Hello Brick & Mortar: How to catch a Retailer’s Eye at NSS

For those prepping for NSS, I know you’re elbow deep in painting your booth and not sleeping. This post is not intended to add to your list of to-dos. It is meant to 1) put the finishing touches on what you’ve already done and 2) have a task ready when someone asks how they can help. รขโ‚ฌโ€œ Emily of Clementine


Illustration by Emily McDowell for Oh So Beautiful Paper

1. Pre-Show:

  • Send a pre-show email. If you have an hour/an intern, send a reminder email to retailers: Include a sneak peak and remind us of any show specials. This is also a great way to encourage orders from retailers who aren’t attending.
  • Document your process and #hashtag it: Photos of booth building and sneak peeks are my amuse bouche on instagram these days. They’re low-effort but can put you on retailer radars quickly. {side note: what hashtags are we using? #stationeryshow, #nss, #nss2014? Let’s agree on one and put it in letterpress}.
  • Put your booth number in your social media profiles. Now.

2. Your Booth: It looks great already, this is just a final checklist from a retailer’s view.

  • Flowers and candy. Flowers draw people in, candy brings them closer (so put it further back). I don’t want to give you another task, I want to give it to your kind friend/partner who asks what they can do to when you’re overwhelmed.

NSSwildinkboothflowersWild Ink Press 2013 booth. Who can resist those peonies? Photo via Wild Ink Press


Parrott Design Studio and Letter & Lark made their booth feel like home with hanging succulents and potted plants. Via Letter & Lark


Rifle Paper Co. has mastered the art of floral and paper mixing. Photo via Oh So Beautiful Paper from Winter NYIGF 2012

  • Make your social media handles visible. Last year I took several photos of booths and cards, but the vendor was engaged in a conversation and I couldn’t properly credit them. You can solve that easily, like so:


Farewell Paperie 2013 booth, with their @farewellpaperie easy to find. Photo via Farewell Paperie

  • Make sure your booth number is visible. Can you see it from every angle (or at least 2)? I once spent 20 minutes and 3 trips down the same isle trying to find a booth that I swear just didn’t exist.
  • Your Business Cards, plus. Make sure a retailer can quickly see your business name, your social media handles and your show specials, even if you’re in the middle of an order with someone else. A stack of business cards may be enough, but I’d suggest a simple table tent card (with large font) visible to someone who is hovering in the aisle. That can encourage a retailer walking by to stay, come back, and/or to credit you if she takes an instagram shot of your booth.
  • Bring a bit of your studio into your booth. An Open Sketchbook took this to new levels with their 2013 booth, but you can give retailers a glimpse into your work with just a few well styled tools.


Yellow Owl Workshop 2013 booth. Photo via The Sweetest Occasion

3. You:

  • Smile. So simple, right? Just like a thank you note, it makes a big difference and can invite a hesitant retailer in to your booth.
  • Hand out your card. It can be awkward to ask retailers for their cards over and over. I find that when someone hands me a card, my reflex is to hand one back. So rather than asking constantly, be ready to give yours.
  • Relationship building. If a retailer places an order, this is a great time to ask a few questions that will help clarify and strengthen your relationship going forward. I addressed what to ask in this post. Even if you don’t get an order, this is a great opportunity to connect. Don’t be afraid to ask retailers what they’re drawn to in your line, and consider suggesting your ‘must see’ booths in the show. (You know, what goes around, comes around.)

4. Your Promos & Swag. Don’t stress about this in the final week. Use this list to help winnow what you bring; to divvy up last minute tasks; and to remind you of that drawer of leftover goodies.

  • It’s only happening this week: Show specials are great because you could decide to run one at the last minute. I suggest promos that encourage retailers to buy more (ie, free shipping or an extra set of cards for all orders over $200 rather than just free shipping on all orders.)
  • It’s useful: I still have my These Are Things tote, which I needed after one day of catalog gathering. The floral magnets from Sycamore Street Press are still on my fridge. I also thought the suitcase tags from 9th Letter Press were a great mix of super cute and functional. These things were all useful and I think of each company each time I see them. (Which reminds me, this is a great read pre-show).


