers at the Ontario Fashion Exhibitors Market are also expecting big things. More than 2,000 buyers attended the last market in September, forcing organizers to consider more space for its next show, to be held March 25-29.

"We also have a waiting list of over 80 exhibitors, compared to our existing 160 exhibitors," said show organizer Serge Micheli. "We currently occupy 140,000 square feet at the Toronto Congress Center and would like to boost that to 175,000 square feet."


Micheli is also working to add seminars for the March show, and has already lined up Tom Shay, a retail solutions specialist from St. Petersburg, Fla.

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26-11-2005
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Join Date: Dec 2004
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Rockitgirl I'll pm you some info asap....

Just to say, I totally understand your concerns about a tradeshow and from my experiences I don't think they would be the way to go. A huge percentage of buyers go to them to see exisiting clients without a budget to invest in a new collection. I did 2 London tradeshows in one season - the first was fantastic, the second diabolical thus cancelling out the sales made in the first. Being an unknown at a big trade show is not a great thing...it can be pretty disheartening and make you (wrongly!) question if what you're doing is right. If you're taking a small stand and it's your first time showing, they'll probably stick you in a bad place and you might not see much footfall if you're not next to the big names that the majority are making a beeline for.

I sold to pretty good stores in my first season just by sending out lookbooks press kits, samples etc. The orders were enough to keep me going without huge outlay plus the interest from the good stores meant the smaller (less 'famous') ones wanted to buy because 'if xxxx store bought then it must be good!' Within a couple of seasons I had sales agents with showrooms in the major cities (NY, LA, London, Milan Paris) and they conducted all sales. They work on a percentage of sales gained, so it's a safer route. They already have a good client base who visit them season after season anyway, so your collection being in the same showroom will almost certainly be bought by the same people.

If you lived in the same city as you were going to show in, thus making the money spent on doing it much less, I'd still tell you to avoid a show like London Edge...Being your first time at the show, unless you have the most killer collection, with tons of press in all the international mags to back it up, you're not going to make back the money you spent. Buyers are coming to London less and less now, a Paris show might be a safer bet but even then....the Japanese stores were what kept young designers alive a few years ago but they're not coming to London so much anymore, and when they do they don't have the money they used to.

I'd honestly tell you to play it safe...I know you need to make money to keep going but the tradeshow route is not the way to make it. Get as much press as you can (can't stress this part enough it's what sells your collection to everyone) have beautiful lookbooks, get sales in Canada and the US, then rest of the world, built it up slowly but don't spend all you have (or worse still get into debt) on a tradeshow gamble.

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26-11-2005
  6
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Lena's Avatar
 
Join Date: Jun 2002
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stylista, you are totally right on the difficulties when one starts showing for the first season (bad corners etc)

personally, i've done Atmosphere in Paris (both times during Fashion Week) and i was very happy with the reaction of the market, the comments, the orders, the Press and the internatinal reps who wanted to represent my line.
I was even mentioned in Journal du Textile, as a newcomer, so, i dont know, i guess everything is a matter of participating at the right fair, at the right time... and having done all the right steps as far as preparation goes (lookbooks, swatches, delivery charts, transportation & tax details etc)

it may have helped the fact that i was already selling in a very good boutique in Paris but the fact that i walked out of the fair with five new clients didnt hurt me a bit.

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26-11-2005
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Lena If you made the trade show work for you that's great! I think Rockitgirl's market may be slightly different though, and I've not heard anything good from the London Edge show....I would feel awful if I encouraged anyone to spend money on something like this, especially when she has to come from Canada!

I was very happy with the first London trade show (no longer going) I did to launch my collection during fashion week (orders from 12 Japanese boutiques as well as some other good stores...) Sportswear International, Elle, The Face & other international titles interviewed me, so on the strength of that (and someone's recommendation that a second show would be even better) did a second show a few days later and it was awful! No-one cared...It cost so much money, and lmost ruined me before I started. So because I'm so 50-50 on them, I'd be scared to recommend! I wish I had saved the cash and done it differently.

However, from doing it my own way, sending out press kits and lookbooks I managed to sell in Colette, Kokon to Zai, The Cross etc. etc. None of these buyers go to trade shows - if they see you in the press they call and request a lookbook or an appointment. These things cost nothing, but trade shows cost hundreds of dollars per square foot!! Why not spend at least the first season sending a good rep out on the road (or one with a showroom, which I know is less common in some cities of the US) to see the reaction from stores.

