National Stationery Show FAQ, Part 1


Editor's Note: For those of you wanting to create your own paper goods company, I’m now teaching an online course called Stationery Business 101: Starting Strong The National Stationery Show FAQ, Part 1

Trade shows can be overwhelming. The first time Kirk and I took Sycamore Street Press to the National Stationery Show, I'd only been out of school for a year and a half, and Kirk was actually still in school! We had little retail experience, little wholesale experience, and very little business experience period. And somehow we survived. Not only that, but we did well enough to consider it worth our while to return the following year.

Now we're old pros (ha ha) and we're coming up on our fifth time exhibiting at the NSS. A few of my paper peeps have been asking me for advice about the show, so I thought I'd post them here for everyone's benefit. If any of you have something to add, please chime in down below! These are just my opinions -- I'm sure there are many ways of doing things. If there's something you're curious about that I haven't covered, let me know. I'll be doing a part 2 soon! - Eva

Q: How much is it going to cost me to do the show?

A: This number can vary wildly! You will need to do a lot of research to see how much you can afford and how you will budget everything. But a good rule of thumb for a small company exhibiting in a single 10 x 10 foot booth is to plan on spending around $10,000. This includes the booth, electrical, displays, catalogs, travel, etc... everything related to doing the show. It does NOT include the product itself. Like I said, though, this can vary quite a bit. Our first year, we were able to drive to the show, and take all of our products and display in our car (instead of having to ship it with a freight company). We also stayed with friends instead of getting a hotel room... so we probably did it for about $5000 that year.

6 more Q&A's to help you figure out the National Stationery Show after the jump!

Q: I was reading in the set-up manual that everything in the booth has to be flame-resistant - from the walls, etc. Does that mean that, for example, the table, chairs, lamps, FLOR carpet tiles, any sort of paper displays (I had been planning to make huge paper collage cut-outs of my designs, either from paper or foamboard) have to be treated with flame-retardants? The manual recommended some outside companies as well as their own flameproofing services in the Javits Center. I was wondering what your experience was with this - do you have a company you would recommend?

A: The only time we had to worry about flameproofing was when we hung curtains. But I heard a way that someone got around that... just offer up the curtains (or whatever the item you're concerned about) for sale. Because products don't have to be flameproofed. I haven't tried this workaround myself, though... do so at your own risk. I've seen other companies use big paper flowers and things like that without a problem. But I also saw a company make a booth out of cardboard, and then have to tear it all down the day before because it was deemed a fire hazard. If you want to be on the safe side, use hard walls or go through one of the show partners (Manny Stone) to order foam core walls.

Q: I was also wondering how important it is to have a professionally printed catalog. We use for postcard printing and they do catalogs, too - but the lowest rate is $3000 for an 8.5x11 in catalog! Do you think store owners would frown at a copy-shop printed catalog that's been spiral-bound? I asked one of my store owners and she said our catalog was fine, even on the more professional end, and showed me someone else's catalog that had been copy-shop printed and stapled...but I thought it might be good to get a second opinion. 

A: Simple is fine, especially your first time. We get our catalog printed with a local commercial (offset/digital) printshop and it's actually less expensive (for the amount we're doing) than a copy shop. It's definitely not $3000.

Q: How many items should I have in my line? 

A: When I first started Sycamore Street Press in the fall of 2007, I was working at a fantastic paper boutique called On Paper in Columbus, Ohio. Joan, the owner, told me that I should have a selection of at least 30 cards. Less than that, and buyers are going to feel like there's not enough to choose from. Recently, I asked Dan Collier of the Daniel*Richards rep group what he recommended. He said somewhere around 100 - 120 is a good amount of cards to have in a line. Less than that feels like there aren't enough options. More than that and it starts to feel unwieldy. Now of course, these numbers are only referring to cards. There used to be a lot of companies who would have a booth full of only greeting cards and nothing else. I feel like this is changing, though. Most paper companies from small indie makers to large corporations seem to be showing a variety of paper products in their booths. Some are branching out into categories beyond paper, too. This leads to the next question...

Q: What types of products are popular / should I bring? 

A: Emily of Clementine, writes a very informative column for Oh So Beautiful Paper. She devoted a whole post to this recently. A hint: flat things sell!

Q: How you display different lines? Do you display the lines separately, or do you divide them by occasion (birthday, holiday, etc...) with different lines mixed together? I'm asking because my mom also has a line, and I also have linocut and hand-drawn designs in addition to collage, so I'm not sure if I should display them separately or not.

A: There's not one right answer to this. Ultimately, I prefer to display collections together, because it has a stronger visual impact. But then you can have a box of samples where they are grouped according to occasion, if buyers are interested in seeing them organized that way. (It helps for them to have a place to sit and flip through the cards, if you go that route.)

Q: What's this about the stationery show changing its name?

A: The National Stationery Show recently changed ownership. It also combined with two other shows: Gift>It and Creative & Lifestyle Arts. These three shows together are now called the Signature Mix Marketplace. (I know, it's confusing.... and new ownership is also behind the new name for the NY Gift Show: NY Now.)


Stay tuned for the National Stationery Show FAQ, Part 2...