EcommerceBytes-Update, Number 164 - April 02, 2006 - ISSN 1528-6703     3 of 8

An eBay Seller's Tips for Product-Sourcing at Trade Shows

By Rebecca L. Shapiro

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There are many ways to source products for your eBay and ecommerce business, and trade shows are a great way to keep your product line fresh.

I just attended my first trade show in January, CHA, the world's largest craft and hobby show ( It was HUGE! Over 1,000 vendors and exhibits were spread over 320,000 sqare feet of space. I'm glad I wore my tennis shoes because I covered a lot of ground during my five-day stay and sourced more products in those five days than ever before. I will definitely attend more trade shows in the future because it is such an efficient way to find new products.

When you enter a trade show it can be overwhelming. There are loads of folks walking around and tons of booths to see. Use the first couple days to orient yourself. Be sure to walk the aisles multiple times and in different directions. You'll see something new each time. Here are a few tips to help your first trade show be a success:

  • Wear sensible shoes and be prepared to walk!
  • Bring a wheelie bag or backpack because you will pick up lots of fliers and hand-outs. On the last day of the show, many vendors sell their floor samples, so you'll want a place to carry it all as you walk the floor. Be sure to have cash to pay for the samples.
  • Bring a box of business cards or brochures. I passed out over 200 business cards and I still ran out! You never know what opportunity will present itself for you to network and promote your business. It is wise to always have a business card handy.
  • Practice your pitch. If you want to sell an idea or negotiate, practice on vendors you don't really care about. You have 30 seconds to get them interested in your business. Then, when you really want to negotiate with a vendor, you're warmed up and you know what to say. It took me two days of practicing before I felt completely confident.
  • Be open and creative about incorporating products you normally wouldn't consider. On my way to the show I said I definitely wasn't interested in Scrapbooking. When I got there, over half the show space was devoted to Scrapbooking. Needless to say, I became very interested!
  • Listen to folks walking the floor. Even though they're business owners, they're buyers, too. Find out what they're buying. Look for the hottest booths, too. Crowded booths are a good clue that those products are probably good sellers.
  • Be prepared for the occasional shut-down and use it to your advantage. Some vendors don't understand online businesses and argue that the online community is unfair competition to their brick-and-mortar customers. Use this as an opportunity to teach them about your business and what you are doing online (another reason to practice your pitch!). A good place to find very amenable vendors is in the new vendor area. These vendors are trying to break into the market and are open to all kinds of negotiations.
  • Stay focused. I see the creative potential in everything, so it's easy for me to lose my focus. It can be a struggle to keep separate those products that would be viable for my store and those which are just fun for me. If you suffer from an overactive creative vision, it helps to mentally categorize what you see into "store" or "self interests." This helps you from picking up too much stuff.
  • Stay organized. Each night when I got back to my hotel room, I organized my fliers and samples into YES, NO and MAYBE piles. The last day of the show, I reviewed the NO and MAYBE piles one last time. If they remained a NO, they were recycled. If they were a MAYBE, they came home with the YES pile.
  • Oh, and definitely bring an empty suitcase for all those YES and MAYBE piles and cool floor samples you find. You'll definitely need it!

Some Ways to Find Trade Shows

  • Search on Google, Yahoo and other search engines for lists of Trade Shows, like this website Search convention centers in your area to view their calendar of events
  • Visit It's geared for vendors, but why not look there for a list of shows? I just typed in my specific industry, craft shows, and found a list to browse through.
  • Join a professional organization and attend its local events in your area. This is a good way to network and find out about specific trade shows.
  • Purchase trade magazines and browse the ads and classifieds. This is always a good resource for trade shows as well as products.
  • If you already have a few suppliers you are buying from, ask them. They're always happy to share that information.

About the author:

Rebecca L. Shapiro is the Artist and Creative Director for Pig and Panda. Rebecca is a studio art graduate from Smith College in Northampton, MA and studied at the Glassell School of Art in Houston, TX. She has enjoyed over 20 group and solo painting exhibitions since 1999 and has works hanging in private and public collections in Massachusetts and Oregon. In addition to illustration and painting, Rebecca has worked with beads and fibers for more than 20 years and loves texture, form and color. She has taught painting, drawing, jewelry and knitting classes to children and adults and loves sharing her experiments, successes and surprises! Find her eBay store at

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