Guest Post – A National Stationery Show How-To with Delphine

May 16

In honor of the 2010 National Stationery Show opening today, I’m making a rare weekend appearance to welcome my first guest blogger of the week, my good friend Erika Firm. Erika is owner/designer of Delphine, a California-based stationery line specializing in gorgeous wedding invitations, greeting cards, gifts, social stationery and so much more. Without further ado, I’ll turn it over to Erika with her how-to crash course for tackling the National Stationery Show for those of you who will be attending as buyers, designers, or press. Thanks, E!

My eye is twitching, my jaw is aching…the National Stationery Show must be right around the corner! It’s the highlight of every stationer’s year – including mine. I’m always super excited to catch up with old friends, check in with favorite shop owners and buyers, make new friends with fellow designers and, most importantly, meet new clients! An incredible amount of work goes into setting up for the show, but it’s all worth it once all of us are gathered under one roof. This year I’ve heard from a number of brand new shop owners (congrats, ladies!) who are preparing for their very first visit to the National Stationery Show, so I thought I’d prepare a little primer, based on their questions and my experience as a vendor/exhibitor…

national-stationery-show-behind-the-scenes-delphineLeft: Two giant crates of Delphine stuff in our booth when we arrive at the Jacob Javits Center.
Right: The blank slate (no flooring, no walls, no good lighting, etc.) – this is what we start with before installation.

Bring lots of business cards.

Whatever number you had in mind, double it. Seriously. You really can’t have too many business cards. Bring more than 100, especially if it’s your first visit to the show. On that note – update your business cards! Business cards should have your full name, the name of your business, a physical address, phone, fax, email and website, as applicable. Please have them professionally printed. If you print them off your home inkjet printer you lose authenticity points. Remember, you will be handing them out to people who design on paper for a living. Whether we like to admit it or not, if you have a crappy business card red flags will raise and we will not take you seriously. (Sorry!)

Visit a booth, talk to a vendor…leave a business card.
One of the main reasons vendors exhibit aside from making sales is to make contact with prospective buyers. If you like us enough to visit our booth, please leave a card so that we can follow up. If you prefer not to be added to an email newsletter list, please indicate that on your business card by writing a note.

Wear your badge.
This one is important show etiquette – I know it’s not attractive, I know it itches, but we all have to do it. And please, don’t flip your badge over so we can’t read your name either. This is considered poor etiquette and disrespectful to exhibitors. If a vendor cannot read your badge she will be thinking, “Oh dear, I hope this person in my booth isn’t trying to steal my designs/rip me off/copy me,” and will be hesitant to answer questions. Nothing makes us more nervous than an unidentified person scoping out our wares. Be upfront about why you have visited our booth. Introduce yourself or remind a vendor of your name. (Confession: I totally remember faces but am horrible with names, and really appreciate it when you remind me!)

Catalogs.
Catalogs and line sheets are extremely expensive for us to print! Please don’t take one unless you really need one.

exhibiting-at-the-national-stationery-show-javits-booth-delphineLeft: Controlled chaos – setting up the booth.
Right: 9am on day one of the show – it’s show time!

Dress code and tote bags.
Dress professionally but comfortably. Whatever you wear on the floor of your store is perfectly fine. Suits aren’t really necessary and, in fact, they tend to scare some of us “creative types.” Wear really comfortable shoes. (Really really comfortable shoes.) Bring a large tote bag, but nothing so huge that you knock over your neighbors. Roller bags are not permitted on the show floor. There is a coat check inside Javits, so you can check overflowing bags there if need be.  And, um, don’t forget to pack your deodorant and gum or mints. (Enough said.)

Refreshments.
There are quite a few yummy vendors located right inside the Javits Center. I’ve been known to hit up the cupcake place in the lobby more than once per day! Bring your own bottled water, because it’s expensive on site.

Designers and students.
If you’re a designer or student visiting NSS to check out the stationery industry, please be upfront about who you are – see badge flipping. Do not sketch inside our booth. Do ask permission before taking anything (i.e. catalogs). Do not photograph anything without our permission and be prepared that some vendors will say no. Compliments are nice, but please avoid being critical – chances are the artist and/or owner of the business is in the booth and you don’t want to accidentally offend anyone. We are almost always happy to talk to you and answer any questions, but please bear in mind that if a customer or member of the press enters our booth we will need to speak with them. If you’d like to ask questions about getting into the business (or about internship or job opportunities) please be brief, then ask if you may follow up with a phone call or email once we’re back in our studios. It’s not that we don’t want to talk with you (promise!)…it’s that we are here to conduct business. For many vendors, this one show essentially covers payroll and expenses for the rest of the year.

New store owners.
If you’re just thinking of opening a store, and don’t have a lease or an opening date, please know that we are willing to help you and answer any questions you have about the industry. If you’re not ready to buy, please tell us up front so that we know where we stand and can answer your questions most appropriately. However, be mindful that we will need to speak with other customers if they come in our booth – to pay for aforementioned booth. (It’s a huge investment for vendors who exhibit at the show.)

