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Sign Of The Bear’s Laura Havlek Talks Best Practices On Tackling IH+HS

The International Home + Housewares Show is the biggest housewares show of the year. While there are several regional shows that retailers attend to shop, network with peers and get face time with company representatives, IH+HS offers retailers more — and even newer — products, additional time with key vendors and a chance see retailers that may attend other regional shows.

While retailers who attend the show year have a strategy in place for shopping the show, some newbies and inconsistent attendees to the trade show may need a bit of advice for optimizing their time. We recently spoke to Laura Havlek, owner of Sonoma, CA-based Sign Of The Bear Kitchenware + Tableware, about some of the tips and tricks she’s learned for making IH+HS a success.

“Walk the show looking to be delighted and inspired,” Havlek said. “Walk the aisles in some kind of order, with the bulk of your time in South Hall and put as much effort into imagination and newly seeing value as to learning what your core vendors are doing.”

Here are some of her other tips for tackling IH+HS one booth at a time:

  • Pick where your most money is. Put your best time here.
  • Walk the whole aisle, tracking what you’ve done. So often we find new delightful things we were not expecting, or displays that delight us and transform our sales.
  • When you see something that’s hard to get your head around, write the order with a far out future ship date.
  • Leave your card and note on it about what you want.
  • Check your purchase orders before leaving the showroom. It is much easier to fix mistakes while you’re with the company rather than when the order arrives at the store.

Havlek also noted that asking questions of vendors is an important part of ensuring the relationship will continue to be fruitful long after the show. While retailers may have their own questions, here are a few that she recommends asking:

  • We pleasantly ask every mass vendor we do not yet work with, if they are set up to deal with our class of trade. Some companies are not and are glad to tell you.
  • Ask for a price list for every catalog. Most vendors include price lists only when asked directly.
  • What three to five items will keep me reordering?
  •  What do your best stores do? Does that vary regionally? What do your top stores in my area do?
  •  How do you handle freight? Do you have a freight cap program?

But, before you get ready to go to IH+HS, Havlek explained that you must be armed with all of the necessary information to make the best business decisions for your store. Next week, GOURMET INSIDER will share Havlek’s pre-show prepping tips, which include checking in to your own store reports as well as with other retailers across the country.


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