Blue Eyed Sun

Blue Eyed Sun - gorgeous greetings cards

trade shows

  • Do Trade Shows Have a Future?

    Do Trade Shows Have a Future?

    Along with many other areas of our industry, trade shows took a hammering last year. There’s been speculation on some closing down, Pulse has merged into Top Drawer and others are shadows of their former selves.

    I’ve personally exhibited at over 100 shows and last year, on the back of a huge surge in interest in eco-friendly products, Blue Eyed Sun was seen with our BambooCups and greeting cards at ten trade shows in total. We had one of our most successful years ever and had several record breaking shows along with an incredible number of enquiries and new accounts. Unfortunately, it’s not been like this for everyone and, for many, the card market has not been without its challenges of late.

    The format of trade shows hasn’t been radically disrupted yet. Whilst there have been an increase in Meet the Buyer events organised by associations like the GCA (Greeting Card Association) and the GA (Giftware Association), the niche PG Live show is probably the closest we’ve seen to disruption so far. For all their faults, there are still some things about trade shows that work well, some things that don’t and some that are just plain ugly.

    The Good 

    There’s no substitute for face to face meetings for retailers to get a sense of a supplier and vice versa. A place where you can get your hands on the products and feel the quality of them. This has proved especially true for our launch of BambooCup, which feels so good to the touch. It’s always been true for our greeting cards too, which look way better in the flesh than in a brochure or online. 

    There’s also something very efficient about being able see lots of great product from a huge variety of suppliers in one place over one short period of time. Its useful for buyers and suppliers to be reassured that the people they are about to do business with are credible. You can get a lot of this through the subtle nuances of the behaviour of the people on the stand, how the products are displayed and how well it is attended by other buyers. If a company cares, it shows at shows.

    In fact, I’d go so far as to say that just being at shows is a big part of showing the marketplace how much suppliers care about their business, the industry and their customers. We all know what a lot of effort and expense they are and there’s a certain sense of commitment you get when you see publishers and suppliers regularly attending trade shows. Shows are also great for following trends, learning about the marketplace and networking in general.

    What I love most about shows is the chance to see lots of reactions in one go. To have hundreds of conversations about what we do well and what we do badly. This is hugely valuable marketing information that helps us get a sense of where to adapt and improve going forward. With the best agents and reps in the world you don’t always get the full picture without shows.

    It’s obviously incredibly exciting when you get it right and can feel completely demoralising when you get it wrong. That’s business for all of us thought, right? We don’t always get it right, but shows do make it easier to give us a better idea of what is going to work and what isn’t, whether we are suppliers or retailers.

    The Bad

    For retailers there’s lots of walking with many miles to cover, especially at large shows. For suppliers, there’s lots of standing, which can also be hard on the legs. It’s tough being in a quiet spot of a show or on a small stand that might get missed. If you’re an established player, it’s hard when retailers skip out on your stand to find new suppliers as they feel they can catch up with you or your sales agent another time.

    It’s also bad when your marketing doesn’t hit the spot or worse when you don’t market at all and rely on the show to bring the business to you. One thing I’ve learnt about doing shows is that they are always improved by a strong combination of direct mail, PR, advertising, calling our customers, social media posts and email marketing.

    Similarly for retailers, if you don’t do you homework and hunt through your mail, your emails, your trade mags and show websites you can miss new treasures. You can also miss out if you don’t know your best sellers and make a note of what stock you are low on in store. Being organised prior to visiting shows can make the world of difference to your bottom line.

    Then there’s the bad food. To be fair it’s not all shows that suffer from this. I love eating from the Crussh concession at Olympia and the lunch at PG Live is not to be sneezed at. It’s the NEC that still seems to struggle with it’s food offering, despite having tarted its restaurants up in recent times. Eating healthily and well at shows is always a challenge.

    The Ugly

    Horrible shows are kind of like bad days in a retail store. No one wants them, they sometimes just happen. Since I started exhibiting, we’ve been at shows immediately after 9/11, mad cow and foot and mouth outbreaks, halls being flooded, fires and even snow storms. As one would expect, they were all ugly. You can’t always control the outside world and yet, if you’re not in the game, you can’t expect to win. Like everything in business, you pays your money and takes your chances. That doesn’t stop the experiences being ugly from time to time.

    Sometimes it’s not out of your control. It’s just down to the way a market sector works. For example, we’ve never exhibited at Glee before with cards. That’s because most of the good independents go to other shows and a large section of that market is dominated by brokerage. This year, we thought we’d try it as BambooCup had been going very well in garden centres and gift products don’t tend to be brokered. 

    The result? My word it was ugly. An absolute stinker (our first time there and our worst ever trade show to date - in a year of record breakers). With hardly any visitors in our aisle we could tell it wasn’t going well on the first day. We tried to see if the organiser would include us in their daily email shot to salvage what we could of the show. No help from them. So two of our team sat it out over four long days doing what they could with what few visitors walked by. Boy do those days seem long when it’s quiet at a show.

