Ep. 208 Five Takeaways From Attending AmericasMart As An Observer

After many years of attending AmericasMart as a buyer, this year was my first time attending as an observer. It was fascinating to chat with members of the Savvy Shopkeeper community, spot market trends, and be a fly on the wall at showrooms!

In today’s episode, I’m sharing my five key takeaways from AmericasMart 2024. Read on to learn what trends we’ll be seeing later this year, how showroom dynamics can affect your market orders, why large minimum order values aren’t the issue you think they are, and more. 


Attending AmericasMart as an Observer Instead of a Store Owner

In January, I passed the baton on to my sister for the retail business we co-owned for 10 years. I did it for many reasons, but one of the biggest was I felt a really big pull to do more with Savvy Shopkeeper and for store owners.

Because of this transition, this trip to AmericasMart was different (although it didn’t feel any less busy, that’s for sure!). Rather than full days of buying decisions, I spent my time observing, listening, trendspotting, and supporting our Master Shopkeepers members. 

I also had an incredible “Market Companion Day” that I’d given away in Master Shopkeepers. One group member and I spent three hours chatting, crunching numbers, and shopping together. 

Last but not least, we hosted a social hour just a few blocks from AmericasMart. We had nearly 50 attendees and the conversations were flowing!

Let’s dive into the five takeaways I have after attending AmericasMart 2024 as an observer. 

Need to learn the basics of attending a market for the first time? Sign up for my free 5-part series on AmericasMart! While it is specific to the Atlanta market, it still covers all the common questions first-time buyers might have, no matter which market you plan to attend. 

1. There Are Always New Trends at AmericasMart

I spotted SO many trends at this year’s AmericasMart. Here are a few that stood out: 

For Christmas: Tree “Shelves” 

showrooms took big objects, such as flat oversized ornaments or cutting boards/charcuterie boards, and laid them horizontally along branches. They then displayed products on this makeshift shelving. Done right, it was beautiful!

For Gifts: Groovy Vibes

I didn’t see this trend myself, but it came up in conversation several times with shopkeepers.

I’m a home decor gal, myself—my love of home decor and the home decor store I previously co-owned with my sister influence the showrooms I’m drawn to. Visiting gift showrooms is a new skill I’ll need to learn.

For Apparel: Bows

One of our Master Shopkeepers members insists that bows are classic and never go out of style. And based on what I saw at AmericasMart this year, I have to agree!

If you’re a member of Master Shopkeepers, check out the trend list I shared in our Facebook group as a “featured post” or search for it in the Lab. 

Americasmart

2. Who’s to Blame for the AmericasMart Showroom Dynamics: Unprofessional Sales Reps, Self-Conscious Store Owners, or Snobby Buyers?

This is a subject that comes up often and always has. After spending five days chatting with LOTS of store owners at AmericasMart, it was more prevalent than ever. 

Store owners say things like…

“I feel snubbed in showrooms.”

“I don’t dress like everyone else does.”

“I always feel like I’m being judged.”

“If showroom staff ignore me, I just walk away and don’t place an order.”

The question is this: Are indie retailers overly sensitive, are sales reps desensitized, or are fellow buyers rude? 

If I’m honest, the answer is all three! 

We’re humans. The manual, or expectations, that we have for ourselves—to be kind, warm, welcoming, open-minded, and service-oriented—isn’t always the manual that other people have for themselves, their brands, and their businesses. 

That doesn’t mean that we can’t appreciate kindness, service, and warmth when we see it, though! I always find it refreshing when I walk into a showroom and I’m greeted by someone with a smile on their face.

I have to credit K+K Interiors for their gracious welcome. Their showroom is a larger space in Building 1, and to a newer small home decor store, this showroom can be incredibly intimidating. 

But you know who’s there every year, greeting buyers in the friendliest way? The two founders and owners. It costs nothing to be kind and these guys do it right.

In contrast, there are showrooms where you’re bound to be ignored. Their staff members might have grimaces on their faces, and you can sense their annoyance when you ask a simple question. 

Worst of all, some will look you up and down or clock your name badge before approaching you. I remember feeling so annoyed at this behavior—I would always think, “They want to see what I store I’m with so they can decide if I’m good enough or big enough to serve!” Trust me, I had many thoughts as a buyer at AmericasMart, too. 

