The next big event for the natural and organic products industry, Natural Product Expo East, kicks off in Baltimore Sept. 19. I think that this is my 18th trip and it is still a highlight of the year for me.
As great as this show is, no one has as productive a time as possible at an event this size without first making a plan. Here are some of my tips for retailers attending Expo East
1. Get familiar with the show online at www.expoeast.com.
As a retailer, one of the most valuable parts of the show site is the Directory. You can see who is exhibiting and where they are. You can also search by category and subcategory to find exhibitors with products (or services) where you have needs.
2. Download and use the Expo East app.
On your smartphone or tablet you will have maps, daily agendas, search functions, specials, a place to build your own itinerary, and more. There are versions for iPhone/iPad, Android and Blackberry.
3. Attend education sessions.
There is an amazing array of sessions giving you information about the products you carry, legislative/regulatory issues, store management insights, etc.
In addition to the keynote and featured speakers, consider joining me for two sessions.
The first one is 4 p.m. on Thursday, rooms 308/309, where I will co-present "Why in the World Are You Doing That?" a look a pending marketplace changes and the needed responses from retailers. David Williams from Living Naturally will be joining me to provide valuable insights and practical steps.
The second one is at noon on Friday in room 329. I will share "Market Overviews – Retail Applications and Insights." I will be using the recent Market Overview from Natural Foods Merchandiser to take us into a discussion about retail challenges and opportunities.
Once you choose what sessions you are going to go to, plug them into the planner on your smartphone using the app.
4. Optimize your show floor experience.
This is where you can be like the proverbial kid in a (fructose-sweetened, all organic, GMO-free) candy store! But without a plan you may miss some valuable opportunities.
Using the website and the show app, check out who is offering show specials: deals and discounts available during the show. Check your inventory and sales history before you travel and get ready to enjoy these specials.
Ask yourself: Which of your current vendors do you need to see? Who does a great job supporting your store that you want to thank?
Which brands do you want to learn more about? Who has literature or a floor display that would help drive sales? Expo East is a great time to learn about them and see how they would fit into your store's merchandising mix.
You should also plan have at least one person from your store walk the entire show floor. What cool new brands and products are around the next corner? If you're by yourself, carve off a section each to discover new things.
5. Visit the New Products Showcase.
This is a great way for you to see what brands have new products available. You can fill out a card at the showcase to get more info sent to you. I suggest that you try to get there early in the show so you can plan which booths to see.
6. Walk with your brokers and distributors.
While there is value in walking the show floor on your own or with your colleagues, schedule time with your broker and distributor sales reps. They are there to help you take advantage of the best opportunities at the show, and can help with the follow up. They not only know your store, but also your market. Their insight can help you make good decisions—at the show, as well as back home.
7. Have fun.
We are fortunate to be in a dynamic industry full of incredibly talented and passionate people. Enjoy this time of networking with those in the natural products community.
What tips do you have? Share in the comments.