So this is our first year of trading here at XECO Clothing. We are predominantly an online commerce business however we do keep psychical stock and we do not drop ship currently. All of the tees you see on our social media and website are printed and designed in the UK. We hand package and deliver direct from our London base.
The great advantage, aside from the upfront cost of investing in stock, is that we can participate in pop up events, exhibitions and markets when we want to. We have all of our products out on display and ready for the public to view as well as feel. I still think this is an important factor with buying clothing its a big part of the retail experience for some people.
Although the internet is great for convenience, we still love to see what we are buying in the flesh sometimes even if we view the products at an event and buy later online. It's why brands still keep flagship shores in expensive locations, as well as keeping stock on display in smaller shops and popups. Some of us love the human element of the shopping experience. Its nice to be able to ask questions about the products you're buying to a persons face and get a direct and honest answer back.
So although we are not planning to set up a permanent bricks and mortar shop we try and take part in events exhibitions and markets at least once a month if we can, to expand our brand awareness and to forfill some of our potential customers needs.
This year we signed up for a stall at one of the biggest vegan events of the year VegFest 2019 which takes place in Kensington Olympia in west London. We were amongst over 300 traders and over 15000 people over the course of the weekend. Our pitch was on the ground floor, this was a big event for us and we knew that it would be good opportunity for networking and boosting our brand awareness as a fairly new business.
We knew that sales were important but building brand was even more important. This was an opportunity to reach out to people from all over the country and in some cases from around the world.
We learnt a lot about or brand and where we are on the scale regarding awareness which was humbling but also interesting.It gave us plenty of motivation and room for improvement. As a new brand we were less well known than some of the regular exhibitors this was both good and bad. Good because we had a clean slate to introduce ourselves to the public and bad because brand awareness is key when there are so many other stalls.
We were a baby taking our first steps amongst competitors who have been running for several years as oppose to several months. I liked the challenge of this and knowing that we had to work hard and be proactive. We also didn't have the best pitch and foot traffic was definitely lower where we were, so we had to grab everyone we could to come and view our products as the passive footfall was not there.
Luckily I have experience in sales and approaching people so it didn't faze me, I enjoyed the challenge and the interactions with all the people that came over to our stall. As well as approaching people in the walkways, we also gave out free stickers all day on both days, this was a great icebreaker and a way to draw people in and give something for nothing. Some people took the sticker and never came back which was fine, others took the sticker and came over to look or buy and others came back later. Either way we were getting our brand out there, even as a self funded independent under dog we were putting our stamp on the event through effort.
Vegfest 2019 was a great experience and we learnt lots of valid lessons. In hindsight we may have been better off investing more into a better central pitch or more pre event advertising and marketing, however we did well with the pitch we had.
I would recommend doing small and larger events as well as online content but make sure that you are getting what you think you are for the money you pay. Some markets are better for food, some markets are better for clothing & lifestyle products. Sometimes events can be a gamble as you never know what people will come and how they will connect to your brand. If you put the effort into each event you can get something out of it it even if it isn't profit intially. Sometimes you have to speculate to accumulate in life.
Here are a few tips we have if you thinking of trading at big or small events.
- Make sure you display your products well so they can be visibly seen clearly from all .
- Don't be afraid to come out of your pitch if you need to.
- If you wait for people when your location isn't great you maybe waiting a long time.
- Always be proactive and approachable. Don't be pushy. No one likes pushy sales tactics, it leaves a bad taste.
- Be knowledgeable about your products and brand.
- Don't make short term gains at the risk of loosing the long game.
- Make people remember your brand for the right reason and give them something to take home with them (samples, stickers, badges etc), to remind them about you.
- Invest in social media marketing prior to a big event to expand brand awareness before the event then consolidate that awareness at the event.
- Do something interactive with the consumer for example we were showing people how to use the name tag feature on instagram and in turn people we're following our brand and learning something new about something unrelated to the business this worked really well for us.
- See the value in human interaction and don't view everyone as £ sign, people can smell insincere sales pitches from a mile away, no matter how hard you push that fake smile.
- Try and relax and be yourself. Most people love that 9 times out of 10 and if they don't that's cool.
- Research the event or go to a similar event before your exhibit as the may give you some ideas and perspective.
- Talk to other traders about there experiences and be honest about yours. Lying about sales never helps any one.
- Interact and socialise with your competetors its not a cold war situation theres enough business to go around if you are good at what you do.
- Remember money is not always the true value of doing something.
- Finally be confident and proud of what you have achieved so far and always learn from any mistakes or misfires.
We hope you enjoyed this article and that it has helped anybody who is thinking about bringing their online products to events.
Good luck and thank you for reading.