Fifty-eight tips from gift market
experts for making the most of buying trips
Every florist who has experienced the wonderful world of gift shows
knows that while they are phenomenal, not-to-be-missed sources of
excitement and inspiration, they also can be somewhat grueling—and
expensive—adventures, especially for first-timers.
To help you get the most out of your buying trips, the Retailer Advisory
Board at the Gift and Home Trade Association (GHTA) shares the following
advice with Florists’ Review readers. Whether you’re a gift show novice
or a seasoned pro, you’re sure to discover ideas that will make you a
better buyer and your trips more fun, efficient and profitable.
Before the show
1. Always preregister for gift shows to avoid long lines and
2. Take plenty of critical items for vendors such as business
cards and credit information sheets printed on company letterhead.
3. Clearly list your bill-to and ship-to addresses on credit
sheets as well as all your contact information, including cell phone
number and e-mail address.
4. Be sure your credit sheet also includes your bank contact
information, phone numbers, at least three credit references with
account numbers and contact phone numbers, your resale number and
federal tax identification number. Having this with you will make it
easier for everyone.
5. Take customer request lists.
6. Take sales data and current inventories of lines you know
you’ll be seeing. Go back six months to look for trends and evaluate the
success or failure of particular items.
7. Take a journal for jotting notes on great new products or
display ideas, or, better yet, a small tape recorder.
8. Also take a camera so you can snap photos of display ideas or
props, but always ask permission first. If photos aren’t allowed,
request images from your sales associate. And do this only after you’ve
placed an order.
9. Consider taking an empty carry-on bag to pack magazines,
catalogs and other product literature you pick up at the show. Or pack a
pre-addressed, collapsed cardboard box in your luggage so you can ship
those items home on your last day. Most gift markets and shows have
on-site business offices or shipping facilities.
10. Develop a Plan. Think about what new products you’ll be
looking for, and map your course for each floor, starting at the top
floor and working your way down.
11. Use show guides and online resources when creating your
must-see list of booths and lines. Many gift markets and temporary show
producers have features on their Web sites that allow you to look up
exhibitors ahead of time, including showroom and booth numbers.
12. Visit other specialty retailers and big-box stores in your
area for ideas, and develop a mental picture of what you want your store
to look like a couple of months down the road.
13. Schedule time to attend seminars you think might be
beneficial to you and your business.
14. Plan to visit flower shops and even wholesale florists in the
show’s host city for inspiration.
15. Give yourself plenty of time! Two days at a trade show might
not be enough. Invest in your livelihood; allow three to six days, and
give yourself plenty of time for buying, learning and building
vendor/sales rep relationships.
16. Consult with reps of your established lines to let them know
you will be attending and to get information on promotions and specials.
Also ask them if they will get credit for orders you place at the show.
If not, consider placing the orders when you return home.
17. If you can take advantage of a show special but your rep
won’t get credit, decide what’s more important to you; you might have to
18. Contact vendors of new lines you’re considering for
promotional information and show specials.
19. Make appointments to see new product introductions in your
current lines as well as new lines you’re considering. This will save
you time at the show.
20. When making appointments, get cell phone numbers or showroom
phone numbers so if there’s an emergency or you’re running late, you can
call instead of leaving them hanging.
21. Invite an employee to go with you; it builds loyalty like
crazy and gives him or her a feeling of ownership. Have your associate
take one hallway or aisle while you take another to cover more ground.
22. Find out if a gift market or show has a “premier buyers” club
and how you can qualify. This can translate into everything from free
parking to a private lounge area.
23. Know what your OTB (“open to buy”) is before you arrive (how
much to buy and when to have it delivered).
At the show
24. Pick up trade publications—like Florists’ Review and
especially our new publication, Christmas Trends—on the first day, and
review them prior to your next day at market. Record vendors and/or
products of interest.
25. Dress comfortably, and bring at least two pairs of shoes so
you can change throughout each day.
26. Take breaks—sit down and drink lots of water to avoid
burnout; that’s when bad decisions are easy to make.
27. Make time to eat. Carry high-protein snacks with you. Nothing
is worse than losing steam at 2 p.m.; you need to be on your toes at all
28. If you have a really good relationship with a showroom, ask
them if you may use them as “home base,” giving you a place to drop off
material, hang your coat, get lunch or snacks or just sit down to rest.
