Monday, May 18, 2009

One Down and Many More To Go....

We got to the staging area for the show at 5:00 a.m. I had spoken with one of the organizers during the week and she said the out-of-staters often are there by 2:00 a.m. We anticipated a long line when we got there, but were actually 8th in line. We decided we would never get there so early again, but quickly decided 5:00 was a good idea when they started to direct us onto the town square at 6:20 so we could unload. The chaos that ensued was beyond belief....350 crafters times two vehicles or one huge trailer each equals a very congested road and a traffic jam like you have never seen. Lucky for us, because we were 8th in line, we were able to pull pretty close to our entrance to the park and hauled our stuff to our spot.

Set up went fine. No problems at all. It was kind of fun and pretty exciting. Nice music was being pumped into area and we went about our merry way. We were done by 9:00 a.m. and the show didn't start until 10:00. Note the picture of poor Irv sitting a putting eight straight pins in each and every one of the little pin cushions!

We were very fortunate to have couples on both sides of us that do craft shows for a living. Really nice people and we learned a lot about the craft show "circuit" from them.

Tresa drove the 60 miles from Chicago to Woodstock and spent a couple of hours with us. She said she knew she was getting close when she started to see cows. :) Tresa is in marketing and she gave me some great suggestions. The first thing she noticed is that I had all of the light switches at the front of the table, and a small round table with all of the pin cushions on it right out front. That meant as people were walking by, if light switch covers and pin cushions weren't their thing, they would walk by. People don't come into every booth to look around. You have to "grab them" as they are walking by.

So, she moved some things around and at the end of that table we put some of everything. We did the same thing on the small table and the result was instantaneous. People started stopping and looking and then if they saw something of interest, out of the many things displayed, they came in and looked around.

The next thing she said was that I had no sign that said "Blank photo note cards", and for people that don't know what I do, you wouldn't really know what they were because they were in cello. We took some out, put them around on the table and hung some of them out of the cello on the display boards. I didn't sell any cards, but people did start looking at them.

Next, was my pricing. I have a tendency to price things $5, $10, $15, $20 and $25 if it's close to that price. Tresa suggested I start doing $4, $9, $14, $19 and $24 if I can. People see prices in categories and even if it is only a one dollar difference are more apt to buy something they like that is $14 than $15. It's a mind thing...but that is very true. I thought about when I shop and realized I think that way as well. I couldn't change prices this time, but I will definitely do that for the next show.

One other thing she suggested is that Irv make something for the front of the booth that I might be able to hang things on or something with shelves that I could display some items on. I thought that was a great idea as well.

I didn't make near what I thought I would make, but I still consider the show a huge success. The fact that Tresa's suggestions will help me from here on out and the info I gathered from the craft show pros next to me was well worth the time and effort I put into the show. Of course, I wish I had made more, but I did cover my entry fee and will be able to pay some of my canopy off, so I am happy.

I will say that I am not the only one that didn't make a lot. The pros on both sides of me were very disappointed in their sales as well. In fact, the pros don't get disappointed, they tend to get a bit angry. They expect a successful show for the fee they paid. I have to disagree with them on this one. There were tons of people at the show...and I mean tons. The organizers can get the people there for you, but they can't make them buy things.

Our location really didn't help matters. The main loop is on the road and by the time people do that loop, I think they have seen enough. Then they scoot through the park where we were to get to where they parked their cars. Many people that came through the park had bought things, but they bought them on the main loop and not in the park.

The pros had many other pro friends that came by to chat. Many of them said that their sales were down about 50% from what they normally do at this particular show. I guess that wouldn't make me happy either. I am not one to make excuses, and I would have been much more concerned if the booths around me were selling like mad and I wasn't....and that wasn't the case. No excuses...just an observation. are some things I learned all on my own:

1) People are very happy in the morning when they are setting up. A couple hours later when they realize they aren't going to make a lot of money, they turn into their alter ego!
2) When people are packing up after a not so great show...get the hell out of their way!
3) Be sure to check on the ground behind your tables for items that got knocked down. They could be sitting there all day and you would never know it!
4) Things that you have in little zip lock bags form condensation in them when they sit in the sun!
5) Never tell your friends and family that you are Booth 311 by the gazebo because they take the little number stakes away after you set up and no one has any idea what your booth number is!
6) No one in or around a craft show sells food for vegetarians and if they do it is nasty crap!
7) Be sure to keep reapplying your sunscreen about every 30 minutes on a sunny day or you will get a nasty sunburn and sometimes it is only on one ear and one side of your face!
8) That music that sounds so nice at the start of the day is looped and that same music keeps playing over and over and over and over and over again all day long for 12 hours...after a few hours, it isn't so nice anymore!
9) Bring something with to shoot out the speakers that the nasty music is coming from
10) Items that you bring TO the show, seem to reproduce during the day, so that when you go to pack up...even though you sold some doesn't fit in the boxes it came in anymore!
11) Don't take so much that it doesn't fit in your booth and don't put it all out at once even if you really, really, really want to because someone just might be looking for that exact color, print, shape, design!
12) Appreciate a husband that is so amazingly supportive that you know there is no way on the face of this earth that you could do what you just did without him...even if the next day, he unloads everything into the middle of the kitchen floor and heads outside for the day to work in the garden! :)

So, I was already online last night looking for two more summer shows to do. I have already been accepted to a big two-day show October 3 and 4 and Tresa wants me to apply for one in Chicago in September.

I've been sucked in and I think I'm gonna love it!


Cecile/DreamCreateRepeat said...

My parents were antique dealers and did shows for years. They LOVED it! I was in college when they started, but would help during summers. I didn't love it so much (heck I was 19 after all and packing and unpacking and packing box after box of expensive breakables).

What they really loved was the social life of the "circuit!"

Mary said...

i love that you are so positive about your experience and that you can learn from it even though you had some grumpy gus types around you at the end. craft shows demand a certain personality, i think, and it sounds like you will have a great match!

Sherry said...

I am not sure if I will ever do a craft show, it is so much more fn to live vicariously through you, Kathy! I really enjoyed your post.

Kala Pohl Studio said...

Kathy, I am so glad that you had a good experience. I find it a lot of fun and you need to take things in stride. Some days are good days and others are not (financially). Regardless, if you learn something new, it is always a good day:):)

Lanyardlady said...

Sounds like it was a rewarding experience and you learned valuable tips for the next time around. Your booth looks gorgeous. I give both you and Irv a "sitting O." Well done!

Angela said...

I have been waiting all day to come home and see how your show went! I am glad you had a nice time and made back your booth money (and half your tent)

I do remember how rude people seem to get at the end of the day. Glad you had a fun time!

Meekiyu said...

what a day up at 5am? Sounds like you had quite a positive experience. Neighbors are usually very nice. Though I only did two craft shows it was fun... though I do know about that rush and bit of disappointment but I usually just snack on something happy like chocolate or shot of good coffee and I'm up and ready to go! =D

aliceinparis said...

Thanks for the update and all the useful info! Now that you've got one under your belt, the next shows will be a breeze! so glad you enjoyed yourself:)

artsyclay said...

Hi from the etsy forums! I lived in Woodstock for 9 years in the 70s. :)

Beautiful booth! I enjoyed your post. Hopefully the economy will pick up SOON.

Christine said...

Great article. Thanks for sharing your craft show experience and lessons learned.

I did my first show in April of this year. Was not a good turnout, but I was glad I did it to get some experience. After watching the few people that did show up to look at my things, I learned how I want to adjust my displays for my next show. My next show isn't until Nov and it sounds like it's a big show, so I'm keeping my hopes up that it will be successful.

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