When it comes to apparel markets, there’s no need to suffer for fashion. These events offer an excellent opportunity for exhibitors and buyers alike to expand their businesses. But for the best results at a retail trade show, make sure to go in with a plan. With a little preparation, an apparel market won’t cramp your style.
Apparel markets and retail trade shows offer a chance to buy and sell the latest fashions at special price points. Leading brands will be on the lookout for the apparel and accessories to stock in their stores next season. Whether you’re a wholesale distributor or a retail shop, know the ins and outs of apparel markets before you go.
Attending an apparel trade show can put your business a cut above the competition.
A retail operation requires lots of advance planning, and an apparel market can simplify the process. Rather than consider distributors and providers individually, buyers can evaluate several different options in the same location, comparing their products directly and in person.
While online shopping has its conveniences, the trade show experience lets buyers get up close and personal with the items, feeling them and seeing their colors and textures with their own eyes. You can gauge the material quality and construction firsthand. This means there should be no surprises when the order arrives.
For sellers, a wholesale clothing market draws an audience that, by virtue of its attendance, is likely to have interest in your products. These attendees are eager to get in on the latest trends, and they’re ready to hear why your offerings can give them an edge.
It’s a mutually beneficial arrangement, offering growth potential for both ends of the deal. But to get in on these advantages, it’s important to know your way around the retail market scene.
Each apparel trade show tends to have a different focus, whether it’s a textile fair, a sports apparel trade show, a footwear expo or off-price merchandise show. Some are once-a-year destinations while others are special showcases held at permanent showrooms.
Whether your company is focusing on local customers or trying to break into a new market, surveying the apparel market scene is the first step.
Across the United States, top apparel brands and fashion industry leaders are convening at major apparel markets and fashion trade shows. It’s important to know the premier events happening throughout the country to decide which makes the most sense for your business. The following are some of the top USA apparel markets:
The United States is far from the only hub for apparel, accessory and gift markets. All over the world, top clothing brands are making connections at major industry conventions. Intertextile Shanghai Apparel Fabrics, a leading China apparel market, drew over 70,000 buyers and more than 4,000 exhibitors recently. Take a look at these international apparel expos featuring the latest styles.
Wherever you are in the world, there’s likely an industry expo accessible to your company. Don’t miss out on the chance to expand your business.
No matter your role in the clothing industry, apparel and accessory markets can help you achieve your goals. Here are just a few of the many fields that regularly attend or exhibit at major clothing expos:
At any apparel market, there’s sure to be a variety of vendors and guests: Magic, a major Las Vegas apparel market, hosts about 5,000 exhibitors and draws around 85,000 attendees, for example. But depending on the event, you’ll find a different breakdown of attendee demographics. Be sure to read the trade show’s list of past or current exhibitors before committing to exhibiting or attending.
If you’re attending as a buyer, you want to guarantee that the sort of products and service you’re seeking will be available. If you’re exhibiting, you want to be surrounded by complementary businesses that will collectively attract your desired audience.
Don’t get all dressed up with nowhere to go: Attending or exhibiting at a top apparel market won’t magically grow your business. To maximize your return on investment, you need to set measurable goals for the trade show. Consider how a large-scale event featuring leading brands and industry leaders can benefit your particular company.
A wholesale clothing trade show provides tremendous opportunity, but it’s not without its challenges. You should be prepared to face them head-on.
The shopping experience at an apparel market presents a paradox: Your exhibit needs to appeal to as many buyers as possible, but you have to sell to each visitor on an individual level.
Monserat de Lucca, a Los Angeles-based accessory brand, told handshake.com that the biggest challenge of fashion trades how is that every buyer wants something different. “You have to switch from providing a story for the young professional, to a busy mother, to a customer on vacation,” it said. This requires a knowledgeable staff that can identify buyers’ needs and cater your products to any type of customer.
For buyers, a major challenge of apparel markets can simply be an overabundance. In your quest to find the perfect products for your customers, it can be tough to make a decision when surrounded by hundreds or even thousands of exhibits. There is, after all, always a chance a better deal or product is out there.
To solve this, set specific qualities and price points that you’re searching for. Browse to your heart’s content, but when you find ones that match your standards, don’t overthink it.
Your money can get oven farther by attending a trade show in the off-price retail channel, where overrun, closeout and previous-season items are available.
The popular Offprice trade show boasts that an item typically marked at $100 and sold for wholesale at $50 to $75 can be found and its event for as low as $15. This allows attendees to list the items for less than competitors without losing out on profit. The idea, the show says, is to avoid having to mark down your own prices and sacrifice your own revenues.
An apparel market is a great chance to get your brand and products in front of new buyers. But what if they never find you? As in all aspects of the retail business, a good location is a must. It will dictate how much brand exposure your business receives and how many chances you’ll have to grab someone’s attention.
