What Will Matter Is Sell-Through
February 16, 2010 - 10:17am

Just flew back from Dallas, and boy are my arms tired. All jokes aside, I do have serious hand cramps from my copious notetaking. I actually came up with a shorthand abbreviation for “company’s largest market introduction ever” (CLMIE) because I got sick of writing it over and over. Even where quantity of launches failed to break any records, the quality and innovation exhibitors put forth were consistently remarkable.

Good thing attendance was up to ensure that more showroom buyers would bear witness to this sumptuous fixture feast. We knew retailers would come to the table based on their pre-show RSVPs, but many of them warned that their budgets were still on somewhat of a diet, so don’t expect them to indulge.

But it’s hard to nibble on dry lettuce when the buffet looks sooooo good. And there’s nothing virtuous about starving your store of fresh inventory. So despite predictions to the contrary, showrooms did buy — perhaps not with the abandon of more profitable times, but they did venture out of the comfort zones of conservative styles and gravitated to the most different-looking designs. It makes sense, especially as independent retailers of all types seek to distinguish themselves with unique selections, but it does take courage nonetheless to be the product pioneer in your local market.

It was refreshing to ride the wave of positive energy at this show. So how do you keep that going as the resulting shipments make their way to the sales floor? I suggest you think about what prompted you to take the plunge in Dallas. The same display ideas, show specials, hospitality, background stories and sheer volume of “wow” that compelled you to buy may translate directly or indirectly to the consumer level. And I’m sure your vendors won’t mind a bit if you borrow their ideas. They or their reps may even roll up their sleeves and help you execute them.

I can recall stories of showrooms who had built up such reputations for always having the newest, hottest, latest that their customers would anticipate shipments and eagerly peek in as personnel unpacked boxes. They could hardly wait for the bubble wrap to unfurl before making a purchase. Well, many of you have got some major shipments coming through soon — probably the most significant influx of new product you’ve had in a while. Make plenty of hay about this, perhaps with exclusive sneak previews for your most loyal customers. It’s your time to shine now, because one good turn deserves another.

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