19 October 2010

A Reason To Shop

Sorry for the radio silence.

Tonight is my one and only show of the year.

It is called A.R.T.S. Night (A Reason To Shop). All money raised goes to the Women's Fund of Portage County. They like to help women and children especially. I like that about them.
Getting ready... Bessie, Lola and new recruit Sally ready to serve.

Here is what else I like about this show {and what I don't particularly like}:
  • This is the crowd that is my best audience. {I really only do this because I need to have a face with this crowd, I don't end up making that much. Maybe tonight will be different.}
  • There is an admission fee, which weeds out those who are bargain shopping for three pairs of earrings for $15 and all necklaces under $40, 'cause that just ain't me. {But the cost is $25 in advance, $30 at the door, which I think is prohibitive. And narrows the universe of potential shoppers. How about $12 in advance or $15 at the door. More shoppers = more sales = more money for the organization. Just sayin'.}
  • The hours are short, 5-9pm. {I have to take an entire day off work in order to set up between 1-3pm. Not that I mind the off work part, but it isn't very convenient. On a Tuesday.}
  • They have hors d'oeuvres, and a cash bar. {But not for the artists. We get some pizza slices and munchies at 3:30. My observation... people mill around noshing and drinking, not really shopping. I think makes this more of 'A Reason To Eat' than to shop. Just sayin'.}
  • I don't have to worry about money. Or credit cards (especially good since I don't have that capability). You write up a slip, then they take it to one central location to pay for all their purchases at one time. {But it takes several weeks to get a check.}
  • I have a great booth space right near the entrance. {Since I only do one show a year, I am always trying to think of new ways to set up the limited space. And it takes me forever because I only do one show!}
  • My donation is 25% of the sales for the evening. {There is no booth fee, and they are helping the community, so there is really nothing bad about that.}
Pictures another day. I promise.

So tell me...
  • If you do shows, do you have any great tips you would like to share?
  • I am trying a 'Treasure Chest' of last years' pieces at a discount. Do you try anything like that?
  • Do you collect mailing list information? How do you use it? How do you encourage people to sign up?
  • What is your best display idea?
  • What is the best way to get through a multi-day show (I have never tried that)?

Do tell!

Enjoy the day!


Alice said...

This sounds like a great show, though I do agree the admission price is a little high.

I'm still trying to get a grip on what shows suit me. I tried a two-day show for three years in a row. The crowds numbered around 20,000 but the attendees were looking for cheap stuff. My booth fee was $120 and this year I didn't even come close (I won't be doing that one again). The two-day show was difficult to get through, plus we were not allowed to bring food or drink in, but instead had to fork over a lot of cash to buy from vendors. Plus, if you don't have a helper, how can you take breaks or meet other vendors? Having help is a must for me.

The first friday of every month I show my jewelry at a gallery in an area that opens to the public. The crowds are great, the people appreciate handmade, but they are mostly young and poor. I do OK, but with travel, supper, gas, and needing help to lug tables up a flight of stairs--it's a lot of work.

I never sell my jewelry at a discount because the customer may come to expect it. I already have very low prices, and can't afford to discount anything. Instead, I offer a free bar of handmade soap (made by a friend) or a free polishing cloth (Sunshine-from Rio Grande) for every purchase over $50.

I'm interested in what others say, as I'm still trying to find my way in this venue.

My Life Under the Bus said...

Oh my there is a lot of ying and yang with this one but as you said keeping a good rapport is everything - Good Luck ! I would love to see your tables - I just papered 2 of my mannequinns with book pages as well!
Happy Tuesday!

peacockfairy said...

Oh, I wish I could be there to shop! Good luck! I only do one show a year too, but it usually turns out pretty awesome! I have gained many followers over the years. I don't have a mailing list (but probably should) and I don't take credit cards. But it all usually works out. I rely on the publicity my art center does for the event, and the weather too since it's outdoors!

SummersStudio said...

Good luck, Erin! But by the time you read this it will all be over so I hope it has gone well.