Remember: AmericasMart is a BIG place with thousands of people. Along with those thousands of people flooding three massive buildings for a short period come thousands of personalities, styles, and feelings. 

Compassion for yourself and others goes a long way.

If you feel inferior about what you’re wearing or not wearing, this comes from your thinking, not anyone else’s. Of course, you can decide if you don’t like the treatment you receive from a showroom’s employees. But are you shooting yourself in the foot when you make these decisions? What if there’s a product your customers will love, and you’re hurting your business over a showroom employee’s attitude? 

Everyone has bad days and bad moments—and AmericasMart is exhausting for everyone. Try not to let those experiences keep you from enjoying the market and placing orders. 

Managing your mind at market will help keep all the mental drama at bay.

Americasmart

3. Breakaway Brands Don’t Owe You Anything

I recently coined the term “breakaway brand” to describe the small brands that become big and break away from serving ONLY small retailers. These brands grow so much that they’re able to get into big box stores and sell in the mainstream. 

That’s what it means to scale—and some small retail store owners don’t like it. 

I never want to hold another small business down. However, only some people agree with me, and that’s okay.

To quote an article from Sales Factory about scaling into big box stores: “Making it onto the shelves of a major retailer is an absolute game-changer for small businesses, but with great volume comes great responsibility.”

The article then offered some advice to these breakaway brands:

“If you want to mitigate the resentment these businesses may feel as you step into “big box,” it’s a good idea to offer different SKUs to smaller buyers and major retail chains. Preventing large and small businesses from competing directly on price can preserve your relationship with both.”

I think that’s sound advice for breakaway brands.

When indie retailers get upset with these brands for their success, it can come across as a sense of entitlement. We don’t like it when our customers feel entitled to something from us, so why would we want to do the very same thing to the brands we carry as they grow? Remember, that brand owes you NOTHING. 

And as a brand yourself, don’t rest on your laurels! Keep YOUR brand interesting by…

  • continuously sourcing
  • finding new and interesting products
  • pivoting
  • getting creative

4. Large Minimum Order Values Aren’t the Issue—Your Thinking Is 

Some retailers get upset with large minimums for initial orders. However, this is one way a vendor can provide phenomenal service (and filter through retailers who may not take their brand or selling their products seriously). 

You may feel excluded, but ask yourself WHY. Are you afraid to invest, either in yourself or your business? Do you feel less than when you encounter a large minimum order value? 

If so, this all comes from YOUR thinking—NOT the brand’s policies.

5. You Don’t Have to Succumb to Buying Strategy Pressure at AmericasMart (or Any Other Market!)

Last but not least, it’s common to feel intense pressure to buy like everyone else at AmericasMart.

You might buy what your sales rep recommends rather than what you think would work best for your store because you have a hard time saying no. You might order more than you can sell because everyone is placing enormous orders. Or you might succumb to pressure to buy while you’re in the showroom, rather than stepping away and giving your brain a chance to process it all. 

You don’t have to do that to yourself! This is something I consistently work on with my 1:1 coaching clients.

When it comes to buying, there is no best way, right way, or wrong way. You have much more control over how you buy than you think.

To sum it up: if you leave AmericasMart or any market feeling annoyed, lesser than, or unworthy—you can turn it around with your OWN thinking.

Resources

Timestamps

  • [00:52] Attending AmericasMart as an Observer Instead of a Store Owner
  • [03:30] 1. There Are Always New Trends at AmericasMart
  • [07:08] 2. Who’s to Blame for the AmericasMart Showroom Dynamics: Unprofessional Sales Reps, Self-Conscious Store Owners, or Snobby Buyers? 
  • [13:58] 3. Breakaway Brands Don’t Owe You Anything
  • [16:39] 4. Large Minimum Order Values Aren’t the Issue—Your Thinking Is
  • [18:03] 5. You Don’t Have to Succumb to Buying Strategy Pressure at AmericasMart (or Any Other Market!)

Connect With Kathy

Kathy Cruz is an Independent Retail Coach who helps store owners work smarter, profit more, and grow their brick and mortar businesses. 

Connect with Kathy and learn more here:

Website: www.savvyshopkeeper.com 
Instagram: @savvyshopkeeper
Mastermind Group: Master Shopkeepers

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