Have you ever wondered what life is like for designers, vendors and reps who regularly appear at your store throughout the year? We’re part of a dying breed. I’m on the road hundreds of days a year, visiting retailer accounts, doing trunk shows, introducing our line to new prospective accounts. We put tens of thousands of miles per year on our cars. Although we also have regional reps, I like the personal touch of connecting with our retailers directly.
It’s also invaluable for market research. By visiting retailers directly we can evaluate the needs of the individual store, meet their clients at trunk shows and get critical feedback about the latest trends, what’s tapering off, and what’s new on the horizon. We can also stock balance on site.
Although we regularly exhibit at the major national shows such as JCK Vegas, AGTA GemFair Tucson, and JA New York (and these shows are critical for brand exposure), we find these large shows are sometimes overwhelming for retailers and may not provide the in-depth opportunity for personal contact that in-store visits do. And for retailers who may not have the time to attend the major trade shows, having vendors come to them directly may be their only opportunity to directly experience and choose new “live” inventory.
We try to make appointments whenever we can. If you are too busy for an appointment, we try to at least stop by and say hello (or introduce ourselves if it’s a first visit) and leave our card and the newest literature. We know you are busy and short staffed and try to schedule our visits at times that are most convenient for you. We’re also very respectful when doing on site visits and know that the customer always comes first! When a customer needs attention, we always take a back seat until the owner, manager or buyers we are working with again become free.
Because of the expense of travel, insurance and safety concerns, the number of vendors regularly visiting stores has dwindled in recent years. Ideally we like to visit our stores several times a year, once each season. Retailers may want to preview the newest collections early in the year, then solidify buying decisions as the year progresses. And different retailers may buy at different times during the year.
But life on the road is not all work and no play. It’s an adventure! Where do you eat? (Especially if you’re a vegan. Hello Whole Foods!) I enjoy exploring new areas as well as returning to favorite locales. I regularly post on Instagram and Facebook pictures of me in a scenic location and ask, “Where am I now?” It always gets a great response!
How can you leverage these visits from your friendly designer, rep, wholesaler or supplier to your maximum advantage? What are the dos and don’ts of standard “road etiquette”? When a vendor contacts you and asks for an appointment, know that they have invested considerable time, energy and expense for the opportunity to meet directly with you. They may be hundreds or even thousands of miles from their home base, staying additional nights locally at hotels to arrange appointments that are most convenient for you. So just as we are respectful of your time and schedule, that respect should be reciprocated. Although the road warrior may be a dying breed, they provide an invaluable function. If approached correctly, personal store visits can be a win-win situation for both vendor and retailer.
Mia Katrin is an award-winning jewelry designer featured in over 100 top stores nationally. She is available for lectures and seminars. Learn more at www.jeweljewel.com, 877-539-3569, facebook.com/MiaKatrinforJEWELCOUTURELLC.