Don’t ask to do this in a booth, though; their space is at a premium,
and it needs to be used for selling product, not storing your stuff.
29. Ask the gift markets or show producers if they have buyers
reps or other buyer support staff. Meet them, and use them. They can be
your resource for everything from restroom locations to decent food in
30. If you’ve made appointments, keep them. Standing someone up
is incredibly unprofessional.
31. Get there early. Get to showrooms or booths 10 or 15 minutes
prior to your appointments; this will give you time to scope out the
merchandise and save you time when working with your rep.
32. Don’t spend too much time on lines with which you’re well
serviced by a rep; just take notes on new merchandise, and move on.
33. Ask reps and vendors a lot of questions: What are your
best-selling lines? What are your show specials for this line? Dating?
Freight? Best-seller sampler packages? Review merchandise with an open
mind. What you like is not always what sells; be willing to gamble.
34. Ask sales associates for their suggestions and comments. What
have customers been asking for, or what has been selling well in your
store? Why do they think certain items have or have not been selling?
35. Ask for all updated info on products, catalogs and price
sheets, and discontinued items. Take as much as you can possibly carry.
36. Rate the products. When looking and taking notes at the show,
rate each product from 1 to 10, allowing you to buy the best of the
37. Tell your sales reps what they can do for you. Do you need
inventories? How often do you expect them to visit you? Do you do your
buying at the store or only at shows? Can they come by to inventory your
current merchandise, then leave a suggested order? To whom should they
speak in your store?
38. Provide feedback to vendors on products—with respect and
manners. Remember, it’s their “stuff” you’re talking about.
39. When writing orders, establish up front any cancellation
dates or what percentage of product you expect to be shipped at the same
40. When opening a new line, get all pertinent
information—minimum opening, ship time, how to handle back-orders,
current percentage of “shipped complete” orders, the name of a contact
at the factory or warehouse, etc. This may take time initially but will
save you time in the long run.
41. Order in increments. When ordering best-sellers, place dated
orders so you don’t run out during the holiday seasons.
42. Make sure you can read and understand orders that are written
and that they are complete with requested ship dates, payment terms and
prices. If taking advantage of show specials, be sure they’re noted on
the form as well.
43. Inquire about co-op advertising dollars or special promotions
if a co-op program doesn’t exist.
44. Always provide a ship date; ASAPs don’t allow you control of
your finances and often get pushed to the back.
45. If you place a “hold for confirmation” order, follow up after
market with a ship date or instructions.
46. If you place an order with a “call to request credit card,”
promptly respond to the call. If you can’t afford to have it shipped at
the time of request, notify the vendor with an alternative ship date.
47. Don’t purchase outside of your territory to go around a
“protected territory agreement.” This will ruin relationships with
vendors, sales associates and your neighbors. All a vendor has to do is
a quick online map search to find out you’re skirting the rules.
48. Keep your eyes open for creative promotional ideas.
49. Pay attention to the ways products of interest are displayed
in showrooms and booths, and ask vendors for the best ways to
merchandise the products you purchase.
50. Ask about props for sale. Inquire about props used in
showrooms. Some shows have a “marketplace” for showrooms to sell their
props, and some will share resources with you.
51. Ask manufacturers or reps for product promotional materials
to help out with displays or product information (shelf-talkers).
52. Ask anyone and everyone about trends; they might not be
relevant to you now, but they likely will be at some point.
53. Keep your ears open in the oddest of places. Some of the best
leads and ideas can come from overheard conversations in a restroom or
54. Visit with other retailers while at a show—on the shuttle
bus, at social events, in the dining areas, etc. This is a great chance
55. Be sure everyone’s cell phone batteries are fully charged.
That’s the best way to stay in touch with your party.
56. Turn off your cell phone in a showroom or booth. Taking calls
there is just as offensive as your customers chattering away in your
57. Take your reps to dinner or for drinks. They’re working hard,
too—and probably not being thanked enough by buyers.
58. Study it, plan it, learn about it, buy it, organize it and,
most importantly, do it. This goes for buying, promoting and running
This list was created by the Gift and Home Trade Association’s (GHTA)
Retailer Advisory Board. For more information on making the most of your
gift show buying trips or on the GHTA, visit
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