If you follow us on Twitter or like us on Facebook or suffered through my various blog posts (well done and thank you!) you’ll probably have already gathered that we returned, after a five year absence, to the National Stationery Show in Islington this week.
I have waxed lyrical about my thoughts on trade shows before, so, just to sum up the general gist of my feelings for these events, it was with enormous trepidation that we set up our little stand on Monday afternoon. The costs, the energy, the emotional investment and the general rolling of the die in the gamble of ‘do I put myself through that again or not?’ have all been spoken of before.
I should also mention that there was an added cost/benefit aspect to the decision to return to the Stationery Show this year. It’s a very expensive business having to taxi from West to North London every day! No prima donna me, just a messed up panic attack sufferer – and trust me, I still had to take pills for the cab rides as I’m phobic of traffic jams (I know, a Londoner phobic of traffic jams!! Go figure!)).
I woke up on Tuesday morning to make my first coffee of the day and found our beautiful 2 year old cat dead on the kitchen floor. She was a rescue cat who, in the short 5 months of her occupying our home had wormed her way into our hearts and it was horrifying to see her just lying there dead. Vet can only surmise a congenital heart disorder and family of five were left in shock and rightfully really upset. Not the most auspicious of starts to the first day. I was quite relieved to leave the home/office that morning as I’m sure that I would have moped all day waiting to hear for the cat flap clicks.
So, we were at the stand by 9 for a 9.30 opening. The doom set in at about 10am (possibly the wearing off of pre-taxi ride pill, who knows) but our stand was empty and the usual doubts whirled around my head like chattering dementors (bad enough when they don’t speak, but these ones are really verbal with the usual insults of doubts). And yet, at 11am, all heaven broke loose, PEOPLE! Not just people, stationery people. Stationery people who actually buy stationery for their stationery shops to sell to other stationery people. Yes, I know, the clue was in the title of the show, but I’m not so used to the joy of the ‘build it and they will come’ concept. Come, they did and we were busy on both days, taking a few orders, but more importantly, having the right buyers take the time to look through our products and to talk to us.
Time folded to speed the days and the monumental traffic jams on the way home were a good opportunity to catch up on emails and orders that had came in.
So, here’s to the embarrassing stuff:
- Like an idiot, I noticed a name badge bearing the hallowed company name ‘Scribbler’ and literally just shouted “Scribbler” at the top of my voice (I wasn’t known as ‘foghorn’ for nothing at school). He duly turned around and I tried to style out my shock at my outburst as best I could; mumbling my way through the ranges and hoping that my initial impression of being an utter loon didn’t stick.
- I told a very important potential client after she took a photograph of one of our notebooks, that should her company copy me, I would personally track her down and kill her. She then went on to tell me that she had run out of business cards but would write her contact details down. I duly pointed out that I now had a way to find her, hunt her down and kill her should her company copy us. She pointed out that, perhaps, if I thought rationally, should she be devious enough to copy our designs, she would probably have the guile to write an entirely fictitious email address in our pad. I couldn’t disagree with her logic. I liked her. I really hope they don’t copy our designs.
- A really lovely lady from a multiple retailer that we would dearly love to stock actually turned up on our stand, declared herself and made all of the right noises about stocking us later in the year. I grabbed her, with no warning, and hugged her. I suspect she will be reporting to her boss as I type, that the woman at Two Little Boys is possibly a little too weird to deal with. I genuinely hope that she felt the love, but understand I may have overstepped the customary business parameters.
- A wolf pack of ladies turned up from another multiple retailer, splitting up and checking out the stands. The tension amongst the exhibitors around us was palpable. Even though these ladies had partially hidden their name badges, we all knew. Two stopped at our stand and, as usual, produced no business cards when requested and left with a catalogue and impervious expressions on their faces. I then promptly followed them to see if I could get a glimpse of their names, but forgot to take my glasses with me and now apologise for what must have looked like a middle aged female stalker staring at boobs.
- My body failed me and my immune disorder that is normally kept under control with drugs spiked through a little, so my chin and bottom lip swelled up – which meant that I left the after show awards ceremony way too early and, if anyone had noticed, would have assumed I was a sore loser.
- Two young ladies wordlessly approached the stand, took a photograph of a few products and left without a single acknowledgment. I said ‘how rude’ quite loudly (and I still hope they heard). A further lady came to the stand, had the foresight to smile and then she took a photograph. Like a caged lion, I pounced, demanding to know what she was doing, to which she flashed her badge and meekly responded that she was ‘press’. I looked at her badge and apologised profusely.
Other than periodically making a fool of myself, I had a great time! The lovely couple on the stand next to ours had travelled all the way from the US to sell their leather pen holders and on the rare occasions that we had time to chat, we put the world to rights. I should also mention that knowing the guys who had put the entire show together and being able to thank them personally and acknowledge their hard work and success was an added bonus.
I loved catching up with old neighbours from years gone by, seeing delightful existing customers and hugging a lot of people that I was genuinely really happy to see again and I also met a silly number of new people.
And yes, only 2 of the 10 buyers who we had specifically asked, nay, begged to ‘pop by’ on their rounds did, in fact, pop by.
But right now I’m so buoyed by the response from everyone else, I actually spent a couple of minutes this morning thinking – “Their loss.”
Have to stop now – I have got a lot of emails to write starting with the words:
“Sorry we missed you at the show….”
And then I’ll have another cup of coffee and fill in the contract for next year.