It helps a great deal if you are already selling in good stores when prospective clients come to you. One of their first questions is "where do you sell?" They like to know you are able to deliver, deal with the taxes and exports etc.

If you've had at least a couple of seasons experience behind you and still want to do a trade show, I'd say go for it then, but not if it may ruin you before you even get started. Some shows offer sponsored stands to small businesses, perhaps finding out about this would be a good idea as it will cut down on a lot of the expense and give you some publicity in the literature they send out to their buyer's list.

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26-11-2005
  8
rising star
 
Join Date: May 2005
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Wow you two have given me so much information and from different perspectives, thank you so much. Stilista, you are right that if the tradeshow went badly I'd basically be screwed (can I say that here? lol). I was not sure about getting a rep because I wasn't really sure how to find a really good one that would be good for my potential market. I didn't realize that you could just send things to store to get orders...this might be a more viable option for the first collection. I would eventually like to do tradeshows but if I could be semi-known first that would be the better option.

Lena and Stilista, would either of you be in a position where you could send me a lookbook or the other items you mentioned Lena (delivery charts, transportation and tax details). I don't mind paying for them. I would love to see what a company actually uses so that I have some kind of idea. As you're probably aware from my relentless questioning I am self-teaching and there is not much information that I have found regarding the business side of fashion other than really basic stuff that if you didn't know before reading the book you are probably not cut out to run your own business. I had never heard of a lookbook until you answered my question for example.

Lena, thank you for that info about the Canadian trade shows!

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27-11-2005
  9
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your delivery dates, transport costs and tax issues is something you need to do yourself, they may be essential if you plan to take part in a local tradefiar.. sorry, but nobody can actually help in this, as for a lookbook, i could easily sent you a few pictures from my last collection if you sent me your mail by PM.. btw, i'm skipping seasons again, the industry situation in EU is too hard to follow at the moment

stylista, you have done amazingly well
but see, your first tradefair helped you launch no?
I only did the fairs twice myself, after this there was no need for them.
And yes, you are totally right, the 'top' boutiques hate tradefairs, i even had problems with one Parisian boutique when i send them the invite, they thought i was going to go 'mainstream' but then they realised i just did it for feedback.
Following the first two tradefairs i did exctly what you did, contacting people and sending lookbooks and doing the good old suitcase sampling in their offices, i understand you very well, this is the way they like to see collections. Still, the trade fairs gave me a huge insight on how the majority sees my work, critisism and praise is both good when one needs feedback.
My advise for rockitgirl was to take part in local fairs just for the feedback and the experience (and maybe for few orders).. no need to travel far to get this, a local fair can be a pretty good experience and show one's strong (and weak) points.
Being based in London makes things a tiny bit easier, but being based in a smaller town in Canada or even in Athens makes one need some real exposure.. and most important feedback . For me feedback is king, makes a huge difference to hear what the market thinks of one's work.

In anycase, this is a real interesting discussion..
feel free to PM me rockitgirl, promising to share pics from my lookbook

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27-11-2005
  10
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Join Date: May 2005
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I am going to send you my address through PM in a minute. I just wanted to continue the questions in this thread for anyone else that might be finding it useful.

I COMPLETELY agree with and understand what you are saying about tradeshows, the problem for me is there are none local. Canada is very big and to travel from my city to any of the cities that hold the fairs will be about $400 round trip not including food or lodging. As little as that might sound it is more than I can afford just to take a look, infact it is half a month's income for me in my current situation.

I know that the transportation, taxes, etc are mine to do, what I meant was if there is a specific format that is used in the industry to present this information, sorry I was not clear about that.

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27-11-2005
  11
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oh no, no specific format for delivery dates etc rockit..
i understand that traveling to check the trade fairs may be a bit 'expensive' for you.. in that case, go with the rep for the time being and try to focus on the fairs at a later point.
promissing to get back to you by mail regarding my lookbook

*i'm all for keeping this discussion going, i'm sure more c&e regulars will find this interesting, hopefully more members will join in sharing their experiences regarding this topic

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28-11-2005
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Thanks Lena, I can't wait to see the lookbook

I think I will go with a rep for the first couple of collections and then send out packages myself once I understand the process the rep goes through to get a buyer and as soon as I can try the fairs. It is all a matter of finding what works best for your company and your buyers so I need to try everything but I just wasn't sure what was the best way to start.

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