Showing Up to Level Up: Why Going to Retail Shows is a 2024 Imperative

Jan 30, 2024

5 min read


We’re all living in the same world, so no one is immune to how quickly things are changing. We’re balancing brick and mortar mandatories with the need for digital fluidity, all while dealing with economic schizophrenia, supply chain woes and the need for more compelling customer connections.

Yes, we are all store owners and suppliers, but we are also online shoppers and virtual connectors and collaborators. Thanks to COVID, it’s become really, really easy to lean back and manage business from behind a screen. Sitting here finagling the first quarter of 2024, I want implore you to revisit the power of in-person interactions. Now, more than ever, all of us in Retail must remind ourselves why showing up at industry events and trade shows is 100% critical for navigating our future.

Taking it Back to the Floor

Over the past decade, we’ve witnessed a shift towards digitalization in almost every industry, including ours. Online shopping and virtual connections have taken center stage, and for a while, it seemed like in-person events were becoming relics of the past. But guess what? They’re making a comeback and they are now way more than just buyer showcases.

In-person events provide a unique opportunity to convey the ‘why’ behind your Retail brand or service and make invaluable human connections. When you physically attend at a trade show or industry event, you’re not just showcasing your products–you’re sharing your passion, values, and the story behind your business, while also making friends and creating the space for mutually beneficial strategic conversations.

 It’s Not Just for Buyers Anymore

Historically, industry events were viewed as the place for buyers to connect with suppliers, discover new products, and negotiate deals. Yep, that’s still true…and there’s nothing like seeing someone’s wares in person. However, the landscape has evolved. It’s no longer just about buyers–it’s about everyone involved in the Retail industry ecosystem coming together to ensure our industry stays on solid ground.

I love Gary Vaynerchuk for his no BS observations, one of the best being core to this topic: “It’s not about how many transactions you can close; it’s about how many relationships you can build.”

It’s true, but even more so with small business retail. We navigate many unique challenges and opportunities but, unlike the big guys, we are nimble and able to pivot quickly to hit them head on.

Elevating the Retail Ecosystem, Together

In-person events indeed foster relationships across all of us–manufacturers, retailers, distributors, and suppliers–while talking about the latest trends, issues, insights, and tactics. Peeling back the pitches, however, it goes deeper. Here’s how.

  1. Iron Sharpens Iron: When you come to one of our industry events, you’re not just there hawk your wares; you’re there to engage with peers, competitors, and industry experts. It’s a melting pot of knowledge and from-the-trenches experiences waiting to be tapped into. We engage in conversations, attend seminars, and network with people from different corners of the Retail world and share our successes and failures, all the while gathering fresh perspectives on similarly shared challenges.
  1. Wide-Reaching Networking Opportunities: Shows offer a diverse and extensive network of industry professionals, including manufacturers, retailers, distributors, and suppliers. This means you get to feel folks out for meaningful connections, potential collaborations and those unexpected conversations that so often become long-lasting relationships. Even better, you can check the creds of any new, intriguing contacts in real time with people that you already know and trust.
  2. Open Exchange of Ideas: Trade shows encourage the exchange of ideas, experiences, and best practices, especially with the sticky stuff like customer experience, merchandising planning, privacy, staffing and staying ahead of changing cultural norms to our unfair advantage.
  3. Human Interaction in the Digital Age: In a world increasingly dominated by automation and AI, the value of a genuine human moment cannot be overstated. Face-to-face conversations, handshakes, hugs, war stories and ‘winning plays’ all become shared experiences that create a personal, meaningful, and sometimes lifetime connections that online just can’t deliver.
  4. Unanticipated Conversations: Some of the most valuable interactions at trade shows happen spontaneously in the form of unexpected sidebar introductions during the event or informal discussions over cocktails. Kismet or Karma, these unplanned encounters often lead to valuable insights, new product finds and powerful (even if unlikely) partnerships.
  5. Experiencing Products Firsthand: While digital presentations and catalogs have their place, there’s nothing like seeing a supplier’s products in person. Our shows allow us to get a firsthand look at new products, people and services, which can be a game-changer in making the right decisions in a year burdened with a rocky economy.

It’s Time to Show Up

You may wonder why a CEO of a tech company is hitting this topic up so hard, so let me be clear. There are some things that tech can’t replace, and when it comes to shows, you’ve got to do it in 3D. We support many of the top retail brands in North America, and we work deep inside of their trenches, so we hear all about their highs, lows, challenges and opportunities. We see what happens when they commiserate and collaborate, and we want that happening on a much grander scale. You know the saying, “all boats rise?” It’s spot on.

Please, don’t underestimate the power of in-person moments. Remember, iron sharpens iron, and the collaborative potential of our industry gatherings is waiting for you. So, get out there!


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