With so many companies to see at Lightovation and a limited amount of time to do so, forming a plan ahead of time is good business.

As we near the end of 2016, facets of the way we do business have been forever changed. In the same way, the way we consume music and movies as well as interact with our clients and vendors (and vice versa) is not as it once was.

This has impacted the way we go to market, too. The outcomes we get from shopping at the market —
whether it is the product we buy or the people we connect with — impact the next 6 to 18 months of our business lives.

Let’s focus on several points that can increase your market productivity.

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“When you continue to buy the same products, a new trend will never be found.”[/mks_pullquote]

Go with a Plan

Creating and using a plan when going to market is the most basic tool you have, even if you do nothing else. A basic plan will keep you on track, focused on your budget and the number of items that need to be replenished, plus leaves room for new items for display. A primary plan also includes discovering the best partner programs you can incorporate into a win/win for all the stakeholders.

Have a Schedule

While this topic may appear to some as a “no kidding” title, time at market flies by rapidly. It is as if there are only 30 minutes in an hour and so much has to get done. Set appointments and hold to them. Taking a soft approach to the time that is only available twice a year is damaging to any efforts of being efficient.

That said, allow some free time slots in your schedule. Use this time when you need to make adjustments such as when a great opportunity arises and causes an appointment run over; or budgeting time to scout for new trends, product categories, and display ideas.

Go to every floor in the Trade Mart, World Trade Center, and the Market Hall across the street; you never know where you will find items that are fun or that can give you a super-high margin on a product line that has been hiding from you. Finding new and innovative products helps distinguish your store from your local and digital competition.

“When you continue to buy the same products, a new trend will never be found.”

There’s an App for That

Every part of our lives has felt the impact of the digital revolution and going to market is no different. The LIGHTOVATION and DMC smartphone apps make your market trip interactive. With the addition of new showrooms and the relocation of others, it can be daunting trying to find where your showroom of choice may be.

With easy-to-use floor plans as part of the app, you can find the exhibitors you want to see plus the scheduled presentations and educational events. This digital tool is great for enhancing your personal productivity, too. If you want to be super-efficient, you can create a daily personal agenda with the app. 

An important part of going market is seeing and interacting with industry friends, and the app lets you know who is in attendance at the show. A feature I find very useful is the capacity to have a public discussion on a topic or have a private conversation with a friend or trusted resource.

Now, what happens if you can’t attend market?  Believe it or not, downloading the app can be a great resource for people who can’t attend. With more than 500 active users, there are plenty of conversations, pictures of product, and merchandising ideas that are shared on the activity and photo feeds.  This lets you be partial participant at market, even from afar.

Winners and Losers

Review sales statistics of your product categories and specific items. When looking at the performance of an item alone, it is hard to discern if an item’s superb or poor performance was due to a full category shift or if the piece is standing alone in its results.

Having current information is the key to having constructive, collaborative conversations about many issues that are important to merchants and vendors alike, such as terms, discounts, and co-op programs.

The historical data you want to review – and better yet, have at hand – includes sales figures, inventory, category, and vendor performance. Having this information ready to study at market provides you with the resources to make decisions that are well-informed and based on fact.  Not to mention that your vendor partners will know you are a professional who takes your business seriously when you are prepared.

Budget

A critical component to every market trip is your budget. How much will you spend? 

You must set a budgeted amount for each of the product categories you carry; then within each of the categories, set a percentage of the budget to buy at each vendor. Having an overall “open to buy” figure is also helpful. This information will let you shift your resources around if an opportunity comes up. 

I like to include a budget line item for each category called Unexpected. Having this category will mentally prepare you to jump out of your box. You may find an accessory item or a category killer that you go wild over — and now you have the budget for it.

Once that budget is set, do not spend more than what you have assigned. There is always time to review and reallocate funds or increase the budget once you return to your store.

There is one other critical component that must be budgeted for: space. In brick and mortar showrooms, space is finite and costly for both display and in the warehouse.  With consumers’ desire to have a curated look to the merchandise they see, knowing and planning the number of items you show and hold is smart business.   

Vendors or Partners

Market is a good time to bridge the gap between suppliers who are merely vendors and those who are your true partners. My decades-old definition of a supplier is one who sells a product to a merchant and nothing more than that. The product is bought and there are no expectations of the supplier other than that the goods are delivered intact according to agreed terms and arrive on time. The partner does all the same things as the supplier, except there is a working relationship that goes beyond just making the sale. A partner offers assistance in several areas such as marketing support, training and education, or coordinating and installing display vignettes.

Another important aspect of this relationship between vendor and clients is intelligence. Vendors can share industry-specific information including style and trend analysis that they acquire through proper account management by their reps. As a result, the showroom becomes a seamless channel from the vendor to the end user with all parties focused on the end user’s delight.

“Having a partnership between showroom and vendor raises the bar for each side because the investment is deeper than a transactional sale.”

Market Is Also for Education

Another attraction at the lighting market is the opportunity to advance your professional knowledge and development. There are classes, presentations, and seminars that cover a broad array of topics, from technical information on LEDs to ways for interacting with digital-savvy customers. It is to your benefit to attend at least one developmental seminar at each market.

(Self disclosure: I often present a few seminars that can help you sharpen your business skills.)

The Tech Tools You Need

Your smartphone is a critical component in achieving market success. First, make sure you have adequate storage space available or that you can upload your photos to a cloud.

It can be hard to recall where you saw an item at market, but if you have a picture of it, that problem is solved.

Create at least three main files to place your pictures in; then within those files, label the associated sub-files by vendor. The first file you create is for the items you have purchased. This lets the staff at the store see what is coming in and can help with planning displays.

The second file is for possible purchases of items you may want, but need more time to think about. The third file is for display and merchandising ideas. Some very good merchandising ideas are spread throughout the market. When you see an idea that you’d like to adapt, take a picture of it.

With all of this picture-taking, you will use up power. Bring extra batteries (or an external backup battery) with you, and don’t forget the chargers and power cords. These items take up little space and will save you a lot of time lost from being out of power or stuck somewhere while your phone is charging.

Vendors, take note: place a few rapid charging stations in your showroom as a convenience for customers.

The Results You Want

Invest your time as well as you invest your money. The results of planning will provide you with a better market visit. After each market day is done, review what has been accomplished and modify your next day’s schedule to follow up on any loose ends. Attending market not only facilitates your businesses success, but helps provide you with great experiences and relationships with vendors and your fellow showrooms. Think of market as an essential tool that helps you keep winning in this changing channel of lighting sales. 