Filed under: event, news
Beyond the Shaker was 1 of 400+ exhibitors on display at the Michigan International Women’s Show in Novi, Michigan during the long weekend of April 29-May 2, 2010. And what an interesting few days it was! As a result of the virtual nature of Beyond the Shaker’s retail sales through our website, it is easy to lose the fundamental connection between our distinctive salt products and the public that (we hope) loves to consume our salts. Retail shows, like this one, really allow us to gauge what is popular and how ‘salt’ is perceived from a cross-section of our potential customers.
My first observation is that these retail shows are a tough way to make a dollar! Seriously, it is down right brutal. There are costs related to building up proper levels of inventory, remitting all the show entrance fees, creating marketing displays, staffing the booth, and providing the necessary discounts for ‘show specials’ on product – and so in the end, this all adds up as a giant deduct to the bottom line. On top of the monetary cost, to be successful, even with a wonderful product offering, you need to aggressively work a crowd that may not be completely receptive to the concept and importance of gourmet salt. Given all the recent news and misconception surrounding sodium intake, our unrefined sea salts and hand made blends also require us to provide a certain level of education to the average consumer, and so before you can even get to the SALE, it is critical to provide pertinent and compelling information on why our products are superior to table salt. One of the reasons that we launched Beyond the Shaker was because of a perceived void in consumer education on the difference between various salt options, and so this opportunity to speak one-on-one about salt is important to us, even if that discussion does not convert into the coveted SALE.
The second major observation from the weekend really does not have to do with salt at all, but more speaks to the actual experience of exhibiting in one of these shows. Again, to fully understand the point, it is important to remember that this is an incredibly tough couple days for the exhibitors. You are standing upon your feet 10+ hours a day, constantly talking and working the crowd. Making the sale defines your existence, and so time is always clocking away in your head with a reminder that every minute gone is one less to recoup the expenses of the show (at most you certainly strive to break even).
Racing around to sell product while keeping your display in stellar shape is a meaningful drain that cannot be made visible as that impacts your strictly upbeat marketing face.
“I heard Oprah loves Himalayan Pink Salt.” Yep.
“This stuff is a waste of money when you can buy a pound of Morton’s for a buck.” Hmmm…sure.
“Does this stuff have salt in it?” Oh boy.
“This smells like grass.” Uh-Huh.
“Your packaging rocks!” Yes ma’am.
And so it carries on into a loosely woven length of scraggly yarn lacking any discernible begin or end through the entire day. The key is to be always smiling and upbeat regardless of every other uncomfortable aspect of the process or how much you stand to lose if you cannot move more product into the hands of consumers. In this common situation, we discovered a community of other exhibitors riding the waves of crowds with the similar goals and frustrations we were experiencing.
For Beyond the Shaker at booth 532, I believe we happened upon an especially unique neighborhood of exhibitors. All that time spent together in economic proximity forms a common bond, and so between the strife of sell-sell-sell, there develops an unlikely relationship based around the objective absurdity of the marketplace and task at hand. Packed in a giant, sunless hall, the masses of women of all ages walk (or wheel) around the cramped aisles of booths where everything from doggie health insurance to organic hair removal creams are offered. The noise of chatter, disjointed music, and machinery (grinding ice cream makers, novel motorized mops, and on and on) fills the ear. Any sense of smell is completely confused as your nose is bombarded by hoards of scents lead by candy, perfume and the ever present aroma of burnt popcorn. Color and lights flash from all around as exhibitors up the ante to vie for the attention of each passerby, with the eye drawn to and fro in an environment of dizzying attention deficit disorder.
However, the moment amongst the four days of the show that best summed up the experience came on Friday evening (“Ladies Night”) when all of a sudden there was a rush of women literally running through the aisles as hoots and hollers erupted from the north east corner of the expo hall. Without any warning, burlesque-ish music (you know what I am talking about – chica bang, chica bum) rang through the building as the frantically ecstatic screams of females began to climax.
Turning to one of my fellow exhibitors, I inquired as to what was driving the mass hysteria. And of course the response made complete sense in relation to the rest of the experience – I was told it is a traditional highlight of the weekend when on Friday evening, one of the local fire departments puts on a strip tease show for the throngs of women in attendance. Ha. Yes, we were in it together and so a spirit of camaraderie developed over the course of the weekend. Every exhibitor was filled with positive suggestions on how to sell more, and we learned an unbelievable amount about working the crowd. To drive sales, next year Tyler has promised to put on a “Salt Tease” so be ready women of South-Eastern Michigan…
Anyway, if one of these shows comes to your town, I would highly recommend attending. It is certainly a hoot. Wear comfortable shoes and look out for Beyond the Shaker! We will update our site with more expos that we attend, so stay tuned…