Are exhibitions really worth the hassle? Nick Williams, Sweet Dreams’ sales manager, ponders the question many manufacturers find themselves wondering at this time of year.
There are always so many arguments that could be marshalled in favour of deciding not to show this year. Expense, of course, is the perennial favourite, and is trotted out whenever the subject comes up. Not just the cost of the space, and of the exhibition stand, although that’s significant, but of hotels to accommodate staff. Transport, too – both of staff and of the products to put on the stand.
Time is the other major argument against. It’s not just time spent at the exhibition, although that’s considerable, but time in the run-up; time spent in planning your product display – arranging paper cut-outs on graph paper that takes you right back to the classroom, or in prepping agents about what’s going to be on offer; in liaising with photographers, printers, PR people – everything seems to come across your desk – and for what? Three or four days spent in some hideous drafty warehouse somewhere in the depths of winter (or the height of summer: both occur) waiting for that elusive would-be customer who you’ve been courting for ages to walk on your stand.
And then what happens? Well, this is the other reason favoured for non-exhibition: if and when the target buyer saunters on to the stand you are bound to be in conversation with a regular customer who you can’t possibly leave in the lurch, or being talked at by someone you really don’t want to be bothered with but who has attached themselves, leech-like, and won’t let go. Or you’re in the loo – having finally bolted there after hours and hours of holding it in. So: why do we show?
“The people in the furniture industry have to be some of the very nicest and it’s always a pleasure to meet and talk face-to-face and catch up”
For Sweet Dreams, who have had a presence at the NEC exhibition in January since last century (yep, that long), it’s never been too much of a debate, despite our familiarity with the arguments against. The trade shows up, simple as that, and so must we.
While there’s not an exhibitor there who doesn’t hope to sell the products on show, and cover the cost of exhibiting and more with the value of orders, those times are, largely, gone. (Although we always hope.) We understand that while buyers are sometimes prepared to order on the spot (and God bless you!) many are not. They’re here to look, to forge bonds, to get a better feel for a company, its products and its personnel. To assess the product range in more detail and understand what a company could bring to the table as a supplier. Shows are used to meet staff other than the agent or the sales manager, and to see models beyond the ones in which they’ve already expressed an interest, as well as to learn more about those. And the good thing for the buyer is, they can do this at shows without any obligation. As soon as they visit a manufacturer’s premises the relationship subtly changes – the buyer declares a serious interest in stocking their product. So at Sweet Dreams, we believe it’s a crucial part in the process of winning important accounts to exhibit at the major shows.
Two further strong reasons for being there. First, the unknowns. We can’t be aware of every new development in the retail market; a major furniture chain for example starting to stock beds; a merger between two retailers that gives rise to more opportunities; a brand new store. Being at a show allows them to find us. If we’re not there, they won’t: simple as that. We’ve always opened new accounts every year we’ve exhibited.
Second, our core market. The retailers, mostly independents, who’ve been with us for ages. They expect us to be there, even if they see our agents regularly, so they can inspect what’s new, talk about current business, get a wider perspective and effectively consolidate the relationship. That’s worth any amount of time and expense. We’re there to make it easy for our customers to talk to us, perhaps to show them a range they’ve not seen before, to tempt them with show offers – and to reassure them with our presence.
Finally, for me, Jackie, Riaz and the rest of the Sweet Dreams team, it’s an opportunity to see friends. The people in the furniture industry have to be some of the very nicest and it’s always a pleasure to meet and talk face-to-face and catch up. Not just about business, but personal things that matter to us all too. Why on earth would you want to miss out on that!
So, Sweet Dreams are looking forward to showing off our bed collections at the unmissable January Furniture Show. We’re best known for our own-manufactured beds and mattresses and these are to be at the heart of the display. Our Pocket Air collection of divans, relaunched with entirely fresh models last September, will be shown with models not previously exhibited. Among these will be Clarence 4000. In common with all divans from the collection, the spring system features alternate shortened pocket springs to provide a sensational, flexible feel as the springs contract and the volume of air increases. The sleeper’s weight is evenly distributed for comfort. In Clarence, the mattress cover contains cashmere – and the microquilting beneath contains both cashmere and wool. The damask border comes in two colourways, wheat and nickel, to match the divan base. Three sizes and a wide range of storage options to the base, including three styles of ottoman, is standard to all beds in the collection, together with quality finishing to both mattress and base.
Other divan collections will be on show, including favourite models from the Royal Pillowtop, Enchanted and Pocket Spring collections. As usual, we anticipate a strong take-up for our special show offers on mattresses and we’ll be displaying more on our mattress stand and on our range of bedframes, which they’re designed to complement.
We’ll be revealing several new bedframes at show, encompassing upholstered and wooden styles. Oldman, Lee and Ryder are three of our new fabric frames; Oldman a smart sleighbed, Lee a classic, understated frame with a low headboard and no footend, and Ryder sporting a winged headboard – and gas-lift ottoman storage. All come in two colourways and two sizes. Flying the flag for wooden frames comes the new Grant, to be shown in cherry, and the new white option for sleighbed Pacino.
Our collections don’t stop here, but extend to bedroom furniture with strong sellers Kramer and Perry and new children’s bunk Jolly Roger. For downstairs, as well as showing our wide range of upholstery including new models, we’ll be launching three clic-clac sofabeds; swish Texas, in brown or grey fabric with shaped styling, Iowa, also in fabric with two scatter cushions included and Ohio, in brown or black leather-look. This trio have already enjoyed a good reaction and the show will bring their appeal to a wider audience.
So this January, as always we look forward to welcoming you to our stand. This year we’re in Hall 5, on Stand H10. See you there!