Tips & Tricks for Attending Apparel Shows

shirts on clothing rack

With many floors of fashion, hundreds of vendors, endless opportunities for networking and perfecting your inventory, not much compares to the excitement of tradeshow shopping sprees!

However, what starts as excitement can quickly grow into exhaustion. If you’ve ever attended one, you know what I mean. There’s so much to consider even before you walk through the doors, during the show, and after! Make a plan to avoid burn out (and empty bank accounts). Here’s what you need to know.



As soon as you enter the market floor, you’ll be bombarded by numerous irresistible styles and brands. It’s easy to get excited and start spending recklessly. To avoid this, it is absolutely crucial to form a budget before arrival.

Your budget should consider some of the following:

  • How many seasons are you buying for? What’s the budget for each?
  • Are you buying for a busy or a slow season?
  • How many styles do you need to fill out your inventory? What are you willing to spend on each?
  • What sizes are you looking to buy? Do you need to include spending for Plus sized lines?

There’s no magic number for this. It will vary from boutique to boutique. However, you can have a clear picture of your finances if you use the Open-to-Buy planning method.

If you’ve just launched your boutique, you may not have the necessary data to make the Open-to-Buy calculations. If that’s the case, set a spending limit, know how much you’ll spend on certain pieces, and only pick inventory that is consistent with your brand.

Do not overload yourself with inventory. At this time, you should buy only a small amount of each style of clothing and see how it sells. If it does well, you can then repurchase on the vendor’s website.


To get the most of your time and money, plan to visit the market for multiple days. Use Day 1 to walk the market. Observe what each vendor has to offer both price and style-wise.

I cannot begin to tell you just how helpful this is for planning. You will see lots of similar styles, but they may have different cuts, quality, and price points. Scanning the booths first will help you make better purchasing decisions!

Americas Mart has 12 floors of apparel for retailers to sift through

AmericasMart Atlanta has 12 stories of fashion for retailers to sift through!

Market Research

Knowing what to purchase for your customers want is equally important to your budget.  If you’ve already been selling, it may be obvious what sizes and styles are popular with your customers. If not, just ask! Asking your customers gets them involved. They’ll appreciate the feeling of being heard, and you can appreciate being able to make easy and informed purchasing decisions.

You can also find hard numbers within customer data if you use an inventory management system. Here you can see valuable details about your customers’ spending habits. Discover your store’s best sellers and worst sellers so you can understand what to buy and what to avoid buying. In short, do your homework before you come!

seasonal fashion


Fashion is always ahead. Know the buying seasons and plan accordingly. Keep in mind; the goods bought seasons ahead will need time to be manufactured and shipped. Thus, they have delivery dates that range from a couple of weeks to a couple of months.

Typically the women’s wear market is broken into 4-6 seasons.

Spring I: Sold from end of August – end of October.

Delivered January 30th, February 28th, and March 30th

Spring II: Sold from October – January

Delivered March 30th, April 30th, and May 30th

Fall I: Sold from end of January – March

Delivered July 15th and August 30th

Fall II: Sold from March – April

Delivered September 30th

Holiday: Sold from May – June

Delivered October 15th – October 30th

If you’re looking for apparel for the current season, most vendors will provide Immediates.

Immediates are products that are in season and can be shipped out instantly. These are great for filling out or replenishing the current season’s inventory.

Minimum Order Quantity

Do not fall in love with any clothing until you’ve discussed the minimum order quantity with the vendor. Most will require you to order a certain amount of inventory to make a purchase with them.

The minimum order can either be a dollar amount or a certain amount of clothing packs. You may find that the minimum order is much higher than your budget allows. Avoid the heartbreak by having this discussion sooner rather than later.

Cash & Carry

All purchases will be charged to your credit card when they are ready for shipping unless they were purchased at the Cash and Carry booths.

Cash and Carry is a small portion of a trade show dedicated to inventory you can immediately pay for and carry on your person. There are no shipping arrangements. These items are paid with, you guessed it, cash.


Tradeshows usually have panels and events to learn from and network within. Visit their website to find out when events are occurring so you can plan your days accordingly. I also highly recommend you start your days early. You’ll be spending a lot of time walking to check out all the hundreds of booths. Give yourself time to visit them all!

What To Bring

Business Contact Cards

When placing an order, vendors will need to fill out a number of lines with your information. You can make this process much quicker by having business contact cards on you. It should have all the necessary information for a vendor to reach you. This includes business name, contact name, phone number, shipping address, email address, and website.

If you’re planning on handing out a regular business card, be sure that the contact for shipments is correct, as well as the address. Those with warehouses will need to have a card that has a different address than their brick and mortar.

Don’t forget to get their business cards in exchange. It’s important to keep in touch with vendors.



Inventory arrival dates are going to impact your sales schedule. Write them while you’re at the booth, so you have this information readily available at a glance.

You’ll also want to have a place for notes. When on the hunt for the perfect inventory, you’ll be moving around a lot. You’ll want to note where your favorite vendors are and where you want to come back to after you’re done with your research. Keep track of that cute top, minimum orders, or a vendor you spoke to earlier. Write notes, booth numbers, and event times down to keep your schedule organized.


You will receive an invoice after purchase, but they may not have photographs attached. Since you’ll likely be getting this inventory much later, it helps to take snapshots so you can remember what you ordered. If you have a smartphone, you’re set.


Comfortable Clothing

Wear a comfortable pair of shoes. Trust me on this. You will literally walk miles to check out all of the booths. So while it may be tempting to bust out a cute pair of heels in an event where you network with hundreds of other fashionistas, just don’t. Leave the high fashion outfits for after hours or your feet will suffer dearly.

The Takeaway

Without specific goals, shopping at tradeshows can be stressful, expensive, and ineffective. However, understanding who you’re buying for, analyzing what sells best, and buying for certain seasons will put your goals in focus.

Bringing tools to get your schedule organized, effectively network, and budget can really make a difference as well. Laying the groundwork for your trip will be more than worth it. Once you enter the shopping arena with specific goals and strategy, you can then enjoy a smooth and fun shopping experience.


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