Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Spring Observations

It's been an interesting month in my craft show world.  The first Saturday of the month, I did a show that was awful for most vendors.  For some odd reason, the organizers had placed most of the jewelry vendors in the same general area, and the show was very poorly attended.  The gal across the aisle from me, who sold jewelry, didn't have her first sale until half hour before the show ended.  The couple next to her, also selling jewelry, had only 1 sale.  The guy next to me, selling photography, had 1 sale for the day.  The guy behind me, selling foodie stuff, had the worst day he'd ever had.  I didn't.  It wasn't a spectacular day, but it wasn't bad either -- given the attendance, I'd say my day was "satisfactory".

Week 2, I was selling again .. well, sort of.  I don't know how much advertising the sale had and it wasn't a big show (maybe 20-25 vendors).  And as it happened, it was perhaps the worst weather for any show I've ever done.  Winds were blowing very hard -- probably 40-45 mph -- and temps were low with a threat of snow mixed with bitter rain.  It wasn't a good day to leave the warmth of your kitchen -- so not such a good day to be a vendor.  The upside was that I was "back home" in a town where I'd lived for 6 years and some of the people who did show up were old acquaintances -- I got to do some fun catching up!  But I didn't make much money.

The Week 3 show was the worst show I've had since my second show ever (almost 5 years ago) .... the one where I didn't even make my modest booth fee.  I made my fee this time, but little more.  It was a first time show, and the organizers realized during the course of the day that they had made a couple serious mistakes.  We had no customers in the afternoon and several vendors sat with the organizers and there was great communication and brain storming.  We vendors shared some of our experiences ... what worked and what didn't at other shows we've done.  The organizers took us seriously and took notes.  Next year will be different.  The organizers had done some things right too -- they had attended several other nearby shows last fall and made contact with potential vendors, gathering a list of 200 sellers.  They sent out an email invitation to their list, but the show only ended up having 11 vendors (6 of whom sold jewelry).  I wasn't one who had received their email -- I found their application online.  The event sounded like fun and there was no mention on the app that it was their first year.  I'm suspicious that it was mentioned in the email -- and vendors didn't want to take a chance on a first year show.  Part of the problem for sellers was their location in relation to other activities -- next year, vendors will be placed between parking and other events so customers have to pass through the vendor area.  It also didn't help that we'd had a week of rainy cold weather and Saturday was gorgeous -- people wanted to be out in their yards and gardens, not out at a craft show. 

It's sounding pretty grim so far, isn't it?  It gets better .... I promise!!

So last Saturday, I was at another show.   This one, well established.  The weather couldn't have been more perfect ...mid 70's and partly sunny with a very light breeze.  The show was a mix of craft vendors and plant vendors and done at a beautiful Art and Garden Museum facility.  There were at least 150 vendors and it was our first outdoor show of the season.  It was well attended and  I had my best craft show of the year ... woohoo!!

So it made me wonder ..... is everyone having a tough spring with low sales, or is there something I should be doing differently?   I don't lack confidence in my craft -- I hear too many positive comments and I personally feel good about it -- so I'm not questioning that.  Is it the economy?  Is it the show?  Or is it me?  Have I missed some little factor that would make a big difference? 

We had a few minutes to talk to a foodie vendor, who has also been a craft vendor, doing both for many years.  She said that she was having the best year ever.  That was a little discouraging at first .. but as we continued talking, she made the observation that while her customers are still buying, the size of their individual purchases is getting smaller.  She used to sell a lot of "large" size product, but lately she's selling lots more "medium" size.  As I thought about it, I realized that's also been my experience this spring as well -- most of the sales were from my $5 trays and I haven't sold many necklaces, which have higher price tags.  The two shows where I'd done very poorly were also very poorly attended -- so there just wasn't the quantity of people to compensate for the smaller size sales.  And the two shows where I've done moderately well, it's been because I've sold a bunch of my smallest earrings. 

So how is it going with you?  How are your spring shows?  Are you finding your sales lower .. or maybe smaller?   I'm optimistic about my summer shows.  I think as more people feel more secure about their jobs, they will "loosen up" and begin spending.   A lot of people are more relaxed with their spending because they don't have to pay high heat bills.  And a lot of people have been very careful for quite a while -- they are ready to throw off caution and do a little shopping.  I hope they shop with me!!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Sometimes Smaller is Better

Yes, it was good to go a little bigger with the stone jewelry -- it works better that way.  But not all that's bigger is better, as evidenced at the craft show we did this past Saturday.

For some odd reason, the organizers put a lot of the jewelry vendors in the same area.  Across the aisle from me, there were 3 jewelry vendors side by side.  I was on a "corner" so across the aisle to our side and 2 spots ahead of us was another, and 2 spots behind us was yet another.  Within 4 spaces of my booth in all directions, there were 9 other jewelry vendors -- pretty heavy saturation.  

The show was slow ..... I mean sssslllllllooooooowwwwwww.  There were few people, and those who were there were conservative in their spending.   The show hours were 9 to 3 and like most shows, packing up early was strongly discouraged.  But at 1:30, one of the jewelry vendors behind me was packing up -- can't say for sure, but suspect they weren't selling anything.  At 2, the lady from across the aisle came over to chat -- she was SO discouraged -- hadn't had a sale all day.  As we were packing up, we chatted with some of our neighbors about their day -- the guy next to us (selling gorgeous photography) only made 1 sale and the couple selling jewelry across from him only had 1 sale.  The lady who came to talk to me did have some activity around 2:30 -- looked like she made 1 sale.  The guy right behind me selling foody stuff (YUMMY) said that this was the worst show he'd ever done.  Another jewelry vendor said her day was "horrible .. disheartening". 

My day wasn't fabulous, but it wasn't bad either -- I was satisfied, particularly in light of how other vendors had done.  So what made the difference?  I mean, I'm selling jewelry ... and there are tons of us out there.  I've been making changes to my display these past few months and tweaking things in my business ... so on the way home, my husband and I discussed what we thought contributed to our success.  I don't want to mess with something that's working!!

We came up with a list.  I'll share more of that list next week -- because I also want to take some photos this weekend at a show we're doing to post with the points.  I looked around at other vendors and compared -- I wasn't trying to be critical but I definitely wanted to analyze why my sales were reasonable when others were doing so poorly.  I have 5 trays of little earrings that I offer.  Each tray  holds 50 pairs of earrings on 1x1" cards.  The earrings are very simple and small and all the earrings in the trays sell for $5 each.  Most customers think nothing of dropping $5 for an item at a craft show.  I'm pretty sure that a lot of them end up being for girls, and some get purchased by older women who don't like dangles.  They are good for complimenting another piece of jewelry -- when you've got to have earrings but don't want them to detract from a stunning necklace.  Teen athletic types seem to like them -- they have to keep their jewelry small, as do many in medical professions.  Last Christmas, one lady, who was the head nurse of a unit bought a pair for each of her crew -- 13 pairs!  Big earrings are trendy and I see jewelry crafters offering a lot of bigger items -- but at a show where many vendors weren't selling enough to cover their booth fees, those little trays of earrings were turning me a profit!