Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Working the Shows Wednesday - So, what makes for a ”GOOD” craft show?

One of the most asked questions in this business is “What makes a good craft show?” The answer is extremely subjective and is different for each of us. It’s really much easier to define a “bad” show than a good one.

Of course, we are all happy when we make big bucks so high sales rank right up there in making a show a GOOD one. However, what constitutes “high” or “good” sales also varies from one crafter to the next. I’ve heard folks define “good” sales as anywhere from 3 x expenses to 10 x expenses. Some use percentages of merchandise sold. Some simply set a dollar goal for each show. The problem with the 3 x expenses theory is if you have found a cheap ($15) local show with very little travel expense, will you consider sales of under $50 a good show? If you use the 10 x theory and do shows with expenses of around $100, you will often be disappointed which can lead to some deep depression. You, alone, need to determine how many sales it takes to consider a show “good.” Obviously, when you don’t break even, it is NOT a good show.

I, personally, think the balance of mediums and types of crafts as well as quality of goods offered play into whether I consider it a good show. I even look to whether there is a spread of price ranges available. If you are one of twenty-five jewelers at a show featuring only 30-35 crafters, I don’t consider it a good selection.

These aspects lead right into the attendance factor. In my book, good shows pull in the shoppers. It is difficult to have good sales without a fair size buying audience. (I have come across a few exceptions to this idea but very few!)

While none of us have found any way to control weather, it definitely can make or break a show. Shows with excellent reputations have suffered from a bad weather situation and weather impacts both outdoor and indoor events when it comes to attendance. It can make a good show have a bad year! If weather conditions cause damage to your merchandise or your display booth, you will obviously consider it a bad show.

Advertising is something to look at with regard to ranking a show, too. Do the organizers run various media ads? Are there TV blurbs, newspaper features and ads, billboards, signs around town, radio spots, fliers etc. ? Have you been seeing bits and pieces about the show for a few weeks prior to the event? While, on occasion, I’ve seen well advertised shows flop, more often than not, good advertising brings in customers which, ultimately, brings more sales. (As stated at the start, more sales make for a good show!)

The setting and layout of a show can also play into our perception of good and bad. I’ve had so-so sales in an absolutely beautiful park setting which left me feeling good about my weekend show. A pleasing, easy to navigate layout helps make a show go well, too. Customers like to be able to maneuver around the show with ease and enjoy a natural flow to traffic. Happy customers make happy vendors which equal good shows.

As an exhibitor, I want reasonable access for loading and unloading. Preferably, I can get my car close to my space and there won’t be steps to haul merchandise up or other physical obstacles. I have eliminated profitable shows from my schedule strictly because of poor and/or difficult access.

By the same token, I have kept shows with borderline profits because they were enjoyable shows to do with great promoters or organizers. We did one show for a number of years where we were set up on a small farm and at least one of the two show days or the set-up day were plagued with rain requiring some us to be towed out by tractor. Sales were generally good but the organizers were such a pleasure to work with we returned year after year, regardless.

On Friday evenings, they often had a pot of stew or soup on for those early-birds who came in a day early for set-up. They threw a party for the crafters on Saturday night after the show closed down for the day featuring food and a social time. They were readily accessible throughout the show for any needs that might come up and made a point of circulating throughout to check in with us frequently. There were special restroom facilities reserved for vendors and special access to the food sales area so vendors did not spend long periods of time standing in line for such services.

Some shows have helpers for the loading/unloading process, many offer continental breakfasts for vendors, booth sitters, lounge areas and other amenities that make it a good experience. All of these factors play into whether I consider it a “good” show.

Some artists and crafts folk also want to do shows that offer judging and awards for such things as Best in Show and Best Booth Display. A number of shows do offer such awards and ribbons. Some of those “contests” include prize money or, in some cases, free registration for the next year’s show. For these people, judging is taken into consideration in whether they consider the show good or bad. I, personally, do not pay this aspect much mind and do not feel it effects sales at a show, but to each his own.

I subscribe to the theory that if you feel good when all is said and done after the show, then it was a good show for you. As I stated earlier, only YOU can determine what makes a GOOD show for YOU!!

So, here’s wishing your next show is a GOOD one !!!!


daisydilly said...

thanks for this info. I too hang on to shows because they are just plain fun to be at. and i've dumped shows because of bad attitidues from fellow crafters. since i do mostly woodcrafts its hard to say whats a good show and whats not but as long as i clear a profit at the end of the day i'm a happy camper.

Christie Cottage said...

I couldn't agree more!

I went with 2 cousins to a show one year. We made our fee back and a little profit, but listening to one of them complain for 2 days was horrible. I went the next year and the 3rd year I aasked to be moved next to someone. I loved that show. It was a very small crowded place. Local regular customers came year after year. I made money, but I made friends too.

Sadly the organizer could no longer do the show. It started by someone else last year. It had terrible attendance. People complained. I sat in my old spot next to my very good friend and we had the best time and both sold lots of stuff! SO it was a GOOD show!