If you are a new store owner with a recently opened shop (or a shop opening soon), we are super excited for you! Let us help you! We are experts. We can answer questions about what sells best, what merchandises well together, what sort of quantities are appropriate for your shop, what designs and motifs sell best in your region, etc. We can help you write an order that will sell out! Trust us. If you’re not ready to order on the spot, please leave a card behind so we can follow up closer to your opening date.

delphine-martha-stewart-weddings-darcy-millerOne of the best parts of the show is visiting with friendly faces!
Left: The Martha Stewart Weddings and Delphine team.
Right: Some of our favorite customers.

Have a plan.
If you know what you’re looking for we are better able to help you. If you’ve thought ahead to what sorts of products you need (i.e. birthday cards, blank note sets, journals, letterpress thank yous, cards with bunnies, pink journals, holiday boxed sets, etc.) we can help you find them. We can recommend our peers’ lines, too, if something is a good fit for your store. Just ask!

Money stuff.
For the most part, we’re “creative types” and don’t relish talking about money. That being said, we’re running a business, and expect to be paid. If you’re writing an opening order please have a credit sheet for us (so that you can be put on terms for subsequent orders), and be prepared to give us credit card info on the spot to pay for your order. Please don’t ask us to call you later for credit card information.

Minimums.
Most vendors sell greeting/counter/single cards in dozens. Some accept orders of half-dozens. Other products (journals, packaged note sets, etc) usually come in half dozens. Please don’t ask us to break minimums as this is an inventory issue for a lot of stationers. Most vendors have a minimum opening order (typically $150 – $300). Please respect the minimums. Ask about show specials (we probably have something going on). Don’t bargain. Remember that our wholesale price has to cover design, manufacturing/printing, packaging, rep fees, showroom fees, salaries, trade show expenses, warehouse overhead, etc.

Personal orders.
At shows, many vendors are willing to fill personal orders. Ask nicely. Please be respectful and ask to write an order when “real” buyers aren’t around, and please try to make a personal order at least $50. Hand over shipping, and credit card info on the spot.

Address labels.
I heart all my buyers who bring address labels to stick on purchase orders. It saves time during the “checkout” process, and avoids mistakes. (Trust me, this one will make your life easier, too!)

Canceling orders.
We understand that sometimes you may need to cancel an order. Please do this within a few days of placing the order. When we get your order, we order supplies to fulfill your order (envelopes, packaging, etc). If you cancel your order the day before it’s supposed to ship we have just lost money and time. Please don’t “postpone” your order unless you truly know you will take delivery on your new ship date, so that we don’t get stuck holding inventory that could be sold to someone else.

Press visits.
If a member of the press enters our booth while we’re speaking with you, please (please) understand that we would appreciate the opportunity to speak with the editor. Please be kind and offer to give us a moment.  Editors typically walk the entire show in one day, and the other 364 days of the year we do not have the opportunity to speak with them.

delphine-letterpress-calendar-twig-fig-letterpressLeft: Serge and Susie of Twig & Fig show off their Javits Center delicacy, the ‘haute dog.’
Right: New Delphine letterpress card collections, hot off the press!

Photography.
This one is another biggie – remember to ask before taking any photos in any booth! Please have a good reason for taking a photo (i.e. you are a member of the press, you have a blog with thousands of followers, or you have just placed an order and want a visual reminder about how to merchandise our product in your shop.) Be prepared for us to say no. It’s nothing personal—we’re simply protecting our intellectual property. If you take photos please leave a card, and take one of ours. If you’re going to post on your blog, email us right away when the post goes up so that we can help spread the word.

Goodie bags.
If we have goodie bags please ask before grabbing one. Don’t ask for samples to take away – we probably don’t have any, but can usually mail to you if you really need one. The products on our display are for display. There is no magic back storeroom where we can go to replace something that disappears from our display. If we have multiple business cards on display (for example, I have cards on green paper, brown paper, white paper and chipboard) please take only one or two.

Common pet peeves.
Please don’t stand in the middle of the entrance to our booth, blocking traffic, chatting on your cell phone. Don’t sit on the floor of my booth and eat a tuna fish sandwich. Please don’t pull out a chair and “rest” while checking your email on your phone, blocking access to our products. Don’t ask proprietary questions (i.e. what type of paper/Pantone color/font I’ve used in one of my products, where do I do all my printing, how much do I print at a time, etc). And seriously…don’t sketch/copy my designs or sneak photos of my work or steal anything. All of these things have happened in a Delphine booth. Awkward!

Be nice.
If you don’t like something, keep it to yourself. Chances are that the person who designed the product that offends your senses is within earshot. Don’t criticize our designs, our prices, or our booth display. Be nice, be respectful, and you’ll find the same in return.

Share the love.
If you love our line, please recommend us to your peers. We’ll be eternally grateful – and it also helps ensure we’ll still be around in a year with new goodies for you to love!

Thanks, Erika, for sharing the behind the scenes scoop on the National Stationery Show. Attending the show? Don’t miss Delphine in booth 2648 with VIGO!

{Photos by Delphine.}