Podcast: The Ins and Outs of Trade Shows — Advice from the Retailer

Trade shows can feel overwhelming. Listen to our new podcast with advice on how retailers and buyers get the most value out of the shows they attend.

Trade shows are great opportunities for retailers and brands to connect. But, they can feel overwhelming at times. For most, it’s a whirlwind of meetings, educational opportunities, and collaboration sessions. All of that leads to the inevitable pile – whether digital or physical – of materials that gets passed around the trade show floor.

How can retailers and buyers get the most value out of the shows they attend? Is there a way to stay organized through it all?

Manager of Community Growth at BrandKeep and former buyer, Pete Ashley, and Owner of The Mountaineer in Keene Valley, New York, Charlie Wise, sat down with Rick Saez, host of the Outdoor Biz Podcast to talk about the ins and outs of trade shows.

They start with the big question that’s been on everyone’s minds over the last few years. Check out the podcast below to hear the full story, or keep scrolling to read the podcast summary.

Podcast Summary

Are trade shows back to normal?

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way trade shows were done for quite some time. As virtual shows took over, the in-person trade shows disappeared. But, are trade shows back to normal now?

As their team gears up to attend the Grassroots Outdoor Alliance (GOA) Connect trade show, Charlie says that the shows are starting to look similar to how they did before the pandemic.

“We're going to have the same attendance as we normally would [at GOA]. We'll have two buyers and myself attending… We'll be there for a full slate of vendor meetings, business meetings, [and] line showings. It's going to look and feel a lot like it did pre-pandemic,” he said. 

Along with Charlie and the team at The Mountaineer, BrandKeep will also be attending several trade shows including GOA Discovery Marketplace and 360 Adventure Collective

“That'll be [BrandKeep’s] real ‘hello world,’” says Pete Ashley.  

As a platform designed to help outdoor retailers manage digital assets and information in one central hub across all the brands in their shop, Pete’s excited to bring BrandKeep to these trade shows while looking forward to making the lives of retailers easier.

The Greatest Benefit to Retailers and Brands at Trade Shows

Now that trade shows are back in full swing, Charlie and Pete give an inside look at the greatest benefits retailers and brands receive when attending the shows. 

“Having a chance to sit down with some of the principles of our partners [and] our vendor partners and suppliers [during a trade show is] really important,” explained Charlie. “We have a relationship that extends beyond just pedaling their products in our shop. We want to represent their brand well, and they certainly want to understand who we are and the requirements we have as a retailer.”

Before joining BrandKeep, Pete was buyer and general manager for four outdoor stores – so he knows the industry inside and out. “It’s so important to get in there and make those personal connections [during trade shows, and] be able to see and touch product when you're making those [buying] decisions,” he said. 

Brand reps also play a big role in maximizing the value for retailers at trade shows. Charlie explains that being able to sit down with the same rep that normally works with their region is one of the keys to generating value.

“It's important for event organizers and the vendor suppliers to realize that when we show up and sit down to talk about product, we really do appreciate somebody knowing who we are and focusing on the parts of a line that actually apply to us… That sort of awareness of who we are makes the engagement that much more valuable,” he explained.

“Knowing a rep, knowing who we are, the type of customer that we serve, and being able to really cut into that part of the line that applies, that's the ideal appointment. And then we can spend more time really focusing on the details of those products. I'd rather be narrow and deep than wide and shallow in terms of those types of meetings,” Charlie concluded.

Staying Organized During a Trade Show is the Key to Success

Retailers get a ton of assets and information from brands at the show: Workbooks, product catalogs, look books, MAP policies, B2B links, rep contacts, order forms, marketing assets, and more. 

Charlie states that having digital workbooks in advance is a huge help. Then, being able to take what they’ve done in terms of annotations or selections from those workbooks and put it into one place is an evolving improvement.

“[With] BrandKeep as a utility, [gone are] the days of hauling back reams and reams of paper in workbooks — we've moved past that. We have multiple buyers at The Mountaineer that are interacting with the same brand. And to be able to not have that information stashed away in a manila folder, in a cabinet under somebody's desk and have it all in one centralized, common format is key,” said Charlie. 

The Mountaineer has been using BrandKeep since 2022 to help keep post-show digital brand assets organized.

“BrandKeep is really a fairly important part of where we are with that right now,” Charlie explained.

New call-to-actionWith BrandKeep, retailers no longer need to spend any time organizing the assets and clutter from the show. BrandKeep handles it all, so retailers can focus on connecting with brands instead.

BrandKeep’s Brand Cards store each brand’s workbooks, order forms, contacts, and more. Workspaces within cards help organize them by season, or any way that works for the team. PDFs can be annotated right in BrandKeep. And KeepMail solves inbox mayhem by acting as a store's single inbox for assets and information.

“As a buyer, I would show up with a laptop and an empty bag and come back with a laptop bag full of random printouts and workbooks and swag. And my desk was generally kind of a nightmare for about two weeks after that as I sorted through,” Pete reminisced.  

Luckily, BrandKeep solves all of that — plus, you can sign up for free by clicking here.

The Future of Trade Shows

So, what does the future of trade shows look like?

“I think we're going to continue to see these regional and working shows grow and offer more and see more attendance from those reps and from those brands, including the bigger ones…,” said Pete. “I think they're headed in a good direction. The folks that I've worked with, they're on it — they're doing a great job. Everybody's excited to be back.”

But, there are a few things they can improve on to continue to bring success to both retail buyers, and brand reps. 

“I think that continuing to be cognizant of [the] geography of these events and making sure that you're either splitting the difference in the middle of the country in terms of people coming from either coast remains pretty important,” Charlie explained.

“That's not only for the participants, retailers, and the brands, but in terms of having rep presence, I think that reps are often overlooked in the equation,” he continued. “I think just making sure that you have events that allow for continuing connection with the people — that’s ultimately [where the] rubber meets the road with a lot of these end retailers, and having events that accommodate that is important.”

Listen to the rest!

Want to hear more ideas, thoughts, and stories from BrandKeep and The Mountaineer? Click here to listen to the full podcast as Pete and Charlie chat about the current state of the outdoor business, how they’re handling staffing issues, ideas for navigating inventory control, and more!

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