Finding distributors for your waresAugust 18, 2008: 10:16 AM ET
Trade shows and industry magazines are fertile sources of contact information for distributors specializing in your field.
Phyllis Erickson, Baltimore
What are the best resources for finding a distributor that specializes in a particular retail area - i.e. sports apparel, running apparel or biking apparel?
By Myrlande Davermann, Fortune Small Business contributor
Dear Phyllis: "Since distributors primarily operate in business-to-business circles, the best way to find and meet distributors is through trade channels," says Andy Tompkins, health and fitness business group show director for Action Sports Retailer, which operates an annual sports-industry trade show.
ASR's annual show draws distributors from 40 countries looking for new products to add to their lineups. If you want to know what kinds of distributors will be attending a given show, get in touch with the show's organizers: they'll often be happy to share contact information, Tompkins says.
Gary Vasconi, president and cofounder of cycling apparel distributor Upland Sports Group, Inc., says that he and his partner started out by going to trade shows to get a feel for the industry. It took Vasconi nine months to development the business plan for his company; attending trade shows along the way was helpful because he could meet with vendors and discuss his evolving plans.
One worthwhile show Vasconi recommends is Interbike, usually is held in September. This year, it will take place in Las Vegas, Sept. 24-26. Another major draw for the industry is the Outdoor Retailer Trade Show, which is held in Salt Lake City twice a year, once in the winter and once in summer. There, all types of athletic apparel and equipment companies are represented, Vasconi says.
If your budget doesn't stretch far enough to cover travel and attendance fees for shows, check out recent issues of trade magazines for your industry, Tompkins recommends. They typically include both ads and editorial mentions of distributors.
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