As soon as the new year hits, market season is upon us, and retailers from across the country will gather at shows like Lightovation, Jan. 18-22, to see new product and do their purchasing.
With so much to do, and so little time, how do showrooms maximize their days in Dallas?
It will come as no surprise that for showrooms attending Lightovation, preparedness is key. When it comes to purchasing, Bernadette Campbell, National Lighting Manager for Ferguson, says that maintaining great relationships with vendors is key to knowing what trends to look for.
“We also review current designer and trade publications for trending information,” she says.
Besides keeping on top of trends, reviewing your inventory, displays and sales beforehand is key to a successful market. Hinsdale Lighting in Hinsdale, IL, created a detailed worksheet that they bring, filled out, to each of their appointments. This includes three years of sales data specifics, as well as questions that they want to remember to ask, such as, “What is the free freight allowance currently, and are there deals coming up?” They even ask their reps to do homework before their appointments, pointing out on a report they are sent which products are discontinued.
“I think manufacturers and reps appreciate our preparedness overall,” says Megan Mackey, Senior Designer at Hinsdale Lighting.
Is it better to schedule your days out, or see where the wind takes you? Retailers agree that back-to-back vendor appointments maximizes time at the market, where appointments can run up to three hours. Hinsdale Lighting sets up a calendar for the market, which can easily book up with 15-20 appointments. However, it’s also good to set aside some time to just wander market halls. While Lisa Dixon, CEO of Pace Lighting in Savannah, GA, schedules appointments on most days, she says she also tries to allow a half a day just for browsing.
“I also use this time to go back and revisit something that I couldn’t spend enough time on during an appointment.”
Should you set a budget, or be flexible in your spending? Dixon says she takes a hard look at her displays and notes discontinued items, items that need to be replaced, displays that aren’t turning and even gaps — not enough chrome vanity fixtures or too many bronze chandeliers — then creates a budget with her CFO.
“If I find one of those ‘have to have’ pieces, that will eliminate some other purchase as we stick to our budget pretty carefully.” On the flip side, Campbell says Ferguson showrooms are more flexible. “Rather than setting a budget, we encourage our associates to have a shopping list for specific product needs to complete their showroom offering,” she says.
And what about order writing — does it have to be done at market? Dixon shares the sentiment of some retailers, saying she doesn’t always write orders while at the show.
“Sometimes we just create wish lists and then when I’m home, I will compare them all and edit. Almost all promotions offered at market are available for at least a month after, so there isn’t a lot of pressure to buy necessarily.”