Canada's business magazine for traditional natural health retailers

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Plan Ahead

Plan Ahead

You are a new retailer, or have simply never attended a CHFA trade show before, it's a worthwhile event to consider.  Attending a CHFA show can be a great experience and a lot of benefit to your store.

Spring is in the air and that means longer hours of sunshine in the day, more people out and about, and putting the cold winter behind us for another year. In terms of the Canadian health food industry, spring also represents something else, and that is CHFA West in beautiful Vancouver.

If you are a new retailer, or have simply never attended a CHFA trade show before, it's a worthwhile event to consider. 

CHFA trade show time comes only two or three times a year - CHFA East in Toronto, CHFA West in Vancouver, while CHFA Quebec is held every other year. It’s an exciting time for retailers because it is when most suppliers typically offer their best deals of the year. Whether it’s deep discounts, high valued gifts with required buy ins, or some other incentive, trade show time is when most of us are compelled to spend big and stock up. While I am not normally an advocate of big buy ins, sometimes a deal is too good to pass up. As someone who has attended somewhere around 20 CHFA shows, I have some advice for managing your time, your money and your inventory.

Plan to attend a CHFA show is best if pre-planned a month or two in advance. The first step is to register to attend. This is free for CHFA members, but you pay a fee if you are not a member. Quite often, exhibitors, a.k.a. suppliers, are given a select amount of “free registrations” that they can make available to retailers who are not CHFA members. This is a good option, so be sure to take advantage of it if the offer is made to you.

So now you’re registered and you’ve booked your hotel room and made travel arrangements if need be. One of the next steps is to start thinking about what you hope to accomplish with your show attendance. Are you looking for new lines/products to carry in your store? Are you looking to stock up on strong sellers? Or are you simply looking for an opportunity to catch up with your sales reps and socialize?

If you plan on stocking up, as I often do, it’s a good idea to start planning your inventory a month or two in advance. Fortunately, as the years have passed, suppliers have started publishing their specials further in advance, and extending the deals to last past the show. This gives more flexibility to the retailer to plan out orders, timing it so that it is not too overwhelming at the store or on the budget! I personally make a show folder and put all the show specials in it as they arrive. I highlight the expiration dates and then make a list of which orders need to be placed at the show and which I can do prior to, or a little later. I have learned that it is not fun to receive every single order in the few days immediately following a show, so I attempt to space the orders out over a few weeks or even a month. 

When it comes to the orders that must be placed at the show, it's a good idea to start early in the day and get the "must dos" out of the way. It's easy to get distracted and run out of time at a trade show. Prepare your orders in advance of the show and add on when you get there (if something interests you.) If possible, you should make an appointment with your sales rep and meet with them to take care of your order, otherwise you could get stuck waiting around. If you get all the things you need to do out of the way early, it'll leave more room for browsing and enjoying the show. It's also important to be aware of how much you're buying so that you don't accidentally go overboard and end up with stock piles of inventory at your store. 

Speaking of inventory, how do you manage all the extra stock you'll be receiving? Well, I slow down my orders leading up to a show so that we have a little extra space for product. As I mentioned earlier, I try to spread my orders out by paying attention to the various dates set by suppliers. Another idea would be to run some in-store promotions around CHFA time. If you're getting a great buy in, why not order extra, then “pile it high and watch them fly,” as the saying goes. I find this is an especially great time to run a promo on a product that rarely goes on special. Customers really appreciate when you pass along your savings! 

Lastly, my advice would be to attend as many product education seminars as possible. Knowledge is incredibly important in this industry and the CHFA works hard to provide attendees with ample opportunity at showtime to learn directly from the suppliers. You give up some of your time, but the return you get is well worth it. If at all feasible, have some of your employees attend the show and seminars as well. The information and samples they receive will improve their ability to help customers and sell products for you.

Attending a CHFA show can be a great experience and a lot of benefit to your store. That being said, if you are unable to attend, in most cases you are still able to take advantage of the special pricing. Otherwise, I'll see you in Vancouver! •

CHFA To Do’s

  • Register
  • Think about what you want to accomplish.
  • Plan inventory a month or two in advance.
  • Start early in the day and get “must do’s” out of the way.
  • Prepare your orders in advance of the show and add on when you get there if something interests you.
  • Consider slowing down orders leading up to a show so that you have a little extra space for product.
  • Attend as many product education seminars as possible.

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News, Views and Happenings in the world of Canadian Natural Health.

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