Trade show buying secret revealed

By Tony Lam

  • SumoMe

Every year there are many trade shows being held at different cities in U.S. They provide opportunities for buyers to meet new suppliers, source new products, and socialize with current vendors.  You can get really good deals at expos if you are well prepared before you go. I’m going to reveal some buying secrets of how professional buyers get their super deals in the trade shows.


Do your research


If you haven’t been to any trade shows before, it is worthy to spend a trip to a trade show or expo. You can start with the big convention centers within your driving distance. Check out any expos or trade shows that you are interested to visit.  You may focus on the international expos for overseas suppliers who are eager to introduce their products to U.S.  For example, Las Vegas Convention Center is a great place for you to spend a few days, where different kinds of trade shows are held around the year, e.g. national hardware show and NAMM show.

Before trade show


Find out the list of suppliers in the expo you are going to visit. Review their products at their websites and contact them to ask if they have special promotion in the trade show.  Some suppliers will put products on sale only at the trade shows . The price is much better than the catalog or wholesale price. As I learned from the suppliers, they intentionally bring in a super deal to attract new customers as well as get some money to compensate for the rental cost of the booths. Check the price against the market price to see if the profit margin is enough for your business. Get the expo floor map and their booth numbers beforehand. Also, it is no harm to ask for a free guest pass.

You may also check if they are willing to sell the display samples at a discounted price after the trade show. For the suppliers that you are currently buying from, you may ask if they can bring your purchased items for you to pick up at the trade show, just to save freight charge.

 trade show secret revealed

First day of the trade show


Most of international trade shows last for more than one day.  Other than normal samples buying and get supplier’s information, walk around and search for potential booths that you can able to sell their products. Good candidates are the oversea suppliers who are the first time to join the trade show. Do a research on the market price and get ready to negotiate a bulk purchase.  You may initiate a talk with them to show your interest before the professional buyers do.


Last day of the trade show


If the trade show ends on afternoon, some international suppliers may leave early because of the flight schedule or they reserve some time to tour the city. It is a good time to negotiate with them to buy the whole booth of products at a very good price. Yes, I mean all the leftover items,  demo units, and booth displays. In the national hardware trade show, I witnessed a buyer who got a whole booth of power tools worthy of around $20,000 for $1000. These “professional” buyers hunted from booth to booth to get their deals. After the owner accept the deal, they wrapped around the booth with a warning tape and marked as “sold out”.

Actually, some oversea suppliers were happy with the purchase. When I talked to a Chinese supplier who just sold the booth, he was glad that someone had taken care of the leftover so that he could enjoy his extra time at casino. My previous company in Hong Kong too, in order to save the returned freight, sold all the Natuzzi  & Nicoletti displayed sofas at a low price to a U.S. buyer in a furniture show in LA.

Another great experience for me was a food and beverage expo in Les Vegas.  The trade show became crazy two hours before the end. A candy booth owner threw out bags of chips and candies to the crowds.  People were rushing to fetch them.  I could see many happy faces holding bags of free stuff lined up before the booth for giveaway items.  Some were anxiously waiting for booths to “open” to them to get free items. People are rushing to get as much as they can at the last minute. A man claimed to be from a non-profit organization requested the booth owner for donation of displayed items… ….


Are you ready?


Stay to the end of a trade show and observe what the visitors, booth owners, and professional buyers are doing.  I am sure it will be an interesting experience to you. For me, I always remind myself to stay calm and not to be too greedy.  Are you ready to go?  Plan your trip and drive your truck to bring as many as you can.  If you don’t want to drive, you may check out uship. Uship offers better shipping rate for large items than FedEx and UPS.  A lot of auction sites are using uship to ship furniture items or even vehicles.

Category: Product ideas & sourcing

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