    Fortunately our horrid experience at Glee was salvaged by our best ever Autumn Fair and a decent enough showing at Top Drawer Autumn (on at the same time).

    The Future

    If you’re going to do well at shows as a supplier you have to keep developing and launching new product. It’s the number one thing buyers ask for at shows. Everybody is always moving forward. Getting the newness right is a challenge and I think it’s best faced by trying lots of new things.

    Which is what Blue Eyed Sun is doing at Spring Fair 2019. We have a new larger stand at the front of Hall 4 where we will be showing off new greeting card ranges, new eco-friendly bamboo products from chic.mic and our exciting new handmade quilling and popup card ranges from Italian sensation Origamo, which include a fantastic range of Disney licensed products. We even have small new ranges of framed prints and table lamps on display.

    As for the shows, they have to keep focussed on what buyers and suppliers most need: Introducing high quality suppliers with great innovative product to leading retailers that can bring their new products to the high street. The key is to make sure this is done in as cost effective way for everyone as possible.

    As long as it remains important for people to meet in person and for great products, companies and people to meet in person trade shows that have the right offering for their customers will remain in business.

    Jeremy will be speaking on the Main Stage at Spring Fair on Sunday 3rd February at 13:15 on the Rise of the Ethical Consumer and adapting to the Growth of the Green Economy.

    Click here to find out more about Jeremy's talk at Spring Fair

    How to make the most of trade shows

    Are trade shows still worth it?

    See us at Spring Fair 2019

  • Glee Birmingham 2018 - Essential Information

    Glee Birmingham 2018 - Essential Info

    Everything you need to know about the Glee Birmingham 2018 trade show at the NEC:

    About Glee Birmingham 2018

    Autumn Fair 2018 runs for three days from Sunday 10th September to Tuesday 12th September from 09:00 - 18:00 at the NEC in Birmingham. It brings toether an inspirational showcase of over 1,000 British and International Exhibitors and attracts buyers from all over the world. It's a great opportunity to stock up on goods for that all important Christmas season and to see what's new for Spring seasons next year.

    Get your free ticket for the show please click here

    Where to Stay at Glee Birmingham 2018

    There are now several hotels on the NEC site, including Holiday Inn ExpressThe Hilton MetropoleThe Arden, and a Premier Inn.

    Click here for more accommodation options at the show

    Where to Eat at Glee Birmingham 2018

    Check out our 5 Great Restaurants near the NEC Birmingham blog post.

    How to get to Glee Birmingham 2018

    Travel to the show is easy with excellent rail and motorway links. The NEC post code is B40 1NT (if you use a sat nav). You can park for free in several car parks on site, all of which have free shuttle buses to take you around the complex. Birmingham International Rail Station is a 5 minute walk from the show as is Birmingham International Airport. It is an 80 minute train ride from London Euston Rail Station. You can also click on the map below to plan your journey.

    See Blue Eyed Sun at Glee Birmingham 2018

    See all of our top selling BambooCups, the reusable coffee cups tackling the 2.5 billion wasted single use, plastic lined coffee cups going to landfill each year. We also have our beautiful deluxe bamboo lunch boxes, SlideCup and our baby BambooFriends tableware.

    Blue Eyed Sun also have a gorgeous new everyday greeting card range called Biscuit at Glee Birmingham 2018 on stand Stand 19M20. You can also order any last minute Christmas and see our new Spring Season designs for 2019.

    Can't make the show? Click here to request access all of our designs online.

    We're at also Top Drawer Autumn on the same weekend

    Glee Birmingham 2018 Show Map

    View Larger Map

  • Are trade shows still worth it?

    Are Trade Shows Worth It?Since Blue Eyed Sun began in 2000, I have spent a full year of my life in trade show halls setting up stands and exhibiting our greeting cards to visitors. The costs have risen considerably and are now pushing £400 per square metre for a small shell scheme stand. This can exclude other costs like electrics, flooring, cladding, painting and point of sale materials. Then there are the travel, parking, hotel, substance (thats food and drink to you and me) and staff costs to factor in. On top of this can be show media charges, marketing materials and adverts needed to make sure that your stand isnt missed, having spent all that money to be there.


    For retailers, especially those who have cut back on staff though the recession, there are lost hours in the shop or the expense of paying to have it staffed whilst you are at the show. Similarly there are travel, hotel and subsistence costs. Plus, lets face it, its hard work trawling through miles and miles of the NEC to find those hidden gems. Especially when they might just as easily be found in trade magazines and brochures delivered to your door, via the internet or through a sales rep that comes to you. 


