Tips & Tricks for Attending Apparel Shows

Tradeshows offer an exhilarating experience with their many fashion floors, numerous vendors, and endless networking opportunities. The excitement of a shopping spree at tradeshows can quickly become exhausting if not approached properly, especially if you haven’t decided which tradeshows to attend in 2023.

Whether you’re a seasoned attendee or a first-timer, careful planning of a visit to an apparel show is key to avoiding burnout and overspending. Here’s what you need to know to maximize your apparel show experience:

1. Set a Budget

As you step onto the market floor, you’ll be tempted by various irresistible styles and brands. Establishing a budget before you arrive is crucial to prevent reckless spending. Consider the following factors when creating your budget:

  • Determine the number of seasons you’re buying for and allocate a budget for each.
  • Assess whether you’re buying for a busy or slow season.
  • Decide how many styles you need to fill your inventory and set a spending limit for each.
  • Consider the inclusion of plus-size lines if necessary.

While there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to budgeting, using the open-to-buy planning method can provide a clear picture of your finances. If you’re a newly launched boutique without sufficient data for open-to-buy calculations, set a spending limit and select inventory that aligns with your brand. Start by purchasing a small quantity of each clothing style to test its popularity. If a style sells well, you can then reorder from the vendor’s website.

Pro Tip: To optimize your time and budget, plan to attend the market for multiple days. Use day one to explore the market, observe vendor offerings, and make notes for comparison. This preliminary survey will greatly assist your purchasing decisions.

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2. Conduct Market Research

Understanding your customers’ preferences is equally important as budgeting. If you’ve already been selling, you may have a good sense of the popular sizes and styles among your customers. If not, don’t hesitate to ask for feedback. Engaging with your customers makes them feel valued and helps inform your purchasing decisions.

Utilize an inventory management system to gather valuable customer data. This system can provide insights into your store’s best-selling and worst-selling items, enabling you to make informed buying choices. Do your homework and research customer preferences before attending the show.

3. Consider Seasonal Timing

Fashion is always one step ahead, so it’s crucial to understand the buying seasons and plan accordingly. Keep in mind that items purchased for future seasons will require time for manufacturing and shipping. Delivery dates can range from a few weeks to a couple of months.

Typically, the women’s wear market is divided into 4-6 seasons:

  • Spring I: Sold from August to October. Delivered in January, February, and March.
  • Spring II: Sold from October to January. Delivered in March, April, and May.
  • Fall I: Sold from the end of January to March. Delivered in July and August.
  • Fall II: Sold from March to April. Delivered in September.
  • Holiday: Sold from May to June. Delivered in October.

If you’re looking for apparel for the current season, most vendors will offer “Immediates.” These are in-season products that can be shipped immediately and are ideal for filling out or replenishing your current inventory.

4. Minimum Order Quantity

Before falling for any clothing items, discuss the minimum order quantity with the vendor. Many vendors require a certain minimum quantity to make a purchase, defined as a dollar amount or a specific number of clothing packs. Ensure that the minimum order aligns with your budget to avoid disappointments.

5. Cash & Carry

When making purchases, most transactions will be charged to your credit card and shipped at a later date. However, some tradeshows offer a cash and carry section where you can pay for items immediately and carry them with you. Cash and carry booths eliminate the need for shipping arrangements and require cash payment. Consider this option if it aligns with your needs.

6. Plan Your Schedule

Tradeshows often feature panels and events that provide opportunities for learning and networking. Check the show’s website to identify event schedules and plan your days accordingly.

Starting your days early is highly recommended, as it will allow you to visit a lot of booths before the peak hours start. It will also give you plenty of time to explore all areas of the show rather than not visiting some areas due to crowding.

7. Essentials to Bring

To ensure a smooth and organized experience on your tradeshow visit, consider bringing the following tools:

Business Contact Cards

Vendors will need your information when placing an order. Having business cards on hand expedites the process. If you have a separate warehouse address, make sure to reflect that on the card. Don’t forget to collect vendors’ business cards to maintain ongoing communication.


It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the information and tradeshows. To prevent that, record inventory arrival dates and important notes while you’re at booths, whether it’s on a notepad, tablet, or your phone. Recording all such information will help you stay organized and keep track of vendors, booth numbers, and event times.

Camera Phone

Take snapshots of your purchased items as the invoice may not include photographs. This will help you remember and track orders when the inventory arrives. You can even tag photos on your phone by default or using apps to keep things tidy and easy.

Comfortable Clothing

Remember to wear comfortable clothes and shoes as you’ll be walking long distances throughout the show over the course of potentially many days. Prioritize comfort over high fashion to avoid pain and discomfort.

Making the Most of Apparel Tradeshows

Attending apparel shows requires setting specific goals, understanding your target customers, analyzing sales data, and purchasing according to seasonal timelines. Additionally, organizing your schedule, bringing essential tools, and maintaining a budget will contribute to a successful and enjoyable shopping experience. With careful planning and a strategic approach, you can make the most of your time and resources at tradeshows so you can return to a great selling experience across your retail channels.


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