An introduction to trade

An introduction to trade


We've received quite a few questions over on our Instagram about how we got into selling our products to trade/the effectiveness of trade shows/pricing etc - so I thought maybe the best way to get everything together in one place would be to note it down in a blog post. I am in no way any type of expert in this field! BUT as  one small business owner to another, I think its super important to share your experiences if you can help others to succeed! Community over competition everyday, so lets kick things off with some of the questions you would like answering...

How did we begin?

In 2014, I began to develop the idea of launching my own business. The Tour De France had just been through Yorkshire for which I had designed a print, listed it on Etsy, got featured in The Yorkshire Post and you guys bought it! This massively boosted my confidence and made me think, hey maybe I have a chance at this! Still working part time, my business ideas developed and in 2015 I enrolled on The Princes Trust Enterprise Scheme, refreshed on my business skills and learnt a lot about how to bring a business to life. The Trust kindly offered to support my business idea through that of a loan and a very invaluable business mentor, whom I am still in touch with and offers so much amazingly supportive advice, purely on the basis that they want to help! One day I would love to have enough expertise to give something back to young people, through mentoring.

So, to cut a long story short, I prepped and presented my business plan to a panel at the trust to be considered for some financial support, this was approved and I was able to move forward with my Plewsy plan! The money would be used to buy stock of cards, mugs and prints and also to invest in my first trade show, Pulse London in 2015.plewsy-top-drawer-ss19


How do you decide which trade show?

I had visited Top Drawer Autumn in September of 2014 when Plewsy was still in the idea stage, but once I had decided to invest in my first show, I researched all of the UK shows in detail online requesting brochures/stats, speaking to previous exhibitors for advice and decided that Pulse would be the one for me! This was based on many factors; cost, size, time of year, location and recommendations. Pulse had an area for businesses new to trade shows, I think it was called Launchpad, available at a lower rate per square metre than other areas of the show. It's worth asking about these areas if you are enquiring about a show, at Top Drawer there is Spotted and I think Spring Fair have a newbie area too? My advice would be to research, research & research. Does the show align with your brand and your products? Is it attracting the right kind of buyers? Does it hit your target audience? Is it affordable?

What was your first trade show like? Did it pay off straight away?

It was super nerve wracking, working out the strategic bits of how best to get to London with props in tow, booking affordable accommodation, the logistics of set up etc. As my stand plan was very simple (I only had a small amount of card designs and a few notebooks) so I decided to get the train and send props/shelving by courier directly to the Olympia. My parents kindly travelled down, with dad putting up shelves and making my stand come to life. On all shows after this we have driven, meaning we can take the kitchen sink and enough tea bags for the weekend!!

Pre show I had researched around 30 retailers that I thought would be a good fit for my work, sent them invitations to visit us at the show and hoped for the best! I had a PDF catalogue but no printed copies, with business cards to hand out. The show was pretty busy and we received some orders - which I was amazed by! I had totally gone into the show thinking that nobody would order on the spot. I wouldn't say it had paid for itself by this point, but I felt it had been successful and booked for the following year. More sales came post show which made it financially successful and I started to generate some brand awareness.

How do you know what to take with you?

I had researched other tips and tricks of trade shows, visited Top Drawer the previous year helped massively as I saw other displays and got a good idea of what the basics were. As I said my first stand looked very simplistic!

I would say the basics to take are - 

- Samples of products to display
- Marketing materials, business cards, postcards, catalogues etc
- Depending on your product, props/shelving/cupboards/tables, how best you decide to merchandise your work
- A notebook, stapler, pens, order forms, calculator
- Strong knowledge of your pricing, lead times and manufacturing process

I've probably forgotten something obvious here!


For new start up businesses, how many products?

I can't answer this for everyone, but we had around 15-20 cards and a few notebooks to start with. Looking back it was not many but it seemed a good amount to generate interest and conduct research into how our designs were received.

Do you need to make a catalogue?

For our first show, we had a PDF catalogue prepared which we emailed to any interested retailers post show. For all following shows we have had a printed copy available but this is obviously another cost that if you are thinking about your first show you could probably do without. Many buyers ask for a digital copy as they get bogged down with paperwork and it becomes to heavy for them to carry around the shows/may loose it etc but there are always the buyers who prefer the good old paper copy.


Are the cards for display only or do people buy on the day?

The cards we have on our stand are for display only, buyers place orders and these are dispatched after the show once we are back home.

How long do you have to send orders after trade shows?

You can totally decide this yourself, be personal to your business and your product. Obviously handmade/made to order products will need a longer lead time which you will need to factor in. In our t&c's we advertise around 10 working days from order placement/payment for delivery. It used to be slightly shorter but since having our little boy I now only work part-time so increased lead times to reflect this! As long as buyers are aware of this when they order, it shouldn't be an issue.

How did you go about carriage charges?

All of our trade orders are sent via overnight courier, our carriage charge covers the cost of this courier and packaging. We have a carriage paid threshold which we have calculated based on our margins and costs, again this would be specific to your product due to size, weight, quantities etc.


Do you get given your stand measurements? How do you prepare for decorating etc?

With the shows we have previously booked, we have always suggested a stand size that we would prefer - based on affordability and our ability to fill the space. The organisers will send you a floor plan with some options, they will probably try and push you to take a larger space (they are sales people after all!!) but stick to your guns, you know your budget and what you want to achieve from the show!

In terms of decoration, until a year ago we hadn't attempted to paint our stand (again due to costs) but I feel that for us it paid off. Last year at both of our shows we decorated our own panels - this year we invested in the organisers painting our space. We decided to do this because its such a rush for us to complete set up after a 5am start and a 4.5 hour drive to London all in one day, when all you want is a beer! Again it's just something that you can make decisions on specific to your brand, budget etc.

So thats a snippet of our experiences, I'm more than happy to answer further questions/offer advice where appropriate - so feel free to comment here or ask over on our Instagram and I will do my best!

It would be great to hear what point you are at and what's next for you and your business, good luck on your journey!

Plewsy x

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Great advice! I’ve been thinking about doing trade shows for years but have always put it off! I’m hoping to do my first one soon :)


Very helpful article thanks! I’ve applied to all the trade shows this year and I’m debating which one to do…leaning towards top drawer coz it’s more practical for me but tempted by BCTF in Harrogate as they have a newbie mentorship scheme. Am already worrying about building my stand and designing my brochure…so much to do to get ready! Glad to know it worked out for you though, gives me hope!


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