After 10 years away, IFTD is finally returning to the Rockies. The mile-high homecoming takes place October 16-18 at the Denver Convention Center and will be the single largest show in the history of the event. With over 150 exhibitors slated to occupy the show floor for those three days—and every-last-one of them gathered to meet with you, the specialty retailer—it’s vitally important for you to get organized and plan ahead so that you can get the absolute most out of the show.
If you’re planning to attend IFTD this year, here are 3 basic best-practices from AFFTA Board member Joel La Follette, owner of Royal Treatment Fly Fishing in West Linn, Oregon, that you can put to use as you prep for your trip to Denver.
1. Evaluate your shop strengths and weakness as they pertain to inventory: A great way to get started on this is to simply ask employees, customers, and other shop owners about lines of interest. Often-times you’ll gain some insights that you wouldn’t have uncovered in your normal planning.
From there you’ll want to reach out to current suppliers and schedule time to meet at the show to see if they can fill those needs. If those needs are outside the purview of your current suppliers, be ready to explore some new relationships to connect those dots. Again, reach out in advance and schedule time at the show to meet. To help retailers get ahead of the game and be as productive as possible, AFFTA has introduced a fantastic interactive, online floor plan tool for attendees to be able to fully-plan their time with exhibitors at the show.
Lastly, you’ll want to set a budget that will cover the needs you have, along with any experimental additions to your inventory. This will help you stay focused on your priorities and give you more of a discerning eye when it comes to what’s brought in and what’s not.
2. Evaluate relationships with suppliers: A benefit of scheduling your meetings ahead of time is that it gives you the opportunity to meet with key people at the show to express concerns or share successes. This will also open the door to develop relationships where you may not have a point of contact other than your rep. Your rep should be able to set up a meeting. At the end of the day, the better, direct communication you have with your suppliers, the better business success you both will have.
3. It’s your show—be all-in: There is only one event that brings this volume of industry professionals together in one place and is entirely focused on you, the specialty retailer. You have your agenda set as far as key meetings go, but make sure you’re ready for all the other networking that’s going to happen as well. Attend the educational seminars that are being offered. Bring business cards and share contact info with people you meet and a talk to. Also, carry a small note book and pen, and a refillable water bottle. It’s a big show and the days are long—traveling light and staying hydrated actually help with endurance.
And finally, make sure to follow up later with all the folks you met. Emails thanking them for their time go a long way in relationship building and also allow you to ask any questions you forgot to ask.