Many thanks for your kind words about this series of articles. We will conclude in two weeks. Next week we will review profit margins, cash, receipts and card payments. The final week will explore selling techniques, including an interview with psychologist Darren Stanton who will give invaluable help with selling in a competitive world.

If you have read the previous articles carefully, you will realise there is a need to go to extraordinary lengths to make the stall a winner. And remember, if you set up with a sequence and well thought out and easily replicated system, it can be used as a template for a full-time shop! I cannot over-emphasise the importance of using a notebook to draw out the design and layout of your stall.

Not only this, it is essential to keep records of everything you do from now on. And this is one of the reminders found in the article. Keeping records helps you set winning objectives and increase sales every month. There will be a steep and, to a degree, expensive learning curve, but once the momentum begins, you’ll be surprised how many regular and loyal customers become part of your success. Every sale must include contact information and even discount incentives, and if you are really intent on becoming established, loyalty cards can stoke the success furnace. 

Before the first event, set up your stall at home and see how it looks, check the quantity of stock needed, and do not overstock the table with repetitive goods. Your table stock should be in separate boxes, making setting up fast and easy; to do this, strip the practice table down and put the stock in clearly marked boxes. Now take down your lights and extension leads and box them. Finally, check the cloths. Are they clean and fresh? If not, wash them again. Finally, if you have decided to use your tables, check for stability; if repairs are needed, be sure the system works and works well. Keep the spare stock under the table in clearly marked boxes and replenish the table from your stock boxes. Keep a list of the contents of each box, so there is no need to search through it, do the work early, and you will reap the benefits later.  Use your phone to photograph your set-up, and then make an inventory list to check everything you will take to the show.

The last reminder, make sure all is priced, and you have a clear understanding of the price structure and profit margins of your goods. You need to know this so a deal can be made is necessary. Never lose the opportunity to sell or make a contact. We will consider this further next week. However, it is best to consider these highly profitable techniques from the outset. The best dealers are flexible and know how to build long-term relationships and learn how to sell.

`The venue.

I can assure you the position of your stall will make little difference to sales. Visitors will walk every square foot of the venue unless you are at the NEC or other international exhibition centre. It is for you to attract them, so they STAND IN FRONT OF YOUR STALL AND LOOK AT YOUR STOCK. Then, you can either make a sale or gain contact information. Failure to make contact is a recipe for long-term disaster. Keep this in mind.

A good organiser will not change your position; their work is to make the show run smoothly. And be sure, making life easy means never anticipating how position, footfall or competition will affect your success. So take what is given and get into positive sales attitude. If you listen to people who say ‘that’s a bad place’, or ‘The footfall is slow here’ and believe their words, you have already damaged your potential. Ignore all moaners, negative attitudes or people who complain; there will always be people who do this. If you enter their environment, you will fail.

Many exhibitors have come to worship organisers and fear them, worrying they will lose their place. To my mind, the exhibitor is the customer and should be treated with respect. I once stood with a massive organiser who treated exhibitors and visitors with contempt, and there was no surprise (to me) when the walls came tumbling down. Do not forget that an event may be full of visitors, but if the format is wrong, or the visitors feel they are being overcharged or not receiving the best value for entrance fees and facilities, they will vote in the long term with their feet. 

Remember I wrote about the motorcycle auto jumble? There must have been 3-4000 attendees over the weekend in the first decade. Within twelve years, it was done. The caterers charged too much for beverages and food, the stall fees climbed, the sellers gained a bad reputation for price fixing, and the bubble burst one day. An excellent organiser would have controlled every aspect of the event. Keep your eye on the ball and your business, not what other people are doing. Someone said this is a ‘slow’ show, and I replied, ‘not for the people working this stand.’

So arrive early and set up your stand exactly as your practice table. Use the photographs on your phone and refer to your notebooks. Once set up, take further photographs. Do not involve yourself in too much interaction; you are there to sell; it does not matter if you are a reader, retailer, therapist or information stand. It is essential to realise the objective is to connect to visitors. Lock your mind into the objective. Put your phone away, and you WILL lose sales; people look at you and think, ‘they are more interested in their phone than me.’ Do not wander the floor and start looking at what other people are doing, selling or their prices. If you wander the floor, you will lose clients and customers. I will be frank, when I saw my competition walking the floors at events, I knew their customer would become my customers. And as some will remember, I often said, ‘Sorry, I do not have time to talk. I am here to work.’

My connections were made after the show and between shows. I always supported and used every avenue of promotion to help the show’s success. But once there, the mission was to clear my overheads and make a profit. There were two, possibly three, events where this was not achieved in 15+ years of standing. How so? You are reading the formula.

Work hard to build respect and friendship with all you work with and sell to. Setting up a thriving market, trade, or events stall is not tricky. Take time to set out the platform and know your products inside out. Offer intelligent and clear explanations to all questions asked. Do not make promises which cannot be fulfilled. 

Understand you will have to work for the event behind your stand, and you may have to stand for the duration. Stay fresh with plenty of cool drinks, and take your food. A cold box with fruit, sandwiches, and drinks will keep you entered at the stall. When you need to go to the loo, ask the trader nearest to you to ‘keep an eye on the stall’, they will do so, and you can help them too!

If you are at the event for the weekend, it is a fair bet the venue will be secure. So check if it is ok to leave stock covered over Friday and Saturday night. The show ends. You must not pack up until the show is closed. It is no use saying, ‘can I pack up early? I have a long drive home to the officials, do not forget, they were there before you and will be the last people to leave the venue.

That concludes this part of the series. See you next week.

Ian Timothy

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