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So in the past week and a half I have attended my first 2 trade shows (Bubble London at the Design Centre and Spring Fair at the NEC).  Bubble is all about kids (though mostly apparel as opposed to toys) and Spring Fair is about everything (literally everything!) but with a huge toys and gift section.

I have to say I wasn’t very excited about the idea as it sounded like a lot of traipsing around and not much fun, but as it turns out, I couldn’t have been more wrong.  They were awesome and I would encourage everyone (even if you aren’t in the trade!) to visit.  I will outline below what I learned from them.  Some of it is relevant to setting up a business, some less so but for what it’s worth – here it is!

1)      Trade shows are free (well at least these 2) and all you need to do is register on the site and you get given a ticket

2)      You don’t actually need to have a business to go along, though every stand you visit wants to scan your pass (so they know all about you from the info you entered when you registered – make it good!) and they want a business card so it is worth having a stack

3)      The mark –up from wholesale to retail is always at least 100% (i.e.. something that costs £5 wholesale will sell in a shop for £10 plus).  This sounds a lot, but when you consider shop rents, staff and VAT (if you are over the £70,000 threshold) it doesn’t actually equate to much.  This was a huge lesson for me (albeit one I was already aware of) as with my product costs as well as shipping, VAT, duties etc and bearing in mind what I think is the maximum price my products can sell for this simply doesn’t add up for me to sell my products into retailers.  There are ways around this such as amazon and drop shipping but I will look at those next week in my blog. Basic rule.  If you are looking to import goods and you really want to sell into retailers, understand all of your costs and what profit you need to make to make it worthwhile for you and then assume that if you want to sell it wholesale the RRP will need to be at least double this sum

4)      The Spring fair is huge!  We were there for 10 hours and with 30 mins of sitting down for coffees and constant walking I am not sure we even did a third of it!  That said if you can maintain focus on your area you can probably get round in a day

5)      There are loads of fab products out there which aren’t yet in a lot of shops.  I consider myself relatively knowledgeable on kids products (from this work as well as being a mum of 2) and there were great products there which I have never seen in any of the retailers I shop in.  Based on that there are great opportunities out there for anyone who is looking to go into retail to sell cool and exciting products which people can’t buy in lots of other places

6)      The barriers to entry are pretty low.  Most of the stands I spoke to wanted min orders of between £150 and £300 (average was usually £250).  Usually you had to buy a min of 3 – 6 of each item.  Assuming you met this they were happy to sell to you and would post to you for free

7)      Whilst it is not ideal to take a small child, it is possible. I took my 2.5 year old son to Bubble  and he loved it (there was a statue of a cow in the entrance which was apparently the highlight of his weekend when we looked back that night!).  Lots of the retailers have balloons, sweets and even cakes and he thought it was ace ( he also ate a year’s worth of sugar!).  That said Spring Fair was far easier to have focused conversations without him running off and stealing things he liked (a cardboard rooster being the funniest!) from other stands

8)      If you want to exhibit there then it is expensive (anywhere from £2000 to £5000 for a stand) and you need to look very professional as the competition to grab people’s attention is huge

I think that is all for now.  I came home exhausted yesterday but as I said at the start it is certainly an experience and it has got me loads of new connections on twitter as well as loads of food for thought on future opportunities!