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Tips for First-Time Exhibitors

A handy checklist for vendors new to trade shows

A smaller wholesaler new to the trade show circuit reached out to InStore editor and publisher Erica Kirkland, asking for insight into how to prepare for a trade show. The vendor asked:


"Can you give me some insight into exhibiting at a trade show and how to prep?
I want to make sure I'm fully armed with the appropriate materials and expectations."



  • Professional booth presentation is key with professional signage. Make sure everything aligns with your brand colours, fonts, style, etc.

  • Consider having staff wear the same colours as your branding so it carries all the way through the entire booth making everything look cohesive. This will draw attention!

  • Never have staff sitting down at a table unless they are writing an order. If staff are sitting down or staring at their phones, retailers will likely walk by. They want to see vendors who are eager to talk to them. Stand up, keep your eyes forward and try to engage as many buyers as you can. Once your booth starts to get busy, more buyers will be attracted. It's weird how it works like that, but it does!

  • Make sure you have every single one of the products you wholesale on display in the booth with the cost number on the product so buyers can easily see what the cost price is.

  • If you can hire a professional merchandiser or have someone on staff with these skills, having a display of your products to show store owners how they could display your products in their store, would be fantastic!

  • Make sure you have sufficient lighting to highlight your products properly. Some areas of convention centres and exhibition halls can be dark without any overhead lights.

  • Place a sign that notes your minimum opening order somewhere prevalent. This is something a lot of stores will ask about. If you have the information out front, it will encourage buyers to come in for a closure look, assuming your opening order minimum isn't extravagant.

  • Your booth should be able to accommodate at least a few retailers at a time so pay attention to where you place fixtures to ensure you have a wide enough walkways.

  • Have samples on hand to give out if you sell consumables. If you have a good conversation with a store that isn't quite ready to seal the deal, give them a sample on the spot of the product they're most interested in or your bestseller. Then follow up later via email. Your sample will be in their hands for the entire show. They may show other store owners they see at the show, their hotel or over dinner. You will be on their mind during and after the show. Plus, it will save you the shipping costs of sending samples afterward.

  • Have something that you can hand out to retailers who don't purchase but are interested – like a postcard that highlights in one paragraph what your business is all about, lists all the products you sell with the cost and/or suggested retail prices, a line about how many weeks it takes you to fulfill an order, your minimum opening order, telephone, website, etc.

  • Do not buy an attendee list from an unsolicited email. Those are spam/scam messages. If you are exhibiting at a show, contact them directly about accessing their attendee list. Lots of them allow you to do an eblast to attendees.

  • Retailers will ask about regional exclusives. This is very important to independent retailers. They want to make sure if they invest in bringing your product line into their store – and to be successful they should have enough depth of your line to make an impact – that you won't sell to the pharmacy or gift store down the road.

  • Make sure you invest in pre-show marketing. Ideally a percentage of your sales/projected sales should be allotted to marketing. A common rule of thumb is that B2B companies should spend between 2 and 5% of their revenue on marketing. The show issues of InStore are another way to reach 12,000 buyers weeks before they arrive at markets. There are advertising rates and packages to suite vendors of all shapes and sizes. In addition, InStore This Week is emailed to 6000 retailers every two weeks and offers very affordable advertising rates.

  • In all your advertisements, make sure you show retailers the products you sell. If busy store owners look at an ad or marketing piece and are required to take an extra step to learn more, like scanning a QR code, many won't. They are busy and want all the info conveyed to them in the ad. What they are coming to the show to see is product, particularly new product.

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