Tips for retailers attending natural industry trade shows

Tips for retailers attending natural industry trade shows

It occurred to me recently that the natural products industry is like NASCAR—well at least in terms of events. NASCAR opens its season every year with its biggest race, the Daytona 500. Our trade show schedule is similar, with Natural Products Expo West as the first industry show every year. The event is such a focal point for the entire industry: manufacturers, retailers, brokers, distributors and suppliers and more.

Looking at my calendar, I was amazed at how many events I am speaking at in May, June and July, as well as in the fall months. These events aren't as large as Expo West, but retailers can gain a lot if they attend with the right game plan and expectations. Here's how to make the most of them.

National natural products shows

These shows require serious planning. I put three shows in this category. As you would expect Expo West is here, along with Natural Products Expo East and NPA MarketPlace. (All these shows are put on by New Hope Natural Media.)

Expo East and Expo West feature a dizzying array of exhibits, a very full and wide-ranging education program, simultaneous conferences, and a number of parties, concerts and networking events. Take advantage of the online planner, the smartphone apps and email updates to be sure that you are getting to the booths and events that are key for you and your store.

When the show floor is open, my best advice is to divide and conquer! Bring as many people from your store as possible and plan to attend as much of the education and booths on the show floor as possible.

Not as big in scale, but truly a national event, is the NPA MarketPlace. New Hope is proud to put on this event, the longest running natural products trade show in the country, in conjunction with the Natural Products Association. This show lets you touch base with owners and formulators of your key brands a more intimate setting, while getting acquainted with the brands that will be leading our industry in the next decade.

Keep an eye out for:

  • Show deals
  • New product and line launches
  • Support for your store: demos, advertising or training programs
  • Networking and idea exchanges

Regional natural product shows

In addition to shows put on by distributors, like UNFI, KeHE/Tree of Life, Palko, Nature's Best and many others, there are also shows put on by regional chapters of the NPA. 

To learn what is going on in your region of the country, check out the website for the association nearest to you. Shows from the Midwest, Northwest and Southeast regions have not yet happened for 2012.

The distributor shows have a strong buying element to them. There are deep discounts, usually on quite a few of brands, during the time of the show only. Check your inventory in advance and pay attention to upcoming weeks and months when you can build case stacks or end caps. Most shows will let you specify ship dates several weeks after the show to allow you to plan for the arrival of your orders. Several of these shows offer education sessions, too.

One thing to be aware of: a manufacturer's booth might not be staffed by one of their employees.  It might have a temp or a person from their regional broker’s staff. These folks are probably well trained to tell you about the products and any deals that are being offered, but they may not be equipped to talk with you about specific needs for your store. However, if the right person is there, you might get to enjoy a great conversation with an owner or other executive, and walk away with some great sale-building support.

What tips do you have for attending natural products trade shows?  Share them in the comments.

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