    Most of the best greeting card companies in the UK have sales agents covering the country, a decent brochure and a transactional website. In the next few years they will also add transactional apps to add to their arsenal of tools that make it easy for retailers to order online. So why do we still bother with trade shows? Are trade shows still worth it? Surely its more efficient for retailers and suppliers to use these other options?


    Its even worse when you look at the sales figures for many exhibitors. Take a typical small time supplier who buys a 3x1m stand at trade show for £1,200. Including all other aforementioned costs, the bill for doing the show is £2,000 all in. If they have 50% gross margin on their products they need to take £4,000 at the show to break even. Say they still exhibit and take 5 orders at an average order value of £200 totalling £1,000. On the face of it this looks like a £3,000 loss. Even if they take 25 leads at the show and convert one in five into an average order of £200 they only make an extra £1,000 and are still down by £2,000.


    Its a similar situation for an independent retailer who has spent £500 or more in expenses to visit the trade show only to find one new supplier. If they are working to 50% gross margin they need to buy and sell a £1,000 worth of stock at the show o make the visit pay for itself.


    So why do I still exhibit at five trade shows a year and why do all the best retailers I know visit a similar number of shows? As with anything the value is in the detail and the amount we can accomplish when we focus on things. 


    Lets take another look at our small exhibitor. Out of the orders they have taken as a result of the show at least half of them are from new customers. Their customers typically spend £500 per year with them and stay for an average of 5 years. That means each of the five new customers is actually worth £2,500 (5x£500). Plus, over the following five years, the five new customers are actually worth £12,500 to the supplier. They still also have 20 further sales leads that could convert at a later date. One of which could turn out to be key account with multiple outlets.


    The same could be said of our retailer. Although their initial order is small, the new suppliers line turns out to be a great seller. As the retailer is the first in their town to stock it, their customers come to them first in the future knowing that the retailer specialises in finding good new products for them to buy. Brand new suppliers are not actually that easy for retailers to find outside of shows. Often its because they don't yet have agents, brochures or a website and shows are the places where they first launch.


    Theres more value to be had though. Our exhibitor also meets sales agents and international distributors who are interested in their products. Meeting them in person is the best way of deciding if they are right to work with going forward. The exhibitor goes ahead with one sales agent and one distributor. If the sales agent sends in only one £200 order per week they are worth £10,400 to the exhibitor per year. The international distributor might place £5,000 worth of orders per year bringing the total value of the show up to £18,900 in the first year.


    Theres more value to be had through cost savings found. Key suppliers often visit exhibitors at shows. Couriers, envelope manufacturers, paper mills, display stand suppliers are just a few examples of those that have come so see our stands resulting in substantial savings for our business. Retailers will also often save money at the show through special show offers and carriage free deals.


    Weve had feedback from customers and agents at trade shows that have led to us boosting sales. Weve saved customer relationships when we didnt even realise mistakes had been made, all because of a passing comment that was made on our stand at a show. Face to face conversations are the best way of of growing relationships with customers, key accounts, suppliers, press, agents, distributors, brokers and key industry influencers. Trade shows make this process super efficient. If you were to set aside time to drive to and meet with all those people it would take much longer than it takes to do the same thing at a show. 


    Catching up with industry friends and industry is another great benefit. The amount of information I pick up at trade shows that has had tangible benefits to Blue Eyed Sun has been staggering. Recent examples include learning about licensing, brokerage and discovering a chain of shops I was not aware of. They have led to thousands in income for us. Many retailers I know swap info on best selling suppliers chatting with other retailers at lunch. There are also fantastic seminars for retailers at the show on everything from ecommerce and social media to building shop window displays. Shows are awesome learning opportunities and can really inspire those who take the trouble to attend. 


    We find that the shows provide good lines in the sand for us to work to when creating new products. In a sense they act like a personal trainer whom you pay to make sure that you turn up and exercise. Shows discipline us to develop new products, new press releases and new marketing materials on a regular basis. This all has the effect of positioning Blue Eyed Sun as active in our market. Retailers who attend shows regularly will find it disciplines their buying. Being active in the industry means that they are known and will often find it easier to get credit with new suppliers. 


    Its hard to put a financial value on some of these benefits. If you really pay attention at trade shows they can be life changing for your business. Try to take a longer term view when assessing the effects of the show. Even a show that seems like it wasnt worth it, based on orders taken or placed at the event, can turn out to have significant value to your business over the course of the years that follow. In the case of our exhibitor example, a show that initially looked like it was losing money with on site sales of £1,000 turned out to be worth up to £20,000 in income and cost savings to the exhibitor that year. At the very least they will have had the opportunity to learn about how their products do in the marketplace and consider further options to improve things for the future. Which has to be better than staying at home doing nothing.


    Click here to see which trade shows Blue Eyed Sun are at next


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    See our latest trade show news

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