Thursday, April 22, 2010

Going Big!

If you've seen my work, you know that a lot of my jewelry designs are delicate and petite.  I don't actually wear a lot of jewelry ... but I love making it!   But I don't like a lot of the really big stuff that's so popular.  Apparently, I'm not the only one -- because I sell a lot of the little stuff at the craft shows I do.

At shows, I have several trays of very small earrings.  They are usually very simple with just one or two crystals, pearls or stones and a very basic earwire.  I sell everything in those trays for $5 each -- they don't cost a lot to make and I can make several in an hour so it does come out ok for pricing.  I'm sure that some of them will be worn by children, some are purchased to coordinate with a larger piece of jewelry and some are for women who, like me, just like their jewelry small.
I have a line of semi-precious stone jewelry -- none of it is listed on Etsy yet -- and it includes a tray of earrings.  I do sell from that tray, but for the longest time, my stone jewelry hanging on the earring rack wasn't getting much attention at craft shows.  Last week, I decided to really "analyze" my collection -- I came to the realization that I was offering too much that was too small.  As I thought about it, I realized that people tend to buy the larger designs in the stones.  I have 3 or 4 designs that I've been carrying around for several years and have either sold only one or two pairs or none at all.  So I decided to try going with all my larger designs.  I had to make a bunch of earrings to fill in my display racks but it paid off.  If I were guessing (educated guessing, of course), I would say that I've only sold 3 or 4 pairs of earrings off that rack in my last 6 shows.  In fact, the sales have been so slow, my husband was encouraging me to drop the whole line.  This past Saturday I was in a craft show -- it was not well attended and a lot of vendors were unhappy with their low sales.  In spite of the selling conditions, I sold 5 pairs off that stone earring rack!   We'll see how it goes in the future, but if sales continue, this could be one of those little tweaks you have to do from time to time that make a world of difference!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Keeping it Safe

Yesterday I posted my little journey of the past days into a very scary craft show application zone (if you haven't read it, you probably need to so today's post will make sense).  I do want to make it clear that I'm not accusing the organizer of scamming anyone -- I never sent my check.  If I had, he may very well have returned it.  And, as I mentioned in one of my forum posts, he's organized a show before at that location -- he may have been planning on it when he set up his show season and website and when it didn't pan out, he just didn't change his web info.  I have neglected my Etsy shop and my blog from time to time -- laziness is not the same as fraud.  It's not the best management or the most professional, but that doesn't make it a scam.  I posted my story because I could see how easily it could have become a scam and I hope that sharing my experience will help others be more watchful.

One of my forum friends reminded me that there was a big scam in Boston using a Bridal Show as a front -- I knew about it.  Apparently, a show organizer took large sums of money from vendors for booth fees at a bridal show (such shows are usually far more expensive than craft shows) and even went so far as to advertise on a local radio station.  The whole thing looked very legitimate -- but wasn't and the vendors were left out in the cold.  While it's awful that the vendors were scammed like that, my concern is actually about the forms they filled out.  

I don't know about you, but a lot of the craft show forms I fill out ask for my tax ID or Social Security number -- in many states, show organizers are required to provide this information to state tax authorities (which I totally understand).  My issue with it is, that I may not get accepted into a particular show but I've provided my most private identity information to someone I don't know and who is unlikely to be bonded in any way.  I've begun enclosing a note with my applications stating that due to concerns over identity theft, I will not provide my private numbers until after I've been accepted to a show.  I'm sure that adds to the work load of the show organizer -- having to link my info to my application later on.  But identity theft is too big a problem for crafters to be handing their info to just anyone.  Many applications require a self addressed stamped envelope for the return of photos submitted -- I've gotten photos back, but have never gotten my application back.  What did the organizer do with it?  Where did my personal information go?   Those vendors in Boston not only lost hundreds and thousands of dollars in booth fees, which is tragic enough, but they also provided personal information to these same scammers.

