Donnie Caffrey, owner of Good Foods Grocery in Richmond, Va., and Denise de la Montaigne, owner of Better Thymes Natural Foods in Front Royal, Va., have been Expo devotees since the 1980s. Here are their top tips for how to organize your time at the show.
Comb expoeast.com before you arrive in Boston and hone in on educational sessions and exhibitors you definitely want to hit. Give your floor time some structure by making a list of exhibitors offering show specials.
Think about what categories you’re most interested in expanding in you store, and look through the exhibitor list to find potential suppliers.
Divvy it up.
On the first day, visit manufacturers you know you want to see. On the second day, search for particular products inside desired categories. On the third day, enjoy the show floor.
If you have a staff, divide and conquer, but plan to meet every three hours—10 a.m., 1 p.m. and 4 p.m.—to touch base and exchange notes. Choose easy-to-find booths, such as that of your primary distributor. On your own? Start at one corner of the floor and walk methodically toward the opposite corner.
Meet at night.
After dinner, gather your staff in your hotel room to go through the piles of cards and information. This is a good time to deal with orders so that you don’t get overwhelmed when you get home. Or plan to stay in one night; order room service, and shift through orders.
Cultivate relationships and connect with colleagues at the many networking events. Don’t underestimate the power of swinging by a colleague’s booth to say hello and thank him or her in person.
Take a break.
When tiredness sets in, head to the Retailer Resource Center in Hall A to rest, grab a drink and see friends. It’s a convenient way to relax without going all the way back to your hotel.