Sourcing suppliers at trade shows and exhibitions

How to go about finding suppliers at trade fairs

Trade shows and expos are among the best places to network, establish rapport with potential clients and find new suppliers. Fairs attract exhibitors and visitors from around the world and afford a prime opportunity to see what’s out there.

Even if you’re not yet in a position to exhibit yourself, it’s a good idea to attend shows relevant to your fledgling business to get an idea of what’s on offer. You can get a feel for product availability, identify market trends, get great deals on the products you want; and even scope out the competition.

To find the appropriate fairs and expos, it’s worth checking trade publications associated with your sector, and you should have a look online. Websites such as www.exhibitions.co.uk/; www.tradeshows.esources.co.uk/; http://10times.com/; and www.expocentral.com/ will start you in the right direction.

For international tradeshow listings, take a look around http://www.fita.org/.

You should ensure the trade fair you attend is entirely relevant to your needs, as expos can be time consuming and quite expensive. As a guiding measure, so-called ‘vertical’ trade shows have a very narrow focus. These cater for a particular market requirement, and generally host a limited product offering. A wider offering can usually be had at ‘horizontal’ trade shows, where attendees still come from a single market but a broader range of products and services is expected.

If you have a very specific product requirement, a vertical trade fair is probably what you’re looking for. Because while niche interests are served at horizontal expos, it could well take you longer to source the supplier you require.

Most trade fairs have websites nowadays, and it’s usually possible to check which wholesale distributors and suppliers will be present. If you can’t find relevant details online, it’s worth asking the trade show management for a list of vendors and attendees, so you can have an idea of which suppliers you’d like to connect with before the day itself.

It’s worth noting that many companies and organisations offer online trade fairs throughout the year also: which is an effective, convenient and cheap alternative to travelling out to an exposition.

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