Squirrely by nature, yesterday’s trip to NY NOW at the Javitz Center in New York City was sensory overload. East to West, North to South goods, sights, sounds, smells, tastes as far as the eye can see and a thousand spots in between. Speed walking thru the wide aisles, filled with equally urgent buyers, looking for that next best thing to surprise and delight our customers. Considering what I have, remembering what nearby stores carry, cohesiveness of my own brand, price point, minimum orders, it’s enough to make a brain implode.
My favorite thing is making connection…but it’s impossible with this pace and within a one day timeframe. It feels rude to speed by a booth glancing briefly at their beloved goods, spotting the business name while never making eye contact. But we’re on a mission, and my friend Tiombe from Cultivated in Westminster, Md keeps me on point. What will my customers love? What would make perfect gifts? What would bring them joy at home, with friends, with family, for themselves? Grab a card, keep moving. Only things unique, something I haven’t seen before, new to my zip code create cause to pause. Hear their story, enough to share with customer-friends, touch feel, try on, sample, order and next. Rinse and repeat.
What I learned from NY Now: (for my fellow shop owners)
- It’s best with a friend. Even better if that friend is a fellow buyer. Second opinions, questions I hadn’t considered, vibe checks, alternate merchandising ideas and the silly camaraderie was priceless.
- Wear comfy shoes. We likely put in 6,000 steps. Keep the heels at home and sport the sneaks instead.
- Bring tons of business cards. Vendors you’re interested in will ask for them… you can be added to their system and shop later saving you the online registration steps.
- Don’t be afraid to get in there… ask questions, ask for a show specials, what’s selling well, what's their return policy, what’s the open to buy minimum, what’s their turnaround time, is there social media buzz on any items (there were Oprah’s favs signs everywhere), ask ask ask.
- Drink lots of water (you should do that anyway, but extra today… so much walking)
- If it’s not a good fit for your store, keep moving…there are TONS of absolutely stunning booths, with home décor, all things sparkly and distracting, but if it doesn’t make sense in your store, move on. Yes, the rugs and furniture are stunning, but if you don’t sell it, stroll on.
- Wear a backpack and bring a light empty totebag (or pick up one from a vendor). You’ll grab a ton of business cards and catalogs. Keep your hands free to explore.
- Rest, eat and regroup. Pause a few times to check your must-see categories (have you sourced options to bulk up the men’s offerings? Do you need more books, food items, skincare, jewelry… take a deep breath and regroup. Don’t stay too long, just enough to refocus and refuel then get back in there!
- You are just as important as anyone else, don’t get in your own head with comparison. Some folks dress super fancy, with powerful looking entourages and noses drifting sky high… you are just as important and have equal right to be there. You’re there to source awesome stuff for your space that will shock and delight your customer-friends, so ditch the comparisons.
- It definitely warrants a two day visit. One day just to see all your existing vendors, see what’s new and place restock orders. Day two to find new vendors and catch all those you missed on day one. You’ll not be able to stop at each booth, so don’t try.
Bonus #11) Don’t feel badly for saying ‘no, thank you’.
NY NOW was awesome… now to rest, recoup and dig through these catalogs!