The easiest ways to land a top-notch booth location are, of course, time and money. Getting in early will give you the pick of the litter, and a substantial budget means more floor area and better booth types, such as an island booth with aisles on all sides.
Failing that, though, it’s not hopeless. You can reach out to your contact at the show requesting a high traffic space, such as one near major industry leaders, next to an entrance or at an intersection in the aisles. It never hurts to ask.
A great booth in a key location at an apparel market is essential, but you can’t expect the display do your work for you. It’s up to you to proactively draw people to your exhibition, not sit by and wait for them to find you.
Social media is one of the most effective ways of drawing interest in your exhibit at an apparel trade show. More than most other industries, fashion trade shows are likely to draw influencers with high follower counts -- you want to leverage that audience to spread your brand awareness.
In advance of the event, hype up your appearance by posting photos of the kind of products you’ll have on display. Be sure to use the show’s preferred hashtags so that other users interested in the show find your posts. Interact with other sellers and buyers who are discussing the market, making connections and hopefully sharing each other’s posts. This will have a mutual benefit, allowing both parties to reach more eyeballs.
Keep it up as the market is happening. Post pics of your decked-out display, visitors interacting with your products, and your impeccably dressed booth staff -- and don’t forget to continue using the hashtags and engaging with other people posting about the event. If you have an email list, craft emails in advance to engage with your established clients, hoping to lure them to the event. Remember, it takes less convincing to expand business with an existing client than to close a deal with a brand new one.
And whenever you use social media, keep track of the analytics and use the data later gauge how effective your strategy was.
If you’ve committed to attending a clothing trade show, you should already know who else is going to be there. Be sure to act on that information.
Whether you’re buying or selling, identify the leading brands you want to engage with at the event. These might be current or past customers, sellers, leads with whom you haven’t closed a deal yet, or businesses you’ve admired but haven’t engaged with yet. Reach out and set up appointments. Even if you’re not sure the business is already planning to attend the trade show, invite them directly -- a networking opportunity with your business might be enough to entice them.
These advance meetings guarantee one-on-one face time and will go further than simply hoping to attract passersby on a busy trade show floor. While a trade show can bring exciting opportunities that you didn’t expect, setting up concrete meetings in places less up to chance.
If your brand has an engaging story to tell, it doesn’t hurt to reach out to industry press to pitch an article idea. A well-crafted press release can convince trade publications that your company would be of interest to the field, but simply hyping your high-quality products probably and services probably won’t be enough.
Instead, focus on moments of change, exceptional growth or ways you’re going against the grain. You are more likely to catch a writer or editor’s attention this way. Think about what makes you different: For example, an aggressive eco-friendly initiative that goes above and beyond the industry standard or impressive results from a rebrand that broke you into a new market. These publications are looking for a story to tell that shows where the industry is headed.
At any trade show, creating an eye-catching booth is essential. But at an apparel market, aesthetics are doubly important -- buyers will have finely tuned eyes for style and trends. If your exhibit’s look doesn’t grab them immediately, they’ll assume your products won’t, either. It’s necessary to think carefully about making a strong visual impression.
A booth at an apparel market has to send a clear, immediate message. Define a few key ideas you want to convey about your products or services and design your exhibit from there.
Your brand’s tone and target audience should dictate your color palette and your booth materials. If your product is luxe and seek, go for clean neutrals and simple design. If you have a more bohemian, go for an eclectic setting with natural materials and warm colors. Your products should seamlessly match your booth’s look.
An apparel market exhibit should be an extension of your established brand. If you already have a brick and mortar location, think of it as an outpost of what you’ve already established -- use the same design elements, from flooring to decor. Details matter.
If your business doesn’t have a storefront yet, take the opportunity to make a miniature version of the shop you’ve likely envisioned. Just as a shop needs to pull in foot traffic off the street, your booth must lure in passersby with an immediate impact.
Your apparel market exhibit - and the products within - should look picture-perfect throughout the event. You can’t guarantee this if you leave lighting up to powers out of your control.
Bring your own lighting fixtures to the booth. Not only will this allow you to add ambiance and atmosphere to your exhibit, but you also won’t be surprised by shadows or other factors that can change the look of your offerings. Don’t underestimate this crucial element of trade show booth design.
Pitching to prospective customers at an apparel market is a little different than selling in other settings. The limited space, buzzing environment and stiff competition make for unique challenges that any vendor should prepare for.
Your booth might not have space for you to exhibit all of the different items you want to show off. So, it’s important to display the pieces that best convey the breadth of your offerings - and that standout.
Sometimes less is more: One great product can tell a story, and then it’s up to you to fill in the blanks. Put a few of your most innovative and interesting items in a place of prominence to draw in visitors. Then, you can engage them and share what else you can bring to their business.
Trade show attendees and buyers tend to be well-informed, and often enter the show with specific needs and desires. It’s on you to convince these visitors that your product fits what they’re looking for.
