Prepare now for winter gift shows

January 2024
Prepare now for winter gift shows By Ashley Miller

A little work before and during the winter shows will help maximize your trip to winter gift shows.

After spending a dozen years in the industry, I’ve learned successful retailers give priority to attending winter gift shows, which kick off the largest buying/product planning season. If you are not prioritizing planning, you are missing out on one of the most important aspects to keeping your gift department successful. 

Here are some tips and advice from other industry experts to help you make the most of winter shows and the largest buying season.

Start with a plan. 

You cannot expect to accomplish exciting results from attending these show(s) and sourcing new products for your store without establishing a plan. If you are a new buyer, start with research to determine when the shows take place, where the event is located and if the venue provides new buyer help. While markets do provide this information directly on the websites, you will need time to plan and research this information. 

“Market planning is an all-year activity,” said Chelsea Peabody Bohannon, director of internal and corporate communications at ANDMORE. “Attending our business-building webinars, reading the Atlanta Market Magazine and Las Vegas Market Preview and following us on social media to see the latest and greatest products help buyers maximize their time during the most exciting weeks in the gift industry.” 

For experienced buyers, create a pre-market to-do list. 

Spend some time on a to-do list before you go to the winter shows — it gives you more focus and clarity to accomplish what you need for your business to remain successful. This list could include brands and showrooms that are a must-see, what sales reps you need to book appointments with, what travel arrangements need to be made, and what product categories or merchandise you will be specifically looking for at market.

Come with a budget.

You only want to bring the best products to your retail store, but what you don’t want to do is overspend! I’ve seen it firsthand —  inexperienced and experienced buyers get swept away with the “market excitement” and make irrational money decisions. 

Come with a budget (or at least review and establish some budget parameters), and also know what you spent on product last year. You can even take it a step further and break the stats down into Q1, Q2, Q3 and Q4.  Also, consider creating a budget for product categories (i.e., outdoor décor, holiday, apparel, etc.). The most successful retail buyers have been known to bring a binder to market with them, in which every order from every vendor is organized to help keep track of budgets and orders placed. The binder also serves as a reminder and way to locate all the orders placed at market once you return home — without scrambling.

Prebook. Prebook. Prebook. 

Winter shows mark the launch of all new seasonal product for more than 70% of vendors. This includes prebooking holiday merchandise in January and February of the current year — and you thought Christmas was over! If you want to get ahead and do what other successful retailers do, be prepared to prebook for all seasonal merchandise for the entire year. 

Prebooking is also on every retail buyer’s priority list due to the national import delays we still continue to experience. In order to work with these challenges, it is more important than ever to prebook your product, which can guarantee your merchandise arrives on time and with enough time to resell.

TIP! If you are prebooking merchandise, put a cancel date on every order — every time. Cancel dates will ensure you will not receive merchandise after the season has passed (you don’t want Easter merchandise in June, right? Put a cancel date on the order!).

Ask for show specials and ship dates.

Don’t forget to ask each vendor about show specials and ship dates. If you are not working directly with your sales rep (i.e., temporary vendor staff is assisting you), show specials might not always be communicated to you. Always ask about show specials with every order, in every showroom or vendor booth.

When it comes to ship dates, remember the same thing — ask! Not to go on repeat, but this is important. Retail buyers need to know dates upfront so they can ensure that they have enough inventory to meet sales goals for operating expenses.

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Photo courtesy of ANDMORE.

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Ashley Miller

Ashley Miller, eastern North Carolina sales rep/agency marketing manager for Gib Carson Companies, also manages the agencies’ marketing efforts including social media and email marketing. She is a previous retail store and wholesale company owner.