Mini-Market Keeps Things Moving

Carole Sloan, August 8, 2005

Twas an interesting week last week.

The powers that be called it a “Mini-Market” — an event or non-event, depending on your point of view that has been on or off the calendar for years. And there are those in the camp that believes that markets are business dinosaurs — not necessary, serve no purpose and cost money.

This time around, the Mini-Market was a dress rehearsal of sorts for the new timing of market — the “real” market that will begin next August.

Obviously, the crowds were non-existent — and that's why it's called a Mini-Market. Talking with one major supplier early on, he greeted me with “Where are the buyers?” He had but two appointments thus far.

After an hour or so of chat, this supplier changed his mind about the benefits of this kind of a get-together. And talking with him later last week, his enthusiasm for the week was on a high level. He and his customers had time to talk about issues and opportunities broader than the buying and selling of a specific product or category. Each of the 20-some customers who visited his showroom had time to look, to talk, to discuss their company's challenges, plans and how he could participate in their future.

It's a fact of life that market week as it is structured is a time-starved activity, but it serves a purpose beyond just seeing new stuff and arguing about price and confinements. Schlepping the rags out to Minneapolis, Plano, Hoffman Estates or Bentonville — or wherever — really doesn't do justice to either the efforts of the supplier's design team nor to the retailer looking at the stuff in its abbreviated format.

And the time frame allocated to suppliers under those restraints also allows little time for real conversations about the business — not just the new products — but the many issues facing business today from offshore sourcing, to new retailing formats, to how to communicate with a more sophisticated consumer — and many others.

As my supplier friend remarked at the week's end, it was about relationships — a critical piece of the buyer/seller formula that often is overlooked. It's this piece of the buyer-seller interchange that cannot be replaced by eliminating a market week.

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