Sabine Gauditz: What I particularly appreciate are stands that, in addition to presenting their products, think in terms of themed worlds and staging. Emotional stand designs, ideas for product presentation, and a coherent target group approach, with a focus on the customer in the specialist retail trade – they all inspire retailers to make a purchase. At the same time, the stand design has to remain clear and have the best possible visual impact from afar.
Sometimes little things can pose a problem. Is there anything that exhibitors do that makes you angry when you visit a trade fair?
S. G.: For me, a visit to a trade fair is usually limited to one day, so it has to be possible to make every purchase quickly and effectively. Depending on the trade fair, I will place 10 to 16 orders in at most 8 hours. For me, it is crucial that I can recognise the individual purchase prices and packaging units myself by means of price codes and that – when I place an order – the products that I'd like to buy, are scanned. It is equally important for me to get information about the amount of the minimum order and possible freight costs fast.
What really gets me annoyed is when I want to make a purchase and the employees first have to look for the prices of each article in a catalogue or a list – such a long-winded process! – and then they have to manually enter the order with lots of numbers using a ballpoint pen and a carbon copy pad. I just don't have the time for all that.
What I'm also not happy about are the staff who give me the feeling that I – the customer – am disturbing them. The people who stand together in a cosy circle or even sit together or – even worse – have their eyes glued to their mobile phone or tablet and only feel responsible for a stand visitor when they are actually approached. Naturally, a day at the fair is exhausting for everyone involved. But, just as in the retail trade, the customer and buyer is also a guest at the trade fair stand and should be treated in a friendly manner, even if they aren't a regular customer.
What procedure would you suggest to exhibitors if they wished to have their own dealer accreditation for visiting the trade fair stand?
S. G.: The question that arises for me is this: in times of the Internet and globalisation, is additional dealer accreditation at the trade fair stand still topical? Even though I can understand the concerns of the companies. If you don't want to do without it under any circumstances, you should at least not give the impression that visitors and new customers are unwelcome. I find it hard to imagine that there are companies that are only at the trade fair to receive orders from regular customers. Exhibitors should be aware that buyers from other industries or first-time trade fair visitors aren't used to overcoming such hurdles so they can visit a trade fair stand.
Extra staff at the visually appealing entrance to the stand is the best way to help here. People who can have a friendly, face-to-face chat with trade fair visitors who look interested and invite them to enter and ask for a business card in advance.
In your view, how can exhibitors at trade fairs protect their new products from curious eyes that are there with the intention of copying them?
S. G.: You might reserve a special area on the stand for very special new products, an area that, in the event of an order, can only be accessed with a member of the stand personnel.
How can the exhibitor's wish to sell a lot of goods and a retailer's wish for ordering small quantities nevertheless result in a business deal?
S. G.: As I only buy for one shop – but one with a shop floor space of 3,500 m² – I usually have no problem reaching the minimum order values, if they are €1,000 or €1,500. One possibility, for example, would be to offer to write an order together, despite the minimum purchase value, to find out whether the order quantity might be larger than expected. Exhibitors should be encouraged to show a little goodwill if the order value is slightly below the order limit. Because a motivated shop owner or salesman who really wants to sell a certain product in his shop is, in the long run, probably a better business partner than a large company that displays a large number of units in the shop but without much care and attention.
Another possibility is to have a certain "freight free" delivery limit, but otherwise no minimum purchase value. I think that, in general, the exhibitor should first be open for inquiries, and then decide on a case-by-case basis. By the way, there are also various companies I buy from that have no minimum order limits at all, and this seems to work.
What else would you like exhibitors to do for buyers?
S. G.: I would like to have contact people at the stand, one of whom would handle the order with me, competently and quickly. Ideally, someone who understands the principle I use to select the goods and draws my attention to any products I may have overlooked in the flood of offers at the stand.
What I prefer most is getting an order confirmation printed out directly at the stand – with pictures – so that I know the next day what I've bought and can calculate the sales prices promptly.
Since buying at trade fairs is hard work and the air in the halls is very dry, I am very happy if I'm offered a drink. And at the beginning of the order process, too, because my time is so short that I want to leave the stand quickly after making the purchase and then I've got no time for a cup of coffee or a glass of water (unless it's a takeaway).
Information as to whether and how the products are packaged is very important to me. Only when I know how the end customer will see it in the shop can I decide whether I can stack the product, whether customers can see important information themselves, and whether the packaging enhances or possibly devalues the goods.
Afterwards, I'd like to receive information if the ordered goods can't be delivered on time, or won't be delivered at all (which is sadly sometimes the case with wholesalers if too few orders were placed at the trade fair).
And what are you particularly happy about?
S. G.: Inspiring stand designs and appealing product presentations that provide ideas for my own POS make my purchasing decisions much easier. And sometimes it's the very small things that impress me or even surprise me. Even if it's just a glass of water on a hot day. And even such small attentions – which made me pause and linger – have sometimes resulted in orders.
Ms Gauditz, thank you very much for your tips and we hope you have a lot more pleasant surprises at the fair.
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