A year of trading at shows, a new challenge - and, one that we have grabbed with both hands.
Despite not being newcomers to the shows and having occasionally traded at the odd Classic Mini show in previous years, this show season has been our first "proper" show season.
And, trading regularly at shows up and down the country, throughout 2014, has resulted in new challenges and presented us with new opportunities.
After making the decision and deciding to trade at regular shows the first thing that we knew we needed was a "proper" shelter. Presenting ourselves in a professional manner is something that we have always prided ourselves with and has always been of upmost importance to us. Our website and Optimise HQ are two examples that reflect the high quality standards that we aim to portray.
As a result, continuing this high level of professionalism into meeting you at the shows, was vitally important to us.
It was important that our new shelter looked good, sold us as a brand and also survived the unpredictable British weather (e.g. MITP 2014 - we survived to tell the tale, did you?).
As a result, we ended up with this, top of the range 6 m x 3 m pop-up shelter from Surf & Turf…
Many of you will already recognise the shelter, as it has been over our heads since IMM in July and at every show since. If you ever see it, come and say hello. One of the things that we have enjoyed most about getting ourselves out to the shows has been meeting the face behind "a name on an order sheet" - we look forward to more of that in the future.
Anyway, what are these new challenges that we have been presented with?
The first of the challenges has been ensuring that we have a stock of products ready to sell at the shows, until this summer we have always made everything to order. This is largely because of the specialist and unique nature of the products and trim that we offer. Quite simply, we offer so many options that it is likely that we will be manufacturing your order especially for you.
This meant that our first challenge was to spend time analysing popular product orders and listening to your feedback from previous shows (regarding the stock that we had with us), to enable us to put together a "popular product show stock list". Thus allowing us to then take a large variety of items to shows - to sell to you there and then, on the day. This "popular product stock list" has continually developed & grown over the summer and will no doubt continue to change more over time.
The next challenge (and by far the largest challenge that we have faced) was to manufacture the stock to take with us:
Since July this has resulted in over 1000 hours of additional work, that we have never needed to fit into our schedules before. And, although it has at times, seemed like an impossible task, numerous late evenings and long weekends have ensured that we got through this challenging period.
Moving forward (to next years shows), we are now in a far better position to deal with these additional hours of manufacturing. Having now built up our show stock (fitting in the initial 300 hours of work was the largest challenge), we are currently working on building a "second stock". This second stock will enable us to replenish our show stock very easily - the idea is to replenish our "show stock" from our "second stock" the day of the show, immediately upon our return to Optimise HQ.
Moving further forward, this "second stock" will also enable us to open a shop (at our Staffordshire HQ premises) and/or offer a click and collect service (through our website) for a number of popular items.
The other major challenge has been the logistical exercise of "doing regular shows". As mentioned above the first logistical obstacle was manufacturing our "show stock". However, this created more logistical problems (within Optimise HQ), simply, where do we keep everything?
Answer, we decided to store everything all together right a the back of the unit. The space was previously unused - so it has become the perfect place to store the show stock. In addition to this, with it being right a the back of the unit, it is perfectly situated for loading everything in and out of the van.
It looks extremely simple piled up neatly in the photo, doesn't it?
Well, ensuring that the show stock fitted within the area was in fact anything but simple. As you can see in the photos there are a number of large wooden boxes and hidden within these specifically designed boxes is the stock of product that we take to the shows. As a result, these boxes needed to work in numerous situations:
Anyway, after a lot of measuring, thought, discussion and even more measuring we ended up with a total of 11 boxes (6 big, 2 medium and 3 small), specifically designed to house the full range of products that we take to shows. As you can see from the photo above, they stack neatly and securely - interlocked with one another.
And, with the show stock completely organised and arranged that brings us on to our final logistical challenge...
All of the planning, organising and work mentioned above has been for one purpose - to ensure that our day at a show runs smoothly, without problems.
From now on, our day will run as follows:
It sounds easy when it is listed like that, but each and every step has now been planned and organised to ensure that it runs perfectly - each step following a plan within military like time windows.
Over the course of this summer there have been times when we have felt that we haven't been at our best - not feeling fresh or ready for the day. This has been because we have spent so much of the buildup to the shows running around like mad men preparing, often working late into the night before a show (either on the stock and/or the planning).
I think you could argue that we have possibly put too much thought, time and effort into the logistics of the shows (to ensure that everything is 110% prepared). But, from our point of view, the easier the build up to the show (the week leading up to it), the quicker we can load the van and then then less stress that is caused setting up (once we arrive at the show), means we are then much fresher for the rest of the day - allowing us to deal with your requests and/or questions far better.
We always knew that trading regularly at shows would be a challenge, but we didn't anticipate that the logistic excise of the "regular" day would need quite as much planning and organising to ensure that the day ran as smoothly. In previous years when we have only done the odd show here and there, we have had the time between shows to manufacturer stock, make slight alterations to the trade stand layout, create new signs and price lists etc.
Now, as we attend shows regularly, we no longer have this luxury between shows. Especially when we always have our usual web orders and bespoke interior work to complete. The planning that has gone into our operation, throughout this summer's show season, will ensure that, moving forward, shows run as smoothly and hassle free as possible.
As touched upon above, if our day runs smoothly, it also results in a better experience for our customers - which, at the end of the day, is what it is about.
We are already looking ahead to Mini Fair at Bingley Hall, Staffordshire, in January - and we look forward to meeting more of you at a show some time soon.
Andy @ Optimise Automotive