Thursday, March 8, 2012

Jump in, the water's cool at POOL

It's been a couple of weeks since we've been back from going to the Sourcing and POOL trade shows in Las Vegas, as part of the overall MAGIC Apparel Show - time flies when you're workin' hard! I wanted to share why we went to this show and what we learned while there.

This year our goal is to expand our distribution. The best way to do that is to get in front of retail buyers. How do you get in front of them? Exhibit at the most influential show in the apparel industry! And as we expand our distribution, at some point we'll need to start having our shirts manufactured for us. That's where sourcing comes in.

A little eavesdropping goes a long way
Sourcing is a show for people like us, looking for international vendors who make high quality apparel that they will print and label for us. Now here's the truth: if you are pretty new to a business and are trying to figure out what you even need to know when going to something like this, you just have to listen to other guys who are drilling the vendors with questions. Sure, there is a bit of a communication gap with some of the vendors there, but there is certainly a common ground of expected questions. And by our oh-so-stealthy eavesdropping of a power buyer (or at least he talked like one), we found out how to sound saavy too. What's the production time? What are the terms? What are the minimums? We walked the entire show, every aisle and soaked it all in. We took catalogs, felt dozens of samples, saw very cool labeling and know that when we're ready to order 500 or more pieces, we've got a great cache of vendors that we can work with when we do land the big fish.

We can be this cool, right?
Speaking of big fish, POOL is undoubtedly the biggest fish for independent brands. I also think it's imperative for a brand to attend a show in advance to get a feel for how other vendors set up their booths and for the kinds of traffic and layout of the show. POOL is extremely visual. Three years ago when we were just starting out and we first went to POOL, we were in awe. We thought we were such small fish in a big, BIG pool (ha). We then set about building our brand through adding designs, promoting our online store and presence and attending a lot of fan conventions and events. What those events did for us is invaluable. We learned what designs to take (um, everything), how to display, sell and promote.

We see stickers in our future...
This time when we visited POOL, we looked around in excitement. THIS is where we need to be. (cue Rocky music in the background...) This is how we need to get our brand out there.While feeling reassured that our brand is completely unique, we also felt a kinship with the independent brands there.We're all in this, working hard to get some attention and for people to come to love our brands as much as we do.

$180k is a LOT OF T-SHIRTS
Listen, if someone can sell a $180,000 Swarovski crystal elephant, I know we can sell some $25 custom designed, super soft t-shirts to the right stores. After Vegas, we know that more than ever.

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