Trade Show Life: ANNA new york by RabLabs

Mandy Movahhed
March 5, 2015

Since its launch in 2002 by designer Anna Rabinowicz, luxury tabletop accessories brand ANNA new york by RabLabs has taken off with no signs of slowing down. The company creates hand-crafted home accessories with natural materials like semiprecious stones, silver, and gold, and their products have been featured in top publications and retailers around the country. RabLabs Client Relations Manager Janelle Shufelt sat down with us recently to talk about the company’s meteoric rise. Read on to find out where the company’s going next, and how they’ve used sales order management software to change the way they work at trade shows.

RabLabs on Sales Order Management Software at Trade Shows

HS: How did RabLabs get started?

JS: The company was started 13 years ago with the agate coasters, which are still the backbone of the line. It began as a very simple product, using stones in a beautiful, simple way, and it’s grown in every direction from there.

HS: Can you tell us more about your products and who you’re selling to?

JS: We consider ourselves a tabletop accessories company--producing really fun items you can pair with your plates and silverware to make your table special. That’s our niche in the home world. Additionally, we’re branching out into stationary, as well as furniture, with wild success. I guess you could say that we now occupy the luxury accessory space. We work with some of the world’s biggest retailers--Bergdorf’s, Saks, Bloomingdale’s, and Neiman Marcus, just to name a few. We’re also expanding overseas...we just showed at Maison & Objet in Paris and were very well received there.

HS: What was your biggest sales challenge at trade shows?

JS: I’m the perfect person to speak with about that, because it was me carrying home all those paper orders! NYNow was our first trade show. We basically printed out copies of our price list, and checked off what each buyer wanted on that price list. After the show, I would carry those orders onto the plane. We were terrified that if my luggage got lost, all our orders would be gone. Then I would come home and enter everything into Quickbooks. It would take forever--up to a month--because in addition to that, I had to juggle all the other responsibilities I had and calls we got from people who weren’t at the show. I did that twice a year for three years.

HS: How did you finally make the decision to change the way you did things, and how did you go about investigating solutions?

JS: At every trade show, we’d talk about how terrible our system was, and how we needed something better. So it was two years ago that I started investigating digital systems. We tried accessing QuickBooks online on our iPads, as well as another third party app to access QuickBooks on our iPads, but neither of those systems worked out.

HS: What were the problems there?

JS: Our QuickBooks system runs on a remote server, so that was one thing that prevented full connection through these apps. But it was also glacially slow, and it required there to be an Internet connection, which is always spotty at trade shows.

HS: So now you’re using a sales order management solution. How’s it going? How does this software help you at trade shows?

JS: The biggest benefits are probably cutting down the submission time lag, and the fact that we no longer have to spend time reentering orders into Quickbooks. Our biggest bulk of business is done in Q4 with the holiday season. So coming off of the Gift show in August, it was a really big problem to have that time lag going into our busiest time of year. Clients were calling for copies of their orders because it took so long for us to re-enter them. We would then have to really manage expectations in terms of shipping time. Now that we’re using this speedy digital solution, it has allowed us a flexibility never possible before. In one particular instance this January, we had a situation when our manufacturers down in Brazil were late sending us samples. They arrived just a couple days before the show, but we were still able to photograph them and upload them to the digital catalog. We could now make this sort of on-the-fly change, and those particular new products ended up being very successful at the show. In the past, we would have had to handwrite that particular new product onto the price list, and I don’t know that many buyers would have paid attention to it.

HS: Are there any particular features that have changed the way you operate at trade shows?

JS: Another big advantage to the new system is in the reports it can run. In the past, we never really knew the total of what a show brought in, nor did we know how many of a single item was sold until a month or two after. With this app, we can now run reports to see which products were selling as each day passed. Having that real-time information was huge. We could then order more product from the manufacturer based on what our clients were ordering, and do so much faster and much more easily.   Thanks Janelle, for sharing your trade show experiences with us! For more Trade Show Life stories, check out our profiles on beauty brand Swoon and fashion accessories brand Montserat de Lucca. Questions about sales order management software? Let us know in the comments!