Friday, April 29, 2011

Vera Bradley retail event descends on Charlotte

Nearly 1,500 retailers, customers and employees of bag and accessory-maker Vera Bradley are at the Westin Hotel uptown, for a hybrid trade show, retail symposium and customer appreciation event.

Indiana-based Vera Bradley has been holding these semi-annual events to boost sales by connecting with customers and retailers for about four years. This is the first time they've had their show in Charlotte. The company, which had $366 million in sales last year, has 42 corporate stores  (including one at SouthPark), but sells much of its goods through more than 3,000 retailers.

Friday's events in the Westin's ballroom and conference room offered a glimpse at hands-on, wholesale retailing. Sales reps plied the floor, which was full of Vera Bradley merchandise and complete with mock stores showing the retailer's suggested fixtures and merchandise layouts, as merchants placed their orders for the upcoming seasons. The whole set-up, complete with a stage with retractable doors leading to more merchandise, was trucked in for the show. Everything, from the handbags to the merchandise shelves, was on sale for the 1,000 or so retailers to buy for their shops.

The company also hosted workshops for retailers covering topics such as the finer points of Vera Bradley's new luggage to integrating social media into one's business. The event is to be capped off Saturday with a customer appreciation shopping and activity day for 300 Vera Bradley fans who paid $99 for the experience.

Company co-founder Patricia Miller called the event "retail business 101" and said it's helped spur sales through in-person interaction. "In this world, where everyone is connecting by technology," Miller said, "We still think face-to-face interaction is important."


Anonymous said...

Really? You pay $99.00 to shop?