Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Working the Shows Wednesday

Rain!?!? Again!!!!

So that big outdoor show you’re registered for, you know, the one that happens “rain or shine,” is this weekend and there is this huge blob on the weather map known as “the stationary system.” It’s definitely not an “if” concerning the rain but more of a “how much?” If only you made boats (human size) or umbrellas, you might be in good shape. So, what can you do about it?

Okay, I admit the first reaction: CRY might make you feel a little better but it won’t help the situation any. Besides, it doesn’t seem like you need more waterworks anyway.

Bear in mind, some people DO go out in the rain and they DO shop. We have actually conducted some decent transactions in the rain. One event in the Baltimore area that seemed to be plagued with heavy rain every year for at least a decade was the 3-day Hopkins Spring Fling held by Johns Hopkins University in April (traditionally a fairly wet month). One day was almost always close to a total rainout but folks trudged through it and expected to see and buy some nice crafts. There are two annual events held ocean-front in Ocean City, Maryland where horrible weather also always seems to attack for at least one of the 4 days of the event. (The Fall show has been on the fringes of an approaching hurricane several times!) There, the crafters are in large tents but the shoppers flock to them in the heavy rain by the thousands. People DO shop in the rain!! Believe me, in the 30+ years of craft shows I’ve been involved in, there are numerous monsoon stories to tell!

You need to immediately assess your booth display to see what needs to be done to make it weather worthy. (Hopefully, you have considered this issue when originally planning your displays.)

If you have a canopy or tent, be sure you have your sidewalls ready. Do you carry extra “tools” for dealing with pooling water on the top of the tent. Many folks use things like hula hoops, those foam tubes for the pool, or other items to lift and dump the puddles. Whatever your approach be sure they’re handy. In most cases, rain goes hand-in-hand with the rain. Determine what weights you will need in case of serious wind and be sure they’re packed.

For those who still do not use tents/canopies, have you figured out how to drape your display with clear plastic drop cloths? I say “clear plastic” as you want your merchandise to be visible and those large blue or green tarps will simply hide everything. They’re okay for a quick passing shower but if you are dealing with an all-day rain system, you need to figure a way for folks to see what you’ve got. ***An important consideration is also whether you can get the merchandise out from under that cover without soaking everything on the table so a potential customer can see and handle the item or to complete the sale.

I have seen successful non-canopied booth displays survive the rain but those sellers took some serious time considering how to deal with the weather. Many had some sort of frame work rigged to accommodate plastic drapes or used very large patio umbrellas. Some, who have some tall hanging walls or racks, manage to drape clear plastic over those racks and the display tables much like a child’s tent.

Are you using a large patio-style umbrella for your protection from the weather? How are you securing it (again, think “wind”)? Remember, you need to consider how you will complete the sales transaction under the umbrella. Think through the wrapping/bagging process, the transaction area (money box, credit card, etc. )

If you can’t complete sales transactions while it is raining, you may as well throw a heavy blue tarp over it all and go have a potty break or dinner or something.

If your display includes low areas close to the ground, perhaps this is the time to figure out where else to set those pieces. For that matter, you will need to work out a system for the storage area you normally have under your table as you won’t want to sit boxes and such on the ground. For, in addition to rain and wind, these days usually also involve MUD!! Lots of mud!!!

When do we pull the plug?
None of us wants to simply write off any show fee but there comes a time when we need to consider admitting defeat. This moment of reality comes differently for each of us depending on what we sell. You need to determine at what point your damages may far outweigh any benefits you might face.

As my merchandise is all fabric, this moment may come more quickly for me. My items can’t be wiped clean as with pottery or even jewelry. They also absorb the dampness very quickly and become limp and droopy. There is no practical way to show each item in plastic bags and they are difficult to show to a customer in a heavy downpour. Mud splash is the kiss of death. (Yes, they can be laundered but I have had many a situation where the mud and whatever else splashed just never came out.) All of my products are tagged with large (4”x6” tags that contain important care instructions. Printed on card stock, these tags can also become quite limp in extremely damp air and I worry about damp ink smearing and damaging the garment. Once damp, the tag must be replaced as they will never look crisp again. I also face the need to be sure all of my merchandise is dry between shows. Even one slightly damp item folded in with others in a box for a week or more can ruin an entire case of merchandise with mildew or even just a musty smell. This means all items must be taken out and hung to dry after a wet day at a show.

I have lost numerous fees along the way because the damage potential simply outweighed the potential sales.

If you decide to leave a show due to weather conditions or decide to simply not show up at all. You should contact the organizer afterwards and explain your reasoning and ask to be kept on the list for next year. (If this is a show you do wish to try again.) It is not their fault the weather did not cooperate and, after all, it was billed as a rain or shine event. Many will not hold this against you if you explain you could simply not afford the potential damages. (If for any reason, you ever do not show up for a show, you should do this. No show exhibitors hurt all involved in the show. Things do happen - illness, accident, unexpected travel, etc. but the organizers are entitled to the courtesy of a call or note.)

For those of us along the East Coast, this has been a very wet season. (The soggiest May in our weather history and June is well on its way to the same distinction!) There has been considerable rain EVERY weekend and, in our area, tons of mud involved which hinders those events held on grass and those where customers need to park in fields. We can only hope for sunnier days ahead to dry us out and get our show season back on track.

****Hey!! Did you notice the cute little rain pendants I've used as illustrations? They're available from an adorable Etsy shop called Rain Cloud Studio! You can click on the picture and get details about that item or stop in and see their entire shop. ****

Good luck all!! (If you know any special sunshine dance, it couldn’t hurt to try a few steps!)

***Display Note: I came across this Stella and Hodge blog yesterday that has some great step-by-step instructions showing how to create a necklace bust for tabletop necklace displays using heavy cardboard. It really turns out nicely. If you are still trying to come up with some reasonable displays for your jewelry, you might want to take a look!


Cara said...

Love the pendants!

Jessica Marie said...

those pendants are so freaking cute :D

love your little fishes on the side bar