In just a few short weeks, Natural Products Expo West will take place in Anaheim, California. For the natural products industry, this event, technically a trade show, is so much more than just a trade show. It is an annual homecoming event; it is a time of networking and socializing; it is when new products are released and new packaging is unveiled; it where new brands hope to start their journey to success. It is, without a doubt, the central most important event in the natural products industry each year.
If you are attending this show on your own, or as a part of a team from your store, it can be overwhelming. There is simply so much to see and to do that the show can swallow you up, give you a great time, and send you back home feeling excited and energized. But you may lose out on the lasting benefits of Expo West if you don't have a strategic plan for your attendance.
The first thing to consider in advance of the show is where your store is lacking?
First of all, at every show that you attend, and specifically at an event the size of Natural Products Expo West, I would plan to see what you can find to expand your private label offerings. Private label should be a part of your strategic plans, and opportunities abound to check out new options. Of course, be sure that you are working with a quality-focused vendor who is able to provide you with good service, not just a good price. After all, your name will be the one on the package.
Research categories and trends
What departments or sub-departments of your merchandise mix need attention? Where are you not realizing the sales that you should? Are you seeing areas where your competition has a better set than you do? Is there a lot of marketplace buzz about things that you are not even carrying? (For reference, use the last Market Overview by Natural Foods Merchandiser. It will tell you what other stores are seeing in terms of department sales and sales of items in key categories.)
Make Expo West list
After you make a list of the categories that you want to make changes to during the show, you can run searches within the Expo West Exhibitor List using the Advanced Search. This lets you type in keywords. For example, I typed in “aloe” and got back a list of 29 exhibitors who listed that word in their profile. I then can look at each one of them to see if they sell aloe as a supplement, use it as an ingredient in some of their products or something else. This would allow me to plan which booths I need to visit in order to bring my aloe set up to its potential.
Communicate in advance
There is also a great feature on the Expo West website that allows you to send the exhibitor an email. You can verify if they have the product(s) that you are looking for, request an appointment with them at the show or just learn a bit more about them in advance.
You can follow an abridged version of these steps if you know brand(s) that you want to see at the show.
In your advance communication with exhibitors be sure that you are very specific about your reasons for the meeting. If you want to see new products, discuss sales, talk about staff education, plan promotions, etc., let them know that in advance so that they can prepare.
Go learn a lot
Of course, Expo West has more than just brands and products to explore—as important and abundant as those opportunities are! You can check out fixtures, POS (point of sale) systems, marketing services and tools, and more. There is a great and relevant set of seminars and workshops to attend and enjoy.
Spend time now on www.expowest.com and download the mobile app so that you can find the offerings that are most important to you and your store. The investment that you make in the show can pay rich dividends for your store.