5 Tips for Speaking with Retail Buyers and Pitching Your Brand at Market Events
For growing brands and emerging designers in the wholesale retail space, trade shows, market events and multi-brand showrooms have long been established as one of the best places to meet potential buyers and client partners. For brands aiming to have a significant presence in wholesale retail, attending a trade show is one of the key steps to take when planning for a successful season.
In 2023, The Folklore Connect hosted three multi-brand showroom events, two during fashion week in New York, and a debut international edition in Paris. A total of 40 brands from around the world participated, including Bôhten, Oríré, V.BELLAN and Shekudo. Connect also presented three contemporary brands at the summer edition of Coterie in New York, two more at the Brand Assembly show in Los Angeles as well as two beauty brands at Cosmoprof in Las Vegas.
“We did the Paris Fashion Week Showroom and we spoke to many premium retailers,” says Tola Adeagbo, founder and creative director of accessories brand Florian London. “We had editors and influencers visit us during the show events. It has really helped with our visibility as a brand.” This year, Florian London successfully launched at online retailer Shopbop.
But long before you step onto the trade show floor, it’s important to prepare for engaging with retailers and effectively pitching your brand to them. Crafting a compelling pitch is key to capturing a buyer’s attention during the limited time available at market events. Every brand has a story to tell, and sharing the narrative behind your brand – the passion, inspiration, and journey – creates a lasting impression on potential buyers.
So, what should you say? “What I did to prepare was having my elevator pitch ready,” says Vanessa Bellan, the designer behind the New York-based jewelry brand V.BELLAN who participated in the New York showroom in February. “I knew I only had a short amount of time so I made sure that I would convey the V.BELLAN brand story, our brand DNA and what we’re about and what our values are.”
But engaging in a dialogue with buyers involves more than just presenting your brand; it requires thoughtful inquiry. Think about opening with a question that sparks curiosity or sharing a relevant anecdote. Find out about them – their needs, interests, or challenges. By doing so, you’ll not only capture their attention but also lay the foundation for a meaningful conversation. After all, the best sales happen when it feels like a genuine exchange, not a one-sided pitch. Savvy sellers understand the importance of building a connection with a potential customer, whether it’s a brief encounter or the beginning of a longer-term relationship.
From perfecting your pitch to sharing your brand story, below are top tips from designers and retail buyers on best practices when it comes to engaging in thoughtful conversations with potential buyers and elevating your brand in the competitive marketplace.
Tejahn Burnett at The Folklore Connect New York Fashion Week Showroom
Research, research, research
For most trade shows that you attend, you should have prior information on the key retailers and buyers that will also be there. Use this as a guide to research potential buyers and their stores that are relevant to your brand. It’s important to know what type of brands they carry, because you might not be going after the right retailers if that the brands they stock already are wildly different from your brand or your product. “I definitely researched all of the buyers that I knew were coming and which retail stores they worked with,” says Bellan.
Where possible, tailor your pitch to each retailer so that it aligns with their product lines and customer base. “I knew, for instance with REVOLVE that their thing is how they help you get ready, so I made sure to speak to that and the types of jewelry brands that they already had to show them how we aligned but also how we’re different.”
Practice your elevator pitch
During market events, there is usually only a short amount of time to make an impression so it’s important to prepare a concise yet memorable pitch that strategically conveys your brand’s values and unique selling points. Practice your elevator pitch so you know exactly what you want to say about your brand.
It’s best to keep it short but memorable so that the buyers will want to follow up with you to learn more. At a later time, you can then share as much as you want. Use your limited time wisely to efficiently communicate your brand bio, product range, and future aspirations. “Just give them enough information so that they want to have a follow-up meeting, which will lead to more conversations where they ask deeper questions. Then they can get a little bit more into what you’re doing, what you’re offering, what your vision is,” Bellan advises.
Kente Gentlemen at The Folklore Connect Showroom in Paris
Share your brand story
Buyers want to know the story of your brand and your journey, the passion behind its creation, and how you bring it to life. “I love reading the brand story or the inspiration for starting their label. What problems were they trying to solve, what makes their design aesthetic different from other brands”, says Johnny Nwankwo, owner and fashion director of NKASIOBI.
To make a lasting impression on potential buyers, tell them about the origins of your brand, and what sets it apart from others in the market. Bellan calls this your “why”; which encapsulates what makes you and your brand unique. “I talk about my ‘why’, which is the V.BELLAN brand DNA,” Bellan says. “I speak about our products, about how they were made with the intent of being with you every step of the way, whether that’s your everyday moments and or your special occasions.”
If you’re not sure if a potential buyer is the right fit for you or if you would simply like some more information about their store, just ask. Use questions to spark discussions about the retailer’s preferences or where your products would fit within their store. What products are they missing from their assortment? What is their budget? Do they have similar brands already? Are they interested in expanding into new product categories?
You should also be prepared to answer any questions they may have for you. “I tend to ask questions such as, ‘How will these items fit into my customers’ day-to-day life?’, ‘What are they made of?’ or ‘What was the manufacturing process like?’ and ‘What inspired the designer?’, shares Theresa Olloh, founder of online store Hamalie. “I like to talk and engage with the founder to get a feel for who they are and if we’re a good match.”
Stay in touch
Beyond the initial meeting with a buyer at an event, the most important step is the follow-up. Making contact afterwards keeps you and your brand at the top of the buyer’s mind; send them your line sheet or product catalog so that you’re already connected by email. “From there, it’s a matter of just following up to see if we can set up a time to discuss,” Bellan says. “Sometimes, it’s going over the collections again and having that one-on-one appointment.”