Brick + Mortar Q + A: Will anyone find me at NSS?

I love writing this Brick + Mortar column. Your responses are a highlight each month. Often the best conversations emerge in the comments section or via email after a post. Though I love talking through your questions one-on-on, I dreamed up this spin-off Q + A column because many of you had similar questions and I thought it would be fun and helpful to answer them in this format. (For those of you who have more extensive questions about your own line, I’ve also devoted a bit of time each month to one-on-one consulting.) Please submit any questions you have to me at [email protected]. Thank you so much for trusting me to be a part of your businesses. I can’t wait to hear from you and I hope you love this column as it evolves! –Emily of Clementine

Hello Brick + Mortar by Emily McDowell Illustration for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Illustration by Emily McDowell for Oh So Beautiful Paper

Hi Emily!

I finally took the bullet and applied for National Stationery Show. But when I got my booth number, I freaked out that it was really far back and that no one would go to that section. I was curious if you could let me know if you walked that far back (near the supply side), or perhaps I could try to apply for the ‘fresh’ section? 

I attached the NSS floor plan with my booth circled in pink so you can see my spot. Thank you SO MUCH for your help!

I hope you have a gloriously lovely day!

– Jenipher 


Dear Glorious Jenipher,

Congratulations! Applying to NSS is a huge, exciting step for a new line.

The great thing about trade shows is that there are literally endless things to freak out about. I truly wouldn’t worry about your location, especially for your first show. Location does matter, but most spots have pros and cons. NSS is a manageable size for retailers to walk. So rather than get into the potential pros/cons of your spotwhich I think is pretty decent, by the way – it’s in the 2200s and not too far out (Ed Note: You do have the option of requesting a new booth number from your NSS rep if you’re really really concerned, but yeah, the 2200 aisle is a great location. You’ll be in great company. –Nole), let’s focus on what you can do to make it a great spot for you.

  1. Target your retailers in advance. Make yourself a destination for them at NSS. Make a list of your existing and ideal retailers. Make sure you personalize your mailers to them and consider a show special or incentive to encourage them to visit. This is also a great year to create a memorable mailer – a little buzz can go a long way to get retailers to visit (more on that in a later post!)
  2. Design an eye-catching booth. Dream big, sketch, brainstorm, look through old OSBP posts about NSS. Do it now! As you get closer, you’ll be knee deep in the nitty-gritty work of actually building your booth. If you don’t plan your design in advance, you may be too tired to give it the energy and it needs. I walk up and down almost all of the rows, but sometimes it’s just a quick sweep (an internal no, no, no, yes!) waiting for a booth to pull me in. So you could be right in the heart of the action, but if you don’t stand out, retailers will pass you by.
  3. Build your social media community. Start focusing on other stationery makers and retailers now. Check in with the NSS2015 hashtag to see how others are preparing. Give sneak peeks. Talk to retailers and your colleagues. Find them on Instagram now and start conversations. One of the best parts of NSS is the community you build that carries you through from one show to another. I think it will help ease some of the fears to go in feeling like you’re part of it.

A note about the Fresh section. I do think it’s a great thing to apply for in your first show, because:

  1. There are retailers who will check out that section just because they are interested; and
  2. You meet your peers, many of whom are sharing many of the same experiences. It’s exciting to grow together and maintain those friendships.

However, wherever you are, especially in your first year, your job is to draw retailers in and look fabulous when they get to you. You can focus on that no matter your location. See you in three months!

x + o! Emily

  1. love this – thank you so much for all of your wise information Emily! Hope to see you in my first booth! #nss2015 or bust

  2. I really enjoy your column on here Emily, so thank you for taking the time each month. Also, I just checked out your website and saw your shop for the first time – looks amazing!

  3. Hi Emily, this is perfect timing as I’m exhibiting for the first time (not at NSS. I wish I could justify the cost. One day!) Thank you so much for supporting newbies. I’m exhibiting at the One of a Kind Show in Toronto for the first time. Your tips are so helpful. I’ve been working on my table display since December. I have a question for you. When displaying greeting cards on a table, do you prefer using a multi tier Acrylic stand or a revolving pocket rack? Thanks!

    • Lisa, I think it’s great to start out anywhere – and I really think that skipping NSS is a very smart choice for many. I would also highly recommend walking NSS first. I think it’s about $300 to do so, but so worthwhile to give you a real sense of the space. And certainly, doing other shows first is always smart. For your question – It’s hard to answer your question without seeing the specific set up, but one thing I would think about is creating a space where more than one person can see your cards. This may mean a mini-revolving rack on one side of a table and a tiered display in another section. I think its a great idea to do a test run and ask a few friends to come into the booth to see what feels comfortable. Have a great show!

  4. Such a great post, thank you! I am looking forward to also being in the #fresh section at my first NSS this year!

    • Emily, Congratulations! I hope you have a wonderful first show, I’m really excited to see what the Fresh section has this year.

  5. I’ve benefitted from your monthly articles and appreciate the time you take to write them and for all the advice. Last year was my first NSS show I recommend that everyone participate in the free webinars available through the NSS. They really helped prepare me. I’m taking them again this year just to make sure I don’t miss anything.

    • Thank you Kim! That’s great advice too, there are some wonderful resources out there and sharing the good ones is the way to go!

    • Kim,

      I completely agree!! I did them last year and started them again this year! I’m also doing Tradeshow Bootcamp’s Webinars as well. I’ve only heard great things!! What’s your booth number this year? I’m in 1454.

      Kim!! (I just clicked on your link!!) Paper Bandit Press!! We were so close last year, but never got to meet in person. Love your work!! Hope to meet you face to face this year. Glad you’re doing the show again!!


  6. Oh I’m feeling you Jenipher! I’m also a NSS 2015 first time exhibitor! Yikkes. These posts are great Emily – Thank you for supporting those of us just out of the stationery gate! I’m booth #1452 Jenipher come look me up – I’m gonna try finding you to say HI! Hope to see you and your wares super soooon!. Well in 3 months but hey that feels very soon with all this detailed driven organization to do right?! PHEW. GOOD LUCK! Caz x

  7. Emily –
    Thank you so much for taking the time to write these columns. They are so refreshing!! The pre-show mailer is my focus this year!! Narrowing in on the stores that fit with my cards the best!!

    Love following you on Instagram. Your snow is beautiful, but I do hope it starts feeling like spring soon!!


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