I do a monthly show/ art market, 2 large local shows and have just added some bead shows. Multi-day shows are exhausting but I've found enlisting my helper to be the best thing to get through it. Also, make friends with the people around you. At every show I've done, long or short, I've made wonderful friends and everyone is willing to help out. Also, check to see if the shows provide booth sitters so you can get up stretch, eat, and so forth. Bring water and healthy snacks!

This year I changed up my display considerably. I raised my table(s) to counter height using those plastic riser things for beds. It is amazing how much more people shop when it's up at that height. Makes small things like jewelry and pendants easy to see. I drape with black jersy and that covers up all of the messy underside. The other thing that I think helps is getting multiple levels on the table. My system is simple. I've got shelves from the home improvement store that I place on decorative boxes in two tiers. Multiple levels can make your display more interesting and can make it easier to organize.

I have collected information for a mailing list. Unfortunately, I haven't acted on it. I found that having a card where people can write there details and a small sign to be useful. On the sign I invite people to sign up and tell people what the advantages are to signing up. Also, if someone asks for a business card, or I see them picking one up, I gently invite them to sign up. A lot of people will if you promise not to bombard them with weekly emails. you also need to reassure them that they can unsubscribe anytime.

I don't do discounts but that's because I do regular local shows and I don't want people to come just for bargain shopping. But what you are doing makes sense to me.

If you start to do more shows I'd encourage you to process credit cards. Since we started this summer, our credit card sales are about 1/3 of total sales. I regard those as sales that would have been lost. It can be expensive but I use ProPay which is very reasonable. I have to manually enter amounts on the computer and unless I have acess to internet at the site, I can't verify. But in 6 months we haven't had a single charge go bad.

I'm not an expert. These are just things that work for me. Any questions at all, you know where to find me :-) I hope you do more shows. It can be a very enjoyable experience.

Andrew Thornton said...

Shows can be a beast. I've done all kinds of shows over the years... 26 last year alone.

I think it's important to know your audience. Try to shop a show and walk around before you sign up. Talk to the vendors for their input and experiences with the coordinators and the crowds and don't forget to talk to the shoppers to see what they're interested in. Are they shopping for themselves? Are they shopping for holiday gifts? It's important to really get to know your market.

When packing for a show and choosing display, I think it's good to get light-weight, durable materials. If you have to hire a crew to move in your jewelry cases... you're already that much in the hole. This may mean that instead of heavy marble and slate boards, you bust out the faux painting skills. I also tend to go for materials that will work well to insulate and protect other more delicate items in transit. Old travel boxes are great, because you can stack them and reconfigure them to suit any location and when it's time to pack up, you've already got sturdy boxes to fill.

I like to color coordinate tags. For each price level, have a different colored sticker. For gift shoppers, this can quickly zero them in on the price range they want to spend.

When selling higher dollar items, I always have a "high price" and a "low price". The high price is your regular retail price that the stickers are marked with. Your low price, is your secret price. If someone is extremely nice or you click with them or they buy a lot or they're a good future contact, your low price is a good way to cement a healthy, long-lasting relationship. Everyone likes a deal, especially if they're not expecting it. This doesn't mean that you have to under-sell yourself. Your low price should be one that you're comfortable with.

As far as surviving multi-day shows: caffeine and lots of it. You've got to keep your energy up and engage every customer that walks through the door. If you seem bored or tired, that generally turns people off. Also, demoing is ever helpful. The more dangerous and flashy, the better to draw an audience.

If you're traveling to a new area, I think it's always nice to bring in a local. The more connected, the better. In Hawaii, one of my lovely customers who is extremely nice, volunteers to sit behind the table with me. She's wonderful and I help her string up necklaces when it's slow and she helps draw in a crowd. It's a small community, and she seems to know everyone. Having an anchor in the community is great, because not only do you get to have friends scattered around the country, but you get to meet people that normally would have walked by your booth for whatever reason, but will stop to chat with their friend behind your booth.

Oh! Comfortable shoes! I admire people who can rock the stilettos, but I don't envy them at the end of the day. If you're behind the table, more likely than not, no one will see your feet. Wear comfortable shoes while you're standing around. And if you do make trips around the room, you can always trade out your comfortable ones for more dressy ones.

