ISNA bazaar reflections 2014

It was quite an adventure.

We decided to drive from Chicago to Detroit to attend the 51st annual ISNA convention.

With our two kids we hopped in the car and what was supposed to be a 4.5 hour drive turned into a 7 hour delay with detours and construction.

Exhaustion aside, it was great to see so many familiar faces and meet new people as well.

It inspired us to keep working hard with Hijabtrendz and focus on the connections we can make with like-minded folks.

The one thing I personally noticed, was that it was a much smaller crowd this year.

The kids attended the ISNA carnival which took place in the bazaar area and had a blast!

Which is what I want to discuss next… the bazaar.

I felt quite honestly, it was lacking in something.

I couldn’t quite put my finger on it, and then it hit me!

It was extremely cluttered, because it seemed as though every single booth was selling hijabs or some kind of material being hawked as “hijab”.

There were so many colors and styles, that I felt I was in a massive fabric warehouse and couldn’t even bring myself to look through most of them.

Here are my overall thoughts:

  • Major lack in what I would call “customer service”. Ignoring the fact that I’m asking for sizing help and instead taking selfies with your friends, is not the best way to go about making a sale.
  • Putting a mish mash of scarves that are not related in any way and piling them on a table is not attractive to any customer. Particularly when many hands come through touching them and feeling the fabric.
  • Not having anyone at the booth. I wanted to buy something, but where is the person I’m supposed to pay?
  • Selling pure junk you found in your basement and trying to pass it off as something else. Is this a flea market?

My recommendations for vendors or would be vendors:

  • Know your product. If someone is asking for sizing information, be on top of things.
  • Presentation is everything. If you don’t put effort, believe me I’m not going to put effort either toward a purchase.
  • Be unique. It’s highly likely that most people are selling different variations of the same thing, or they all ordered the same shipment from China. You can still make it work if you know your competition and scout out who else has the same thing and for what price. Maybe you can offer an even better deal.
  • Make sure you market yourself well. The numbers weren’t visible on booths this year. So it was hard to find businesses I was specifically seeking out.

On the flip side, I had exceptional service from the woman behind Fetoun. She took the time and measured me for a hijab and really put in a lot of effort to show me how it works. More on that soon when I review the “hijat” invention.

I also enjoyed stopping by the Elegant Cloth style block. Elegant Cloth is an up and coming high end fashion publication and they reserved a massive portion of the bazaar alongside some of your favorite online personalities:

elegant cloth flier

It’s funny because initially I was a little hesitant to stop by the style block. I imagined tons of screaming teeny boppers.

Instead I was met with warm and genuine people who my girls wanted to keep coming around to see. We got our pictures taken by both the folks behind Elegant Cloth and RidzDesign.

The setup was professional and a welcome change from the chaos throughout the rest of the place.

Overall though, it appeared that many of the big name vendors that have been convention regulars were not there this year including Shukr, unless somehow I missed their booth.

I don’t want to sound too negative, and I understand bazaars are meant to be a little crazy and chaotic. But for some reason the vibe was off this year.

If you went, what are your thoughts? Am I being way too harsh?