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I wanted to see if anyone has had experience in exhibiting at either retail or wholesale gift shows.

There is one coming up by me, a retail show with about 60K attendees and 600 exhibitors, and I'm trying to figure out if it's worth it or not.

Next year I'd like to exhibit in a wholesale gift show.

Any advice is appreciated.

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I haven't done any gift shows with chocolates but used to do both retail and wholesale shows with my previous business. You'll want to know if it is a "cash and carry" show meaning you can sell things on the spot and the buyer can take it with them or if it is strictly an order show (you can only write orders for later shipping). Some wholesale shows are cash and carry and some are orders only depending on the venue. You will also need to decide how much product you can have available on hand if you are planning on selling on-site (this sounds like quite a large show). Also consider what you will need to make your booth space attractive (also do you need to provide your own tables) from signs to flowers, etc. This can add up quickly in addition to the space rental. Another tip - the lighting combined with all the warm bodies milling around can make it get quite hot at these shows so be prepared for that so your chocolates won't melt.
I have done 4 or 5 shows and all have been successful to varying degrees. There are lots of things you have to watch for. Are you required to rent pipe and drape or is it included? Do you have to drag your own tables and chairs? You will need electricity if you are running credit cards because laptops run down quickly. One of the shows we went to was less successful because of the demographics. It was advertised as a family Christmas gift show. It was not a high-end market! We did ok, but I will not go back this year. You have to figure who your customer base is and if that particular show has your customers. If you are sampling, you might need health dept clearance. They are a lot of work, but fun to visit with your customers. We would work all day at the show and make chocolates all night for the next day! Good thing they are usually only 2-3 days shows!

In your experience, at order-writing shows, do you typically write enough orders to make a profit after all the costs involved, or am I making an investment for the future where I won't turn a profit until I get re-orders or orders from the addition from the additional exposure? Thanks for your advice.


How much product would you advise on taking? This will be a five day show, I know I have my work cut out for me! Thanks for all your advice.
That is a difficult question to answer. You may want to investigate how many other companies will be there with chocolates. This can sometimes affect order taking. You should be able to obtain a list of vendors from the show administration. I've done shows were I've written enough orders to cover costs and make a profit as well as shows were there were just a lot of people picking up information for ordering later (collect business cards from everyone if possible and/or have a guest book for people to sign so you have contact info). As for how much product to take... I'd plan your displays (keep it clean and simple) and that would not be touched. As for how much to take with you for 5 days if you plan to sample... you can only expect to capture a certain percentage of the audience that is there for some reason or another. I've heard various numbers in the past (like maybe 1-2% which seems low but that is still significant if the show is as big as they say). One thing to think about is to not just put plates of samples out but to only offer them if someone asks or seems seriously interested in ordering. You can easily go broke handing out samples of chocolates as people will come back multiple times and people who aren't even interested in ordering will want a treat while they are walking the floor of the show. Another idea would be to have a set number of samples per day and when you are out there are no more. If you run out you can tell people to return the next day. Part of the process of deciding how many samples to take with you will be to determine how much cost you are willing to bear. Also, make sure you have order sheets as well as some literature for people to take with them. Most buyers tend to get overwhelmed by information at these shows and often sort through literature and place orders later. I hope this information helps and I wish you the best of luck. Let us know how it goes if you decide to do the show. Andrea
Great insights, Andrea.
Thank you for sharing your experience!
Knowing how much product to take is the tough part. You just never know. One day one item sells well and the next day it is something else. I agree on the samples. We take a set number and hold them back for people we engage in a conversation. We almost always sell after sampling. The shows I have done are all POS shows. We will certainly take future orders, but it is mostly a cash and carry show. We usually make a few corporate contacts and some retail contacts. I figure my expenses and make sure I take and sell more than that. We usually do about $1500 a day. That is probably very small to some, but to us, that is pretty good:-)
Thank you again to both Ruth & Andrea.

Ruth, I'm happy to hear that number, I would be happy with $1K a day. At least now I know how much product to be prepared to make in the days leading up to the event.

I paid my booth fee today, and am excited to get to work preparing for the show, October 20-24th. If all goes well then I'd love to do the next nearby show with 40K attendees Dec. 1-5. I'll let you know how it goes!


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