We can’t wait for Playtime Paris this weekend, and we are sure you can’t either! To help you prepare your visit, we sat down with the buyers from Smol, Yalda and Raya, to see how they get ready for The Big Small Show. Offering insights on everything from what to do before the show to the essential items to bring with you, they gave us the inside scoop on how to get the most out of your visit! We are so excited to kick off the new summer season this weekend in Paris before heading to Shanghai July 21-22 and New York July 30-August 1. Whether it’s your first time discovering the show or you’re a seasoned veteran, let’s prepare your visit with Smol!
We started Smol in 2017 as a passion project. Though we had very different backgrounds — Raya, with a background in finance, and Yalda, with a background in marketing and buying — we had a major interest in common: the world of fashion and design revolving around kids. We were both new mothers who were eager to create a store where mums would be guided through their motherhood journey…a personalized service from pregnancy onto the later years. A one-stop-shop for everything related to babies and children with carefully curated, safe, sustainable and well-design products. Having everything in one single store was key; from clothing and accessories to furniture and decorative items, in addition to the top baby essentials from around the world.
It is incredibly gratifying that today we get to experience seeing a mother start her journey with us from pregnancy and a few years later, having the opportunity to help her create her child’s “big kid” room.
When we first opened Smol, Playtime seemed like the perfect place to start our search. It was clear that Smol and Playtime share the same values for unique, sustainable, safe and ethically made products from around the world. We wanted to be selective and put together a curated assortment of the best products. We were in search of things that we as mothers would want for our own children.
Walking into Playtime for the first time felt huge. Row after row of stands. People and products everywhere. It was exhilarating. We weren’t quite sure where to start… It was amazing to feel the atmosphere, buzzing full of so many talented people. We loved talking to brands and learning about their products. We took notes and grabbed cards and booklets from every brand we thought could be a potential at Smol. At the end of Playtime, we sat down and weaved through the catalogues and cards, categorizing them and discussing what we liked about each. We remember coming back to our store in Lebanon with so much motivation.
By visiting Playtime, we continuously look for new brands that could fit within our Smol world. Brands that we believe parents would want to have for their children and products children will be happy to have. When doing our buying, we work closely together to pick a perfectly curated selection. Raya then works on finalizing the selection and validating the orders with suppliers. In addition to being in charge of the orders, Raya also handles various financial responsibilities, including budgeting, pricing and logistics. She also actively researches new suppliers and stays up to date with new brand discoveries. Yalda manages the marketing and e-commerce side of the business. She runs communications, social media and content creation on all of Smol’s media outlets, in addition to managing and editing the online platform. She is also tasked with developing and expanding Smol’s ever-growing market presence.
We start by booking appointments with our top suppliers. We want to make sure we have enough time to meet with them. It is always important to have face to face communication and to nourish our relationships. Of course, it’s also important to see and discuss the latest collection! We also make sure our free buyer account on Orderwizz, Playtime’s B2B ordering platform is all set up. Perfect for scheduling meetings with brands, previewing some of the new collections, and downloading our passes before the show, it’s a really useful tool.
We love giving ourselves time to walk around. Playtime has done a magnificent job of organizing the stands so getting around and finding the booths we want to visit is really straightforward. The Playtime website and social media account are both great tools to give us an idea of some of the new brands we definitely don’t want to miss and where to find them. Being able to look at the floor map ahead of the show is also really useful to prepare your visit.
We look at our schedule and the floor map… and, then, put up our sleeves and get started!
You have a sense of what products work at your store. Each business is different. You have to follow your instincts and at the same time keep in mind your customers’ tastes. We tend to first look at the prints and colors that we know would work best in our market. For example, we know earthy tones tend not to sell as well as vivid colors in the Middle East.
In the children’s world, both quality and safety are tremendously important. Our first instinct is to always physically touch the product. We ask what materials they use and where and how it is made. It is crucial for us that children’s products be safe and made in a sustainable and ethical way.
Each brand has its own individual style and certain designs that they are especially good at making. Consider how brands can complement one another and at the same time shine on their own. One tip we can give is while doing the buying we try to categorize our brands in terms of styles. We know that we need brands from different styles in order to have a balanced curation. We end up dividing our brands into groups: the playful style, the boho style, the retro style, the classic style, etc. This way, we can create a more harmonious selection.
As we said before, quality and materials are one of the first things we enquire about in a new brand. We also always ask about their presence both internationally and in Lebanon. We are continuously looking to bring new and exciting products and brands to our market – that aren’t already present.
Since our store is not based in Europe, delivery time is a big concern. One of the first things we ask when approaching a new brand is delivery time. We want to have our collections as quickly as possible so we can be aligned with Europe while taking into account the increased delivery time. Also, in the Middle East, the weather gets warm a lot sooner than in Europe so, in order to maximize on the summer season, we need to make sure our collections arrive as early as possible.
There are so many beautiful products out there but at the end of the day you have to prioritize and work on a budget that makes sense for your business. It’s important to have a balanced selection. A common mistake is getting overly enthusiastic about a collection and over saturating your selection with one particular style.
We always make sure our phones are fully charged and we bring a charger as backup. We have a large social media following and we love to share our experience at Playtime with our community. Showing them our new discoveries, introducing them to our suppliers and giving them a sneak peek of what they can expect is all part of the fun! We always make sure to print our pass before the show too, so we can skip the line and start exploring right away!
We’ve learned (sometimes the hard way!) that being comfortable at the fair is key. Sneakers, light clothes and small crossbody bag is our go-to. It is important to be comfortable and hands free! Make sure to wear thin layers that you can easily be remove. No one wants to be too hot while choosing their collection!
Now, after many seasons at Playtime, it is place where we not only discover new products but where we get the opportunity to see friendly faces, meet with suppliers who we have been working with for years and to discuss with fellow industry people about the market we all love.
Organize your meetings in a way that allows you to have time to walk around, take breaks and enjoy the atmosphere!
Wow, what amazing advice! Thank you so much to Yalda and Raya for giving us this incredible insight into the minds of buyers and how to best prepare your visit to The Big Small Show! We can’t wait to see you all this weekend in Paris before jet-setting over to Shanghai and New York to continue the summer season. Make sure you’ve got your pass to join us in three corners of the world, and follow this guide to prepare your visit and pre-show checklist! Be sure to follow along as Smol visits the show via their Instagram, @smol_store, and learn more about them in our article here on Playtime Magazine!
See you all soon!