Have you heard of Shopfest? I came across this lovely business at the end of 2017 when looking for new and interesting shopping events for Pomegranate Living to take part in this year.
I liked the sound of Shopfest straight away, as it was set up with the goal of championing and encouraging small independent and craft-based businesses, by giving them a platform to show and sell their collections to a wider audience.
Set up in 2010 by event organiser, shopping enthusiast and independent business supporter Dee Ball, Shopfest has been going from strength to strength in various locations around Surrey, Sussex and Hampshire. And for the last six years, it’s taken place every few months at the wonderful Denbie’s Wine Estate in Dorking, Surrey – the perfect location for Pomegranate I felt!
Why Exhibit at Shopfest?
Pomegranate is an online business and, I must admit, I love it that way! I enjoy the freedom and independence that operating my business online gives me. But it’s important to remember that people do business with people right?
As a small independent business, taking part in fairs, pop-up events and consumer shopping events like Shopfest allows me to meet customers, to have a chat with them, see what products they like and – perhaps more importantly – what they don’t like. Nothing says market research quite like actual customers!
And it also allows customers to meet me, to find out a little more about the person and the story behind Pomegranate, to see the products for themselves. Some may be aware of Pomegranate and may even be existing customers coming to say hello - and how utterly lovely it is to meet them in person!
For others, this might be their first encounter with me and my business. Some may make purchases on the spot, others might take a postcard to buy online later and some may never buy. In all cases though, events like Shopfest offer a comfortable venue to meet and network with customers, as well of course as with other fellow exhibitors and business owners.
Until the end of last year, I’d done fairs each year around Christmas time but decided that in 2018, I wanted to get out a bit more and take part in more fairs throughout the year. And Shopfest fit the bill perfectly for me. It takes place several times throughout the year, it’s a very nicely organised event, in a beautiful location, it’s easy to get to, there’s plenty of parking, it’s affordable and the ladies from Shopfest are just lovely. What’s not to love?!
Planning & Exhibiting at Shopfest
I’ve been in retail for a while now and before I set up Pomegranate, I was head buyer for the luxury Home division of a large retail group in Dubai, responsible for bringing Harvey Nichols and Bloomingdale’s to Dubai.
During my time there, I gained bags of experience about buying, setting up shops, merchandising and display. It’s all part & parcel of the whole interiors retail world really...
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not comparing Pomegranate to the likes of Bloomingdale’s! But, there’s absolutely no reason why some of the retail principles used in large projects cannot be ‘downsized’ for a small business with big ambitions!
So, what are some of the things you should consider if you’re planning to exhibit at a consumer fair like Shopfest? Let’s take a look.
3 Things to Consider When Setting up a Stand
No matter what your business is, I would strongly recommend taking a little time to plan your display ahead of time.
Very often, you have just an hour or two to set up for events, so being prepared and knowing exactly what goes where on your stand really helps make sure you are presenting your business in the best possible light.
This may sound obvious, but I’ve seen so many exhibitors end up in a last-minute panic because they haven’t really planned what they’re going to do, and their display ends up looking messy or disorganised.
I do a mock-up of my display in my warehouse each time. I decide first if I’m going to follow a theme, for example a colour or material, then choose the items to take and finally make up the display to best show off each piece or collection.
Normally at events like Shopfest, tables are provided for us which measure about 1.8 x 0.90 metres (or 6ft x 3 ft). So, you basically have a large table to work with, which can seem a bit flat to say the least.
Consider adding height to your display to create interest and draw the eye up. Then add at least one focal point, and maybe even two, to capture the attention of customers and draw them into your display. Items with a strong shape, pattern or colour work well for focal points.
Texture & colour add depth to a display as well. Think about your brand and its aesthetic and find things that complement it. If your brand is modern and sleek, then using white glossy boxes or shelving to bring height to your display would work for example.
Alternatively, if your brand is more country chic, then using painted wooden wine crates would ‘fit’ better. Maybe your brand is all about colour, in which case use a colourful tablecloth or coloured shelves to bring your stand to life.
Adding a few props will help in completing your display. For example, put flowers in vases, tealights in candle holders, wrapped sweets in bowls, plants in plant pots. These can be real or faux and will help liven up your display.
Think about ways to add interest, layers, depth and character to your display stand. After all, it’s an extension of your website or your shop and should ‘feel’ like your brand.
Adding movement to a display catches the eye and makes for a good talking point!
Attending an event like Shopfest is a great opportunity to show our products to new and existing customers as we’ve said. It’s also a chance to spread the word about our businesses and to present our brands clearly and positively.
In addition to your table covering and display material, make sure you have a logo prominently displayed on your stand, or on a banner behind or next to it. Have business cards, postcards, compliment slips or other marketing collateral available for customers to take away with them.
Use branded packaging if you can, even if it’s a simple sticker and a beautiful ribbon on a paper bag, to package things in. If you make it look striking, a bag carried around the rest of the fair by customers is good marketing for your business!
Even consider what you’re wearing on the day! I’m not saying wear a uniform (yikes!) but wearing colours that are in line with your branding will help, even unconsciously, strengthen your brand.
And lastly, use the opportunity of meeting customers face-to-face to build your mailing list. Ask them if they’d like to hear from you and use an iPad or other tablet form to make sure they read your GDPR-compliant text before they enter their details. These forms normally integrate with your mailing list management software (like MailChimp) and are easy to set up.
Well, there we are! My tips on planning an interesting & successful stand at Shopfest or another similar event.
Speaking of which, there’s a Shopfest event this Sunday 1st July, as you can see from the image at the top of this post. So if you’re in the Dorking area, why not pop in and say hello!! I hope to see you there!
‘till next time…
All images by Nicole Antar, taken at the Shopfest event in May 2018