I would like to challenge craft show organizers to find a different way of collecting and securing personal information from vendors -- maybe indicate to a vendor on the application that such information will be required after acceptance.  Add a "security page" to the application which can be filled out and returned after the vendor has been accepted ... or send a small form with their acceptance letter.   There needs to be some reasonable way for the vendor to provide that information without putting themselves in jeopardy of identity theft.

And for those of us who take credit cards from our customers, we need to have a secure method of handling and storing their information.   I use a knuckle buster at craft shows to take credit cards so I have a "paper trail" to prove the transaction -- but I also have to maintain those forms in a way that's secure.  I don't really want to reveal what I do here because I don't want to announce that on a blog and invite trouble -- but just know that I have a security plan for keeping my customer's credit card numbers safe.  

We need to be keeping it safe -- for ourselves and our customers. 

Monday, April 19, 2010

In the Nick of Time!

I had the application printed and filled out.  The check was written.  The envelope was addressed and contained the necessary photos.  And I was SO excited!!!  This craft show application was special!!  I was applying for a show that was supposed to be in a mall for the 3 days after Thanksgiving -- so I was going to be selling in a mall on Black Friday!!  My mind reeled with the possibilities!!  My head kept saying "cha-ching!  cha-ching! cha-ching!".  And I smiled.

Then I stopped in at the forum for one of my Etsy groups.  Another group member had just posted that friends of hers had signed up for a craft show, paid their fees, but when they arrived at the venue, there was no show.  I wasn't worried about my application -- the organizer of my show had been doing this for several years in a number of locations -- if he hadn't been honest, he wouldn't be in business anymore.  But some of his material was a bit vague so I posted a question about the organizer -- had anyone done any of his shows?  One vendor had -- she was unhappy that he allowed so much non-handmade junk and she felt that he had inflated the attendance numbers for the show she'd done.  I wasn't worried about non-handmade items .. after all, I was going to be in a mall.  And I wasn't worried about attendance -- I've been in this mall on Black Friday -- no concerns whatsoever about the number of people!  I dismissed everything, but in the back of my mind, there was a little voice.

The booth fees for this show are quite high compared to most shows, which I expected.  And the booth sizes were a bit small -- I was going to be cramped.  I had also been hoping to involve both my husband and maybe a couple kids as helpers -- the sheer number of people in the mall could be overwhelming and I know I need help to do this show.  I was having some second thoughts -- loved the idea of possibly selling that much stuff but the thought of being crammed into a small space for hours and hours over 3 days was a concern.  I get tired doing a 9-3 show with a normal booth size -- would I be able to physically handle the demands of this show?  None of the information, either on the website or the application, gave the hours of the show -- everything was qualified as "mall hours".  I was also running a bit late for the first application deadline, so thought maybe I should also make sure there was still space available -- I could only imagine how quickly a show would fill up for that location on that weekend.  Before mailing my application,  I emailed the organizer with my questions about times and space availability ... and waited.  After several days passed without response, my little voice was getting louder.    

I called the mall.  I figured they would know what the hours were ... and while I was talking to them, I'd find out about the craft show.  Interesting chat.  They knew about this organizer -- he had done shows in the mall before.  Good.  But there was no show scheduled for this year.  WHAT?!?!!  The voice on the other end repeated ... there was no show this year.  Why did I think there was?  I'd seen it on a website.  Well, the website was misinformed.  There is no show at the mall this year.  

So here I sit.  A little disappointed that I won't be selling jewelry at the mall on Black Friday (I'm still hearing an echo of cha-ching!) but quite relieved that I never got around to sending that application.  I'm glad I had a little voice .. and that I didn't totally ignore it.  And obviously, I'm going to recommend to my friends that before they apply for an expensive show, they need to check it out.  I don't know that this guy even deliberately tried to defraud anyone -- it would be a stupid thing to do for an established organizer.  He HAD done shows at the mall in the past and may have assumed that he would be able to schedule this one.  I'm not impressed by his organizational skills and not enthused with his communication skills, but I don't know that he intended to defraud -- that might be a bit harsh.  But I'll never know.  Because this application is about to find it's way into my shredder.