9th Letterpress 2013 luggage tag giveaway. Photo via 9th Letterpress

  • It’s crafty. Albertine Press postards are one of my favorite giveaways: trimmed from prior year calendars (brilliant), they made great promos. You* (aka your intern/devoted friends) could repurpose deadstock cards or material trimmings to make bookmarks/ornaments/garlands/something else Pinterest makes you think is a good idea.
  • It makes you memorable. There’s a reason you are going to NSS. Ladyfingers Letterpress offered hand lettering demos that were such a hit and a true treat, different from the normal retailer/vendor interaction. It was also uniquely them. Whether you’re a great hugger, or a phenomenal hand-letterer, you’re at NSS for a reason. Remember your youness. And, Bring It. 


Ladyfingers Letterpress amazing hand lettering demos at NSS 2013. Photo via Ladyfingers Letterpress

5. Post Show.

  • Send a follow-up note to key retailers: Namely those who made orders and those you want to make orders. I know, I’m cringing at giving you this suggestion when you are already so busy, but this is often the touch that gets the order. If you’re really on the ball you could bring a stack of cards to the show (if you have any lying around), as you take a retailer’s business card, clip it to one of your cards, et voila! A ready to write/mail stack when you return.
  • Celebrate!

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Pistachio Press & Blackbird Letterpress with, arguably, the best instagram photo of 2013

See you soon! (Now, get some sleep…)

  1. All great advice, thank you, Emily! I especially like the idea of attaching the business card to a thank you card – clever and efficient. Hope to see you at the show!

    • Cyn,
      Thank you and thank you for the sweet note! I wish I’d thought to do something like this at my baby shower. Alas, I hope it’s helpful to all of you vendors! xo

    • Emily, it’s always hard to sit out! But I think it’s a great opportunity to stay involved. You can still #nss2014 with what you’re working on and comment on posts. Also, a great time for you to send out an email or note to retailers – I get plenty that say “sorry to miss NSS this year but we want to show you what we’re working on.” Hope to meet you in the future!

  2. Putting my booth number in my social media profiles.. done! and “duh!” Thanks for all the great tips Emily!!

  3. These are all great bits of advice. I’m a retailer and I can’t tell you how many booths don’t have their booth number visible! I create a map of all the places that I specifically need to visit and it makes me so happy to be able to get there easily.

    The candy really does make a difference. It’s win-win. It gets people into the booth, but walking that show for three days is tiring. I know that I REALLY appreciate being able to get a pick-me-up while I’ve visiting and looking.

    I’m really full of admiration for everyone there. There is so much creativity swirling around it’s impressive. I hope everyone has a terrific show and see you there!

    • Caroline, Thank you! I do always hope this advice is in line with what other retailers thing. I completely agree on the the booth # issue. I didn’t want to go into it here since we’re so close, but I’m surprised at how many only have the number on one side….and how many use beautiful (but difficult to read) fonts. Overall though, the creativity is so wonderful, I hope we cross at the show!

  4. Emily—thank you so much for the kind shout-out and for the tips! It will be so helpful to those exhibiting for the first time!

  5. Great post & added a few notes to my already giagantic list!
    YES- Please ladies and gents, let’s all agree on either #NSS or #NSS2014 ๐Ÿ˜‰
    I’ve been using #NSS2014 so I guess I’ll continue and hope I’m in the majority!

  6. The hashtag thing has been driving me crazy. I currently check #NSS and #NSS2014 regularly. I think as we get closer to the show #NSS will get used more.

  7. Just a quick note on the hashtag situation– when I first starting tweeting & instagramming as a somewhat early adopter, using #NSS worked great for indexing images for the show, but as these mediums have grown leaps and bounds, there are quite a few more organizations and events using the same hashtag. Which is why I’ve personally made the shift toward #stationeryshow, on social media. Most of us true paper hounds are likely peruse all of the prospective hashtags regardless! I think the main objective is to avoid folks having to scroll through a gazillion images from the “Nuclear Security Summit, (a real Obama filled NSS hashtag, I might add!) and other unrelated content. Just my two cents on the subject. Excited to see you soon Emily & Nole!

  8. Definitely a marketing fail on the part of The National Stationery Show to not promote a hashtag for their event. I hope to see #NSS2014 used as #NSS is used for a wide variety of events and content on social media. Great Post – thank you!

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