Thursday, 25 August 2011

Liberty open call to meet new designers

This week I blogged for Noisette Marketing  about the Liberty open call to meet new designers.  Thought I'd share the post here too.  Isa has done a lovely job with the pictures I sent her.  Hope you like them as Sunday I will be posting about  fun day out with Darren a photographer who had me on the pavement!  Holding down cards I should add before anyone makes any smart comments!

If you read my tweets you may know that I went to the Liberty open call a week early! So excited was I to have the opportunity to show the buyers my range of greeting cards that I went along to Regent Street a whole week early, but better than a week late! Preparing for the pitch was quite difficult, as I had no idea what to expect. The open calls are happening again in 2012 so I hope my little summary of the day will be helpful to anyone thinking of signing up for the next one.

The first thing to note is you have to sign up to attend the open day so look out for details on the Liberty website or sign up for their tweets.
On the day.
I got to Great Marlborough Street around 11.00 am and was surprised not to see the queue spilling out into the street. The queue, it appeared, snaked up the many flights of stairs, each step hosting a designer clutching a very large bag of precious cargo. I got chatting to a couple of ladies as I settled myself in for the wait – one had got up at 4.00 am to take the coach to London to take part with her handmade book of tapestries and another had brought her handmade bowls from Clapham. Everyone in the queue had something that would be perfect for Liberty! The buyer’s task of the day was not going to be easy.

An unexpected call for stationery and I bade farewell to my companions and went to the waiting area at the top of the store where I was signed in and sat with around 50 other hopefuls to await my turn. Sitting in the exhibition area I kept going over my three-minute pitch and checking my notes so I didn’t forget anything. About an hour later the ladies I’d been chatting to were also sat with me and we all patiently waited to be called into the big room where the meetings were taking place.
My turn.
I think I left my nerves at home, or maybe it was all out of my system the week before because I wasn’t at all nervous when it was my turn to meet the buyers. The hall was set with five sets of trestle tables with two buyers meeting each of the designers.
The pitch.
The pitch itself was much more informal than I was expecting. But I thought it best to stick to my presentation, showing the cards, explaining how they are designed and sharing the trade prices. We talked though my design process and the buyers really liked them and seemed genuinely disappointed that they weren’t inviting me back for a meeting to talk about an order. They explained that with over 600 lines of stationery the competition is fierce. What they did say is that they would come and see me at the trade show I’m exhibiting at in September.
Evaluating the experience.
So even though I got a ‘no’ the whole experience was totally worthwhile. I can deliver my three minute pitch any-time any-where now I’ve had to do it for real. I have a specially designed presentation folder than I can use over and over again. I have got some really good insight into what a buyer of a large store will want to know when I do my first trade show and if you’re wondering if I’ll do it again – definitely – see you there!

Top 4 tips for attending an open call:

Be prepared. Make sure you know when and where it will be, what they are looking for and how they want you to apply.

Research! Make sure you do your research on the store to make sure your products are suitable. You don’t want to waste their time or yours by arriving with products that won’t fit into their look.

Write and memorise a 3 minute pitch to help you succinctly describe what you do, how you do it and why they should stock your items in their store.

Make sure you know your margins and wholesale terms inside out. They will want you to know these off the top of your head so make sure you do.

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