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Take Your Retail Show On The Road

Furniture World Magazine


No doubt you have thought about doing or have done a home show, health expo or fair event outside of your store over the years.

Let’s discuss the kinds of show opportunities out there for retailers and a barometer that I have developed, sadly the hard way, over the years to best evaluate which ones to participate in.
Show promoters use the same playbook as advertisers do. Big broad sweeping generalities about their attendees that ultimately boils down to this one closing argument - you will be in front of thousands of prospects who will love what your business does. Sounds familiar, doesn’t it?

I have found the best success with smaller, more hyper-focused shows. Case in point, in late October, Gardner’s Mattress & More exhibited at a natural living expo. Ben, my business partner, staffed this event among other exhibitors, mostly healers, shamans and peddlers of various natural pills and potions.
With a total cost for two days of event participation coming in at $900, we generated $17,500 in direct sales by the following Tuesday. That is almost a 20:1 ROI on gross sales and a 12:1 ROI on profit dollars. This show was a home run!

Compare this result to a home show across the street from our store at the Park City Mall. This show yielded few positive conversations and no direct sales. We participated, primarily to test our Fill Station Pillow Kiosk offers and “optics” which I will cover below.

The biggest thing we confirmed from the home show experience was, to never do a generic, “for the masses” event. The natural living show in contrast was a great example of a perfect market – message - media match. Others that fall into this perfect match are senior expos and other wellness and lifestyle shows.

Here are three big things to consider when you are setting up your own booth at an event.

The Optics

Think of your booth much like you would a billboard on a highway. Your booth or message needs to be seen and understood in about three seconds. It’s not that everyone is speed walking, but they are on a mission. If your message doesn’t immediately attract their eye and raise interest, another exhibitor will steal their attention.

At the generic home show we competed for the attention of every home owner prospect with the window and door company across the aisle from us. Every single person that walked by was asked quickly and with intent

  • “Are you a homeowner? 
  • "How old are your windows?” 

We had two distinct optics happening in our booth. The first was our Fill Station Pillow Making machine. The second was a split king memory foam mattress set.
Any time that we weren’t speaking with a prospect, we were making a pillow or moving that bed up and down.

The Offer

Remember, people are coming to home shows in a shopping mindset. You, therefore, should absolutely create an incredible offer to direct that spending into your bank account. Our offer was a queen adjustable bed and memory foam set for $1,999 with $419.80 of FREE sheets, pillows and mattress protectors financed for 12 months with no interest. Sign and sleep. It’s generally an easy offer for shoppers to accept, and at each show we are typically good for 6-8 sales. For us this offer nets at 50% gross profit margin.

For the Fill Station pillow-making machine we offered a Buy One, Get One Free offer on a good, better and best selection of pillows with margins ranging from 40% to 60% depending on the size and mix of pillows purchased.

Lead Collection

You likely have collected leads if you have participated in a show previously, but if not, you should. Lead collection extends the tail of profitability far beyond the event and well after you have recovered from three days of standing on the hard concrete floors!

Having a system in place to follow-up with collected leads makes it much easier and manageable, but at minimum you should commit to noting which leads you had the best conversations with so that you can follow up quickly and personally once the event is over.

We see a throughput of leads that typically translates into $15,000 in sales, on average, within the 90 days.

 Our experience is that once we committed to doing shows with frequency they become easier to do and our event selling skills got better. Once in motion, each show becomes its own tiny “oil well” generating plenty of leads and sales. It becomes a nice “pipeline of prospects” that convert into sales once the event is over.

Here’s my list of items we take to each event so we are fully prepared and ready to sell:

Marketing Materials

  • Blueprints (which tell our unique “Why Gardner’s Story” with offer on back 
  • Mattress Buying Guides
  • Natural Mattress Buying Guides
  • Adjustable Bed Base Buying Guides
  • Bookmark coupons

Show Support Items

  • Contest box - enter to win two free pillows
  • Pens - a bunch of ‘em
  • Stapler
  • Power strip
  • Duct tape
  • Extension cord at least 125’
  • Credit card swipers 
  • Receipt book
  • Business cards
  • Gardner’s EXPO banner 
  • Folding white table(s) & chairs
  • Table cloth
  • Financing applications and/or internet connected laptop 

About Jeff Giagnocavo: Jeff Giagnocavo is co-owner of the retailer Gardner’s Mattress & More and the co-creator of Mattress Retailer Weekly. Mattress Retailer Weekly is shared with you every week so you can get new customers, stay ahead of your competition and increase your sales tickets. Get your FREE subscription by visiting www.RenegadeMattressRetailer.com or text MRW to 484-303-4300.