How to network with other boutiques at trade shows
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One of the best things about attending Las Vegas Fashion Week or going to market in NYC is the countless opportunities to meet other business owners and network with fellow fashion industry professionals. In the past, buyers at market would do business in a more covert manner, with a hesitation to let other buyers see which brands and styles they were ordering. These days, that attitude has changed, and boutique owners are eager to network with each other and share business insights.
Retailers have realized that, in this rapidly changing industry, we all must support one another in order to keep brick-and-mortar boutiques alive and flourishing. That means networking with each other and being open to sharing your knowledge and industry experiences.
However, many store owners still struggle to feel comfortable when it comes to networking in-person. It can be hard to find the best way to approach strangers, and even harder to stay in touch with that contact after the face-to-face interaction has ended. To help empower boutique owners and inspire confidence, we’ve put together some easy tips for networking during Las Vegas Fashion Week:
Attend as many special events and seminars as possible
As you probably know, many trade shows host unique seminars, cocktail events, and other opportunities for buyers to gather and learn from each other. Attend as many of these events as your schedule allows. Even if the topic of a seminar doesn’t directly apply to your business, give it a chance! Be open-minded to exploring new ideas and strategies, because business is about taking risks. If nothing else, these events are an opportunity to mingle with fellow boutique owners and discover what is working in their stores.
Plan your schedule wisely to allow time for networking
A rule of thumb for networking in any industry is “arrive early and stay late.” Time can easily escape you when you’re at a trade show and running from one appointment to the next. That is why it is always smart to schedule appointments ahead of time and go in with a game plan. Consider booking a few appointments with exhibitor products that you like on OFFPRICE365, our online marketplace.
It is equally as important to dedicate some free time to networking and exploring new opportunities for your business. It is not enough to simply show up to a market, write your orders, and leave as quickly as possible. Just like any other career, expanding your knowledge and learning from others is a continuous part the job and ultimately makes you better at what you do.
Take advantage of the down time
On the same note, we know schedules can be tight and sometimes you barely have time for lunch. So, take advantage of those moments in the Bistro area or coffee lounges where you are surrounded by fellow buyers or even sharing a table with them. This is the perfect chance to strike up casual conversations and get to know other boutique owners. Ask them how the show is going for them and what they’re excited about. Maybe they’ve discovered a new vendor or learned something really helpful during a networking event. This is especially helpful when attending a show you aren’t very familiar with. Talking with someone who has attended that event for many years can open your eyes to insider tips and opportunities you didn’t know existed.
Come knowledgeable and prepared
First things first, don’t forget your business cards. As obvious as it may seem, your business cards are one of the easiest things to forget at home or in your hotel room. (I’m guilty as charged!) Put some in your handbag, in your computer bag, and in your pocket so no matter what, you have some.
Secondly, make sure you can bring something to the table when you’re networking. Be knowledgeable about the trends happening in your own market, and even come prepared with topics or questions you want to discuss with other boutiques based on your own experiences. What is your business struggling with? What are your customers looking for? Networking is all about the exchange of insight and being a resource for your fellow business owner. Remember, it is a two-way road.
Utilize social media and online networks
Fashion Week is a great time to grow your social media following and online presence. Anytime you meet someone new, you should not only exchange business cards but also follow each other on social media. Business cards are easily lost but connecting online can help keep you relevant in their mind and maintain the relationship for longer. Remember, following someone and liking their posts is free, and is one of the easiest ways small businesses can support each other.
Furthermore, take advantage of online networks designed for boutique owners like you. Creators of platforms like The Boutique Hub and Retail Boss typically have a presence at Fashion Week and sometimes host special events for their network.
Be confident and have fun with it
Networking may seem to be easy for some, but the truth is, networking takes us out of our comfort zone and that’s okay. The best thing you can do to make it more comfortable for yourself is to be prepared and confident in your knowledge and what you bring to the table. You are the expert on your own business and in your own market, so let that shine. In addition, don’t be shy to ask for advice from others. Ultimately, people will always be flattered when someone else comes to them for advice and rarely will they turn you down.
Take these networking tips to heart and get social with us at an upcoming OFFPRICE event! We’re hosting an NYC Market Show, May 5-6, 2020, at Penn Plaza Pavilion; registration is now open online. Our next Las Vegas OFFPRICE Show is scheduled for August 15-18, 2020, at the Sands Convention Center; registration to open soon. Of course, our exhibitors are open for business year-round at www.offprice365.com
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