1 Set brief appointments with key vendors. Be sure to include vendors that haven’t sent a sales rep to your office in the last six months. (But ask yourself this: If a “key vendor” hasn’t sent a rep to your office for six months, how important are they to your business, and are you important to their business?)
2 Review jewelry publications, and then schedule additional appointments. Examine recent issues of jewelry trade magazines and note two or three products that catch your eye. Then set appointments with the vendors. To avoid running from one end of the show floor to the other, note the times and booth locations of your prescheduled “key” appointments and schedule these extra meetings accordingly.
3 Keep chitchat to a minimum. Too often, show hours become a place to socialize. Focus on seeing, in person, new and important changes in the products that your rep was unable to show you during his or her last visit. Discuss your co-op needs and explore the vendor’s new point-of-sale, advertising, and promotional materials. If you’re a good client, the vendor may invite you out for a drink or round of golf after hours. There’s nothing wrong with this, but remember: You’re on a mission to do shows differently.
4 Visit the Big Three. Platinum Guild International, World Gold Council, and Diamond Promotion Service are must-see destinations that let you discover what’s fresh and important in your primary sales categories and provide key information on the initiatives they’re supporting and promoting. You’ll get first-hand information on co-op programs and a list of vendors they’re working with. This lets you know what editorial imperatives and jewelry trends are coming, so your store cases will be on style, and your sales associates will be eager to sell exciting new products. To see some examples of what’s fresh and new, visit the preview vitrines.
5 Find other vendors by creating a working look book. Take back issues of ma- gazines like Departures, InStyle, and Lucky and ask store associates to use different- colored Post-it notes to identify jewelry they like, jewelry worn by celebrities, and jewelry they think they can sell. Don’t schedule appointments but develop a list of vendors and check them off as you visit their booths. Don’t let your team always travel as a pack; instead, compare notes later. If someone reports something of interest, go back and look or send an e-mail to the vendor. This exercise will lift the morale of sales associates left behind who now have a stake in your trip.
6 Attend the show’s educational sessions. Educational programs broaden your horizons and challenge your assumptions about how to do business. Review show literature to find topics relevant to your store and of interest to your team members, who should attend different seminars. Have attendees write a two- or three-paragraph summary of each session, highlighting ideas and information that apply to your business. Be sure they get the speaker’s card and handouts. This makes for good plane reading on the trip home.
7 Use your team’s experience for training. Soon after returning, brief all those who remained behind on what you learned and the products you ordered. Show them literature on products you haven’t committed to but might still buy. Get their feedback. Make them co-authors of your merchandise plan and your store’s vision, and they’ll become more involved in your daily sales process.