Finding your "next big thing" at TRE

With the TRE expo getting underway last night, Thursday and Friday will be tiring days of walking the floor, meeting with vendor and retail partners, and making plans for 2014 and beyond.

One of the most exciting things about TRE is the opportunity to find new products that can set your store apart and surprise or delight your customers. As you consider additions, take a few minutes to nail down the following before finalizing your initial order:

-Will this product add value for my customer? It doesn't need to be a perfect match for every customer, but will be a value add for a least a segment of your customer base? If it doesn't match your current customer base, who is the customer, and is it a customer you can both draw in and serve? If you're pursuing that customer, what else can you offer them?

-Does this product have a place in my store? What role can it play? You could find an awesome product, or an awesome new brand, but if you can't figure out who will buy it, why they'll buy it, and if that person will be in your store, take a step back and do a gut-check. However, don't be afraid to place a bet on something that you believe in, as your customers expect you to bring them the best products, whether they're new or tried-and-true.

-Do you have another product like this in your store? If so, will this product cannibalize sales from that product, or will you achieve incremental sales? Do you need to make adjustments to your inventory or orders of the existing product to bring this in?

-What does a partnership with this vendor look like? If you're considering a new vendor, make sure that both sides understand what is expected, and ensure that both of you can deliver on those expectations. As a retailer, you have a responsibility to represent products in a fair way to customers, merchandise well, and educate your customers. If the product or line will require education of the consumer, explore options for product seeding and staff education to increase their ability to easily convey the benefits of the product to customers.

Have fun! TRE is an opportunity to see the latest and greatest products and brands. Find the products that will set you apart and keep you truly special. Also, don't forget to give props to the vendors that are already great partners for you!