You might think your staff knows your products and services inside and out, but be sure to brush up on all the details a potential client might ask. Be ready to tell them the materials used in a given item, how it’s manufactured and how it was designed. If you don’t have these answers, one of your competitors will. Identify what sets your items apart from the field, and build a story about how this product benefits those who use it.
For wholesale accessory and clothing vendors at a trade show, it’s important to remember that every retailer has a different customer they’re hoping to sell your goods to. To convince them that your product fits their needs, you need to be prepared to paint a picture that responds to the retailer’s vision.
Accompany your products with different items that appeal to different types of clients. You booth staff, too, should be live examples of the different ways your products can be styled. You can only show much, though -- in many cases, you will have to rely on words to create the vision. Describe different ways your items can be worn, with specific examples of settings and accompanying items that play into that image.
Your preparation for the apparel market will go much further if you start with people who already know their stuff.
Staff your booth enthusiastic, personable people who have a good handle on the most important details about your products and services. You want them to able to convey the advantages of your business in a way that feels like a real conversation, not a sales pitch -- friendly and natural. Your booth’s sharp look and your high-quality products might be what draws in prospective customers, but it’s your staff that will close sales.
There are many ways to make your trade show experience go smoothly. These are just a few ideas to keep in mind to avoid hurdles to a successful apparel market booth.
Considering the limited space at an apparel market booth, you can only have so many items on hand at a time. It’s important to have a system in place to restock -- whenever possible, you want to be able to fulfill a sale right away rather than telling a hopeful customer to wait. Some buyers are looking to take home their desired product right away.
Trade show attendees are often on the go - they want to visit many different vendors, and don’t have time to dally. Exhibitors need to make the experience seamless for their prospective clients. Use a mobile order-taking app or platform to instantly collect the information you need and finalize the sale. Some examples include:
Not only does this make it easier for the customers, instantly inputting orders will give you less work later on.
This one is self-explanatory. Attending an apparel market is hectic, and visitors will want a place to catch their breath. Offering seating is a great way to keep them at your booth longer so that you can learn about their business and sell to them more effectively.
But be sure to instruct your booth staff not to sit down themselves unless they’re talking with a seated customer. You don’t want them to look lethargic or unengaged on the trade show floor.
At trade shows for many industries, the standard for exhibitor attire is pretty simple: Dress professionally but comfortably, and consider having your booth staff wear a uniform color. But at an apparel market, that’s not going to cut it.
Attendees, buyers and sellers at a clothing trade show are steeped in the fashion and design world, and they’re looking for business partners whose sense of style complements their own. Anyone staffing a booth needs to think of themselves as ambassadors to the brand -- and that includes clothing.
Wherever possible, booth staff should be wearing examples of products on display to get noticed on a crowded expo floor. They don’t need to be walking billboards, but they should be living, breathing examples of how the items can be worn and styled. Beyond that, the rest of their attire should complement your brand -- a denim vendor shouldn’t be dressed in formal wear, and a luxury accessory vendor should probably stay away from workwear.
For all the effort, time and money it takes to establish a presence at an apparel market, the work doesn’t end once you exit the show. To make the most out of your experience, you need to stay active even when you’re not manning the booth. Learning the dos and don'ts of trade show booth etiquette helps you master this process.
While most of your trade show business will happen within the event’s hours, don’t miss out on business networking opportunities off the trade show floor. It’s likely that exhibitors and attendees will be hanging out after hours at restaurants close to the venue. These can be casual, low-stakes settings where you can build upon the connections you’ve made during the trade show.
Make plans to meet up later with representatives from brands that you’re hoping to partner with, or go with your own booth staff to event-sanctioned networking mixers and events.
Whether you close a sale or simply engage with a prospective client, you should follow up as soon as possible with anyone with you hope to do business with in the future. Within a few days of the apparel market’s ending, send an email thanking leads for visiting your booth and reminding them of the advantages to your products and services. Learning how to plan a successful exhibition from start to finish is important.
The goal is to build upon the positive brand exposure you established during the event. Each visitor to your booth probably saw hundreds of other vendors, so you need to ensure that your business stays in their mind. To make sure you can accomplish this, throughout the apparel market make sure you have an established system for taking down the contact info for leads.
After your diligent preparation for a major apparel market, the last step before the event is perhaps the most important: Making sure your products and booth arrive safely to the event. You need a trusted shipping and logistics company to transport your trade show materials.
R+L Global Logistics offers unmatched customer service, a personal touch, and deep knowledge of the ins and outs of everything you need to know about USA trade show shipping. Rather than staring at a screen to track your delivery, you’ll be able to contact an actual person who will keep you in the loop. They’ll follow your shipment throughout every step of the trade show shipping process, including packaging, transit, warehousing and delivery. Shipping to interior design trade shows and shipping to retail trade shows are also services we offer.