I think it's also important to dress the part. Even if this means you have to wear fairy wings, horns, and prosthetic ears. People feel more comfortable talking to someone who they feel connected to. One way people connect is by gravitating towards people who look like them.

Oh! This is a good one! If you've got an iPhone, they make a device called the Cube, where you can easily swipe credit cards without any fuss or buying a machine or a monthly fee to maintain the account.

I could go on and on about different show tips. The more you do, the more you pick up on things. Ways to stand. Ways to hold your hands. Things you can and cannot talk about.

Marie Cramp said...

I do a lot of shows! I do about 5 or 6 during the year, but at Christmas I do a lot more! This year I have 8 booked so far. My first one is tomorrow night. I like to have props on my tables, something that catches the eye and brings the person over. Once you get them to your table, they can't help but look. I set up a little differently every time. I don't really plan ahead, I just show up, and see how the space where I am inspires me.

I have a debit/credit card machine, but most of these shows are not set up to let you use it. It would have to be cordless. Not convenient. I can however take their credit card numbers and punch them in when I get home. That normally DOUBLES my sales. People are weary of carrying cash with them these days, so this allows them to spend more!

I price all most of my jewelry the same way. I give myself room to be able to discount. This gives you bargaining power! This is a good thing, because not being able to move on the price, will make you lose sales in the long run. When I have had inventory for a few months, I mark it down a bit and when I have had it for a year or more, I blow it out at cost. No point in keeping something until it sells, you will get tired of looking at it and so will your customers if you always have the same inventory with you.

I have been in sales in one shape or another my whole life. I used to do shows with my dad when I was a kid and I learned a lot! My shows average in sales at about $500. That is the average! So I have had shows that did not turn out well and some that I surprisingly brought in over $1000!

Good luck! Hope this helps :)

Silver Parrot said...

I concentrated really hard on shows for about 18 months a few years ago only to determine that...it's not the venue for me. I can't afford to enter the ones where my jewelry would probably stand out and show best and the ones I could afford were so chock full of a lot of really cheap jewelry that it was hard to compete on price.

And if I'm going to go through the amount of work it takes to get ready and also put my general dislike of large gatherings of humans aside for a day, then I need a decent-sized payout. I just didn't get that so back to the internet for me ;-)

Good luck at your show!!


lunedreams said...

I've never done shows, with no plans to in the immediate future so I have nothing to contribute in that regard! (online sales suits my curmudgeonly personality). Just had to say that I LOVE Bessie, Lola and Sally and if I had a more "fluid" moral code I would snatch one while your back was turned and run like the wind.

Shannon Chomanczuk said...

I have no input because I am just starting out but I just had to tell you those mannequins are awesome. love, love, love them.
Oh and good luck and have a great time.

rosebud101 said...

I like your Treasure Chest idea. When the economy was really Bad, worse than now, I had a bargain basement bin. People went through that and bought things from it, but even with the Looooooooow prices, they were very careful in their purchases.

Off the Beadin' Path said...

Iiiiit's showtime! What good tips, thanks for putting that question out there, Erin. A Reason To Eat = ARTE, which makes me feel that the actual art on display is a bit distorted, like the word! What I'm trying to say is that after buying the ticket, some feel they're entitled to as much food as possible and the real" reason to shop" fades from view. Not true of everyone, though, and we appreciate their enthusiasm and support. I do a variety of shows throughout the summer and fall, each one a different challenge! I really enjoy the interaction with people and meeting the new mothers of my pieces. Accepting cred. cards has definitely increased sales. Shannon L.'s article on ABS today about "Loss Leaders" is excellent, and I'm thinking some of the stuff that's been around too long would also work in that category. My concern for "markdowns" in general is that it will say, "No one wanted me", buuuuut, as a customer, I look for reduced prices. So your Treasure Chest was a great idea!

Riki Schumacher said...

Oh Erin, I hope the show was a huge success for you. They are so much work to prepare for. Multi day shows are tough. I just try to pace myself, and save back some energy, and get lots of sleep. Try to keep breathing! Deep breaths! I do collect an email list, very helpful. I ask them if they would like to know about the next show or classes, everyone seems to love that. Hugs, Riki


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