5 Secrets for Trade Show Shopping Success

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Shopping trade shows can be like unleashing a kid in a candy store. The colors! The demos! The inspiration! But trade shows are also an investment, requiring travel expenses, entrance fees and valuable time off work, so it’s important to make sure that you get the most from your money when purchasing products. The good news? Many manufacturers offer great deals and, with a little prep work, you can stretch your dollar even further. (Cha-ching!) Here, five ways to get the most bang for your buck while shopping the show floor.


1. Do your homework.

Shopping trade shows involves planning, says Jaime Schrabeck, Ph.D., salon owner and licensed manicurist at Precision Nails in Carmel, California. “Your favorite products will often be more affordable at shows, but first obtain current pricing as if you were ordering from the salon, including taxes and shipping, for comparison purposes,” Schrabeck advises. “Plus, not every manufacturer exhibits at shows and those who do may have a limited selection of products.” Her advice? Make a list of must-haves and shop for those items first. “Prioritize nail products that will help you do better quality work,” says Schrabeck. “If you want to experiment with something new, invest in a trial kit if possible, rather than committing to a large, expensive purchase.” It pays to do your research when buying a big ticket item, says Laura Merzetti, owner of Scratch My Back Nail Studio in Ajax, Ontario, Canada. “For me, large equipment is better to buy at a show,” she says. “I’m searching for a dust extraction unit that I can flush-mount to my tabletop. I need to see it in action and hear how loud it is before I purchase it.” Indeed, shows are the place to see product up close and personal. “Colors are great to buy in person, because no matter how good your printer or computer screen is, you can’t translate color exactly,” says Lezlie McConnell, owner of Light Elegance in Redmond, Oregon. “Or, you might not be in the market for an electric file, but you see a demo and realize your model is behind the times.”

TIP! You likely won’t be able to return products bought at a show, so compare prices before you make a final purchase; you could find the same or a similar product for less at another booth!

2. Think big.

Yvette Holt, owner of Gels by Yvette in Reno, Nevada, and an educator for LeChat, finds show prices generally better because techs can avoid taxes and shipping costs, but she suggests buying in bulk to score the best deals. “I stock up on necessities, like glue or nail gems. When I buy in bulk for the entire year, I get them super cheap,” says Holt, who adds that she avoids the crowds by shopping at the beginning or the end of the day. Don’t need 5,000 lint-free wipes? Pair up with a pal to make a purchase. With that in mind, Merzetti has teamed up with fellow techs for better pricing. “I’ve gone in with a friend to purchase more than we each would individually for a better price, then split the product,” she says.

TIP! Walk around on the last day of a show to look for accessories, like educator lamps, that brands might want to sell on the cheap. Many manufacturers are glad to lighten their load before the trip home.

3. Don’t forget to ask.

Experts advocate asking for a little something extra, especially if you’re making a large purchase. “If you lay out serious money, not only do you get the usual discount, but you can probably ask for more,” says McConnell. “Try something you’ve never used before or take a few extra favorites for free.” Additionally, if you find something you like and it’s not in your budget, ask for samples. Or, if the manufacturer runs out of a best-seller, ask to receive the sale price and free shipping to your home or business. If you can’t score extra product, ask about promotional materials with purchases, suggests Holt. “If manufacturers aren’t offering killer deals, don’t be afraid to ask for something to help get the word out [to clients], like posters, advertising, window clings or DVDs. Or, for example, if you buy 65 colors, ask for a color ring.”

4. Give feedback.

Take advantage of shows to truly connect with the manufacturer that creates the products you use. Share with the manufacturer what trends or colors are taking off in your area and what you love (or don’t!) from the brand’s lineup. “Talking with techs at shows is often how I come up with new colors or determine what our next product might be,” says McConnell. “If I don’t talk to the end user, I don’t know what they’re missing or what they want.”

TIP! Don’t be shy about sharing your opinions. You might inspire the next innovation that elevates your game!

5. Keep clients in the loop.

Spread the word to clients about the new products you purchased. “When you tell clients about new trends or products, you’re in a powerful position,” says McConnell, who adds that when you’re excited to tell a client about a new product that, in turn, makes them excited. “Nail techs can get stuck in a rut, but shows get you out of your comfort zone!”

What’s your best advice for shopping trade shows? Let us know in the comments below! 


– Tracy Morin is a freelance writer and editor based in Oxford, MS.

[Images: Courtesy of Armando Sanchez]


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