We speak to Le Chameau and Edgar Brothers to find out how they make the most out of their consumer show attendance.
“It may sound strange, but not selling directly at a stand can actually be an advantage.” Surprising words from the CEO of Le Chameau, David Robinson OBE. “It takes the pressure off your audience. If you think about the feeling most people get when they are shopping, particularly in high-end stores, it can be overwhelming. They can feel under pressure to buy, or feel embarrassed about trying things on, or getting a feel for a product.” And getting a feel for the product was what the Le Chameau stand was all about at this year’s Game Fair, held in July at Hatfield House in Hertfordshire, where the company launched its new “Feel Excellence” marketing campaign. Le Chameau, in fact, made a concerted decision not to sell their products at the three-day outdoor event, instead “we had many of our valued retailers nearby, so it was a good chance to give them the trade we might otherwise have had,” David explains. “We invited one of our ‘maître bottiers’ (master bootmakers) who has been working in the Casablanca factory for 30 years to demonstrate how the boots are made, which not only drew the crowds but visibly endorsed that our rubber boots continue to be handcrafted.” Drawing a crowd is one thing, keeping them on your stand so that they really engage with the product is another. Le Chameau’s strategy was simple: “Try them, feel them” with a full size run of a select number of men’s and women’s key styles available to all visitors. “We know that once people have the chance to try on the boots, the desire to purchase has been created.” Interestingly, the tactic of not selling directly also meant that those who already own a pair of Le Chameau boots were drawn to the stand: “They want to come and see what the new styles are, or to comment on their boots – it makes them feel engaged, and that they have a personal connection with the brand. Once you take away the pressure of buying something, people are far less shy about coming to see your products, and you attract a far wider audience.” Giving the customer the chance to ask direct questions is also a benefit, “as is giving them an opportunity to comment or give feedback,” David believes. “And of course it means we have face-to-face contact with our customers, so we learn something about them, too.” Le Chameau prides itself on the authenticity of its product and the technical ingenuity of the designs. “Demonstrating their working nature is a very good way to dispel the myth that these are a premium product merely for show. By picking up the boots, examining them, and seeing them made, people could see and understand that these are hard-wearing and hard-working boots.” The opportunity to see behind the scenes and the website, really emphasises quality, according to David, “And it takes the brand from an aspiration to reality. Once people get a feel for the boots, they are usually sold. They understand the price pitch, the value and the quality, which is something no amount of advertising can do.” Engagement is, of course, key. While Edgar Brothers only exhibits at the British Shooting Show, this is a valuable chance to touch base with the end users of their products, according to managing director Derek Edgar. “For Edgar Brothers, the British Shooting Show is very important, and it is the only consumer show we attend. We’ve chosen that one because it is the one that is the most concentrated shooting show in the country.” Part of having a stand that is not selling products is to know your audience, and to target the show that your end-users are most likely to attend. As a distribution company, rather than a manufacturing company, Edgar Brothers has a huge list of brands that it represents in the UK, “So it means that while you can look up products online, it’s rare to find a large representation of them in any one shop. We have thousands of products that we distribute.” The fact that online buying has increased exponentially does not take away the customer’s desire to get a feel for a product before buying it, and while many of an end-user’s questions can be answered online or on the phone, we are still more trusting of the face-toface contact. “We make sure that when we exhibit at the British Shooting Show, we have plenty of staff on hand who can answer questions on products. We’ve also had some of our suppliers attend, and that can be a great draw to customers, particularly when they are famous. Steve and Jason Hornady, for example, or Paolo Zoli. It’s often those small reassurances that customers want, which is something that you don’t benefit from when buying online,” Derek says. “We do make sure that the stand isn’t overwhelming in terms of products, as that can also be counteractive. However, as we don’t need to carry stock for selling, we can show more products than some of the retailers, without the stand looking too busy. So we take newly launched products, as well as old favourites, the ones that end-users might have heard of but not got a feel for.” Like Le Chameau, for Edgar Brothers the main drive is to engage with end-users, something that Derek values greatly: “It helps us to see what our customers are interested in, what they are likely to be buying and what the trends are in our industry. We can stay ahead of the game by knowing what people want, and attending shows gives us a greater insight to that.” It’s also one of the best sources of feedback, “We always know if something doesn’t work – customers will let us know. But a positive reaction is something that, as a distributor, you don’t always hear, as you are relatively far removed from the end-user. When we are at the show, however, we hear all the good feedback on our products.”