On Display: Trade Show Tips

Are you going to be exhibiting jewelry at a gift or retail trade show this season? Do you plan to submit your product to a showcase display (often referred to as 'Launching Pad', 'New Product Display', etc.)? If so, here are a few tips to help you maximize the visual impact of your product, and make the most of this marketing opportunity:

1. Make sure that you choose STUNNING pieces of your work for the showcase. Think scale, color, composition, and uniqueness. You want items that will make people take notice. Don't be conservative! Go for 'WOW' factor.
2. Provide plenty of product for display designers to work with. 3 or 5 pieces are perfect for a display, so give them six items: Two large, two medium, and two small.

Here's the important thing: Your choices should coordinate, because the display designers can do MUCH more with a cohesive grouping than a slapdash bunch of leftovers. Provide six items that are all in gold metal, or turquoise stones, but each one has a different 'personality'... one is chunky and modern, another is dangly and feminine, yet another is classic and simple. You want impact here, not a hodgepodge of items. Get customers to notice your product, drive them to your booth with this display - then show them your selection firsthand.
3. Provide props or fixtures to enhance the presentation and viewing angles of your products. If you use neck forms, paint them your logo colors to tell your brand story. If you use natural materials - rough stones, metals, woods, shells - in your creations, provide rocks, sand, chunks of wood, or moss to enhance the elements of your designs. If your jewelry is modern, send glass blocks or bubble wrap rolls or tall glass vases to hang the necklaces & bracelets on. Display stylists will love you, AND your products will look better.
4. Be creative when you show off your products. If your jewelry is small, dainty, and hard to see, provide papers, cards, anything you can to help focus attention onto it. Photograph your delicate items and send large photos along with just one perfect item on a neck form. Better to show detail in large scale for impact than to have it overlooked.
5. This may seem to be a no-brainer, but when you drop off or send in items for the displays, make sure that your information is with your product! You company name, booth number, and show division should be included in the container. The name and cell phone number of a person at the show who can be contacted is very helpful - if something is broken, missing, or there are any questions about your product, you want the display stylists to be able to contact you/your employee on site for a solution. Calling the home office two states away isn't really helpful when a replacement part is needed.

6. Beat the submission deadline. If your items are supposed to be there by noon, get them there at 9 AM. If you are supposed to mail them in by the 10th, get them there by the first. Be prepared. Be early. Why? First come, first served. Your position on a list means nothing when it comes down to fitting it all into a small area. All trade show display stylists can tell you that the early birds get the best spots. (And no amount of wheelin', dealin', whining or bitching is going to make up for the fact that you brought us your product two hours after the deadline. Or on your way out of the show hall that night. Or worse, early on the morning that the show opens. You're in the back row, lower level, baby. And we don't care HOW many years you've been selling at this gift show - in which case, you really should know better.) This is your marketing.... take it seriously.

7. Check on your product. Early on the morning the show opens, go over to the display and look at your product. Make sure it is displayed properly (not upside down, etc.) and that your information is correct - your business name, booth number, and show division are all correct on the tent card provided by the show. If there is something that needs to be corrected, let the stylist know. NOW is the time to correct it, not in three hours when the stylist is done and gone.
Please do not walk into the display to do it yourself. Do not move another vendor's items to give yours more space. Do not add or swap items once the display is set. These are professional stylists who work hard to make your product and every other exhibitor's products look their very best. Respect their work, and thank them for their efforts.

8. Look at your competitor's products in this display. What did they send? How is it displayed? Does it express their image well? Does it catch the eye and stand out? Learn from what you see others doing.

Many of these tips apply to other kinds of products as well, helping to elevate your merchandise above the ordinary. With a little preparation and planning, you can take advantage of many free and low-cost marketing opportunities like display showcases at trade shows. It's a great way to add to your presence and square footage at a show.

Photo Credits: all taken by DWK at SGS & SFIGF 2007-8, of product displays created by DWK.

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my take on retail visual design:

"The thing is, retail design is driven by psychology. It is by manipulating space, visuals, lighting, sound, smell, and mood that we influence customers to enter, stay, browse, buy, and return. It is an endless exercise in change, endurance, growth, education, and imagination that enables retailers to stay on top of their game and at the forefront of their customer's minds. Yes, what you sell IS important - but even the very best merchandise won't sell at full price if it's presented in torn boxes on dirty shelves in a store that is too crowded to turn around in. Visual impact is a huge part of business, and utilizing the principles that have been proven to work can help you build a better business." ~ DWK