Vivek Nagrani: Time to Try Big Vendor Events Again

by Harry Sheff

As the economy starts to slowly pick up pace, we as an industry have to constantly create ways of drawing the consumers into the specialty stores. Not only is it important to offer the consumer a unique product mix, it is essential to create a special experience in order to differentiate you from the big-box stores.

I have spent almost every weekend this year visiting different stores and participating in trunk shows. As many of you know, not every weekend is successful. It’s disappointing for vendors who spend lots of money and time, only to get lackluster results. Eventually, it will be harder to get vendors to come out and visit you.

Although I never participated in one, many vendors still talk about how great Louis Boston’s collaborative events were. I believe that having a huge, multi-brand event to launch each season, to celebrate an annual anniversary or just because would be more effective in many ways.

First, it creates much-needed excitement for the consumer. Having an event every weekend gets boring and diminishes the sense of urgency to come visit your store. Second, it makes the lives of the sales associates much happier. Many sales associates look forward to vendor visits and that enthusiasm will be shared with the consumer when a sales associate makes his/her phone calls to inform them of the upcoming event. Third, vendors are more inclined to bring their “A” game because now they must vie for the customers’ attention. This naturally makes the product selection and atmosphere much more exciting. For vendors who feel they should have an isolated trunk show, not a problem; there are many weekends in a season for them to do that.

Finally, advertising dollars can be spent in a much more effective manner. To spend a fraction of your budget every weekend to promote various events is frivolous. A major event can be a far more cost-effective way to get your customers and vendors excited, which in turn means a greater ROI.

In these times, more than ever, we have to work as partners. The follow-up on this strategy would then require each participating vendor to offer incentives for not just sales associates but for the consumer in the subsequent weeks. For many vendors, they will get the opportunity to introduce their product to a consumer for the first time. The consumer will also be in a testing or honeymoon phase with the new brand. In the subsequent weeks, you run joint promotions with the participating vendor. For example, buy three pairs of socks this weekend and get one free. Now, what we have is a consumer who has had time to experience the new brand and accept the new product. When he/she sees a promotion, he/she is more likely to come into the store to take advantage of the promotion.

We have to put ourselves in the consumer’s socks. What will get us into the store? Why should I decide to go to the store rather than play golf? Ask yourself and be honest with the answers. We have to create a reason for them to come in, a reason to prioritize a visit to the event over anything else they could be doing that day.

Vivek Nagrani is the designer and owner of V.K. Nagrani; he spends much of his life in specialty stores around the country and can be reached at