My First Market Experience
by Karis Dodd
Hi, I’m Karis, and I’m the marketing and merchandising intern at Viscera. This week I had the opportunity to go to market in Las Vegas and attend trade shows with Ari. I was so excited, and I definitely felt a little bit like a baby deer heading into a den of wolves. Everything was very fast paced, but I really wanted to stop at my favorite brands’ booths to geek out over fall collections and excitedly network with the sales reps! Although there was a little bit of time for that, we stayed very focused. I definitely learned a lot and had a lot of fun too. Here are the top things I learned from my experience:
1. Flat shoes are key. I was told that for my own sanity and in order to not look like the noob that I am, I needed to wear very comfortable walking shoes. This was no joke. I was on my feet for up to 7 hours every day, and while I wasn’t running a marathon, the simple act of walking and even standing gets rather hard on your feet and calves after a couple hours. I did see plenty of people walking around in heels though. I wondered if it was their first time or maybe their hundredth time and at this point it somehow didn’t phase them. Either way, I want to know HOW?
We will get to this water bottle later, but the main focus of this are my chic yet comfortable shoes.
2. Finding American-made stuff is harder than you might think. As you know, Viscera only sells American-made clothing. Therefore, we have to ask right when we get to the booth where the clothes are made in order to not get our hopes up only to be crushed. Seriously, there were some really awesome brands that I fell in love with at first look and hearing that they were made in China was such a bummer. The worst were the brands made in Mexico or Canada. So close, but yet so far. If only we were “Americas” made instead. Still, the joy of finding an interesting collection and hearing “all our pieces are made in America” is a great joy indeed. And we definitely found some amazing labels out of Los Angeles and New York that I am very excited to be carrying!
3. There is so much free stuff. Never will I go to the grocery store with a generic plastic tote again. Each show gives out a tote, which was actually very helpful since, being a noob, I only brought a small purse on my first day. This was not very smart since everyone gives you line sheets printed on full size paper. Duh. The first tote we picked up from the Project show was the main one I used all trip and I was surprised by how cool it was! I was expecting some safeway-grade bags, but I guess that I had never attended a fashion industry event before and therefore did not realize that these people don’t mess around with that. Overall, I walked out with 4 tote bags, all of which were very high quality. I’m going to be working it at Trader Joe’s next week. On top of the totes, we picked up a few samples from beauty companies (one of which was a perfume that I might just order for myself once my sample runs out. The marketing is working!). But the big prize was the free limited edition S’well water bottles that were given out at Project. Granted, we did have to look around quite a bit to find those, and we still aren’t sure if they were supposed to give them to us, but we have them now so there is no turning back.
4. It’s easy to get excited when you find a brand you really like. I was worried that I was embarrassing Ari a little bit with my antics. Every piece I picked up at certain booths elicited a “oh wow, this could be worn as this, this, and this, and this is how I would style it, oh my, I want to take it home with me right now I’m so into it!” Usually this was met with reciprocated excitement from the sales reps since, whether they are actually into the brand or not, they kinda have to be excited about it if they’re going to sell it to you. However, sometimes I would be off in my own world acting like a puppy on its first walk while Ari and the sales rep talked actual business. I like to think that I made the sales rep’s day with my enthusiasm though.
5. You can’t let yourself get carried away or your credit card will be angry. Ok, so this one technically applies a little bit more to Ari than to me since I don’t control the cash flow, but still. After the first day, we wrote notes on some great pieces. However, some of them were at a high price point, and that adds up after a while. The worst part about buying for the store is that you really need to consider your past sales and how much inventory you have (considering actual business things for the business? THE HORRORS!). After coming back from the shows we had to cut back on some cool pieces, but in the end, keeping our budget on point is better for the business and that’s what we’re here for after all.
So many booths! And this is just one of many shows we went to.
6. Even if you don’t find stuff for your store, going to market still allows you to discover new brands to follow for you personal wardrobe. I really fell for some of the brands we saw at the shows, but a lot of them wouldn’t fit with the shop or weren’t American-made. In some cases, Ari and I decided to carry the brand, but not some of the pieces that I was personally eyeing. Still, I discovered some great new designers that I want to follow! It’s really exciting having something unique from an up and coming independent designer in your wardrobe, so finding new brands is something that I enjoy. Sadly, some of things we ended up not getting were because of the high price point. As much as I want to get everything I love when it comes out in fall, I am a college student and am not made of money. Still, a girl can dream, and maybe one day when everyone is talking about that brand I can say “Hey, I heard of them first!”
Texts to my friends from the show (I know a couple of people named Alex, ok?)
7. So these next few things aren’t just about going to market but about going to Vegas in general. One thing I learned is that in this city, it is really hard to tell if people are trying to be weirdly flirty or just trying to do their job. Actually, some people’s job is just to be weirdly flirty (club promoters, I’m lookin at you), so there is an area of overlap. When Ari and I checked into the hotel, the man at the concierge asked if we were hungry. When we answered with a “yes duh, we want food always” he looked at us in this very sly, smooth way and asked “how do you feel about margaritas?” I literally could not tell if he was just trying to get us to go to the hotel’s Mexican place or if he was trying to ask us to go out with him for margs after his shift ended. Normally I would assume the former, but his tone was so flirty! Everyone’s tone is so flirty here. Sales reps would ask us what we were doing after the shows and we couldn’t really tell if they just wanted to network or if they were being weird. The club promoters who would try to get you to the trade show after parties were another beast entirely. “Hey pretty ladies, what are you doing tonight?” on the street normally just screams “catcall, ignore it” to me. But in Vegas, it is actually people’s jobs to ask you this and get you to come to their club (for free of course, because gendered pricing is such a thing). Something about it just felt a little bit grimy, but we managed to hear about a pretty cool event with Wale from one of these people, so can we really complain?
8. Vegas is just confusing in general If you have not been to Vegas, I will tell you now that there is no place like it. Or maybe there is and I just don’t know because I’m under 21 and this isn’t really my scene regardless. We stayed at the Luxor (the pyramid hotel), and the inside felt like we were in some kind of weird beehive-like evil star base straight out of a sci-fi movie. The rooms lined the “walls” of the pyramid, but the center was like a little city. Gambling machines lined the lowest level, and above that were 2 large sit-down restaurants, a food court (Subway or Nathan’s Hotdogs, anyone?), an exhibit of Titanic artifacts (still don’t get this one), two Starbucks, a theatre where Carrot Top apparently has a show, and a weird replica of a city and a Mayan temple. There was also a Chris Angel theatre on the lower level, and we used this to help us find the elevator to our room because it was a very confusing maze otherwise. We actually got lost in the hotel on our way to the pool. We still didn’t find it. We actually gave up. This whole operation has to be a fire hazard. The other hotels are the same way. Each has a casino floor, an obscene amount of indoor restaurants and shops, and a couple theatres. The Venetian is quite literally meant to be a mini city! Driving around outside is basically like driving between weird tiny cities. There it is: the best way to describe Vegas is a big city full of mini cities.
Is this really necessary?
9. All work and no play is a bunch of bull – if you love your job, you can have them both at the same time. I think that the most valuable takeaway from my experience is that I love what I’m doing, and I want to continue doing it. This might have been my first time at market, but I certainly hope that it is not my last. So, see you next time Vegas! Maybe this time just make better maps of your hotels though, ok?
Tote queen out.