Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Working the Shows Wednesday - Are you stretched too thin for the holiday show season?

As we’re rolling head long into the holiday show season, we need to stop and ask ourselves if we are stretching ourselves too thin and, by doing so, are we short changing any of our shows?

Will we have enough merchandise to sell at our final pre-Christmas events to make it worth our while to travel to and spend the day at those last shows? Will we physically survive the schedules we’ve set up for ourselves? Might we be better off, thinning our schedule down a bit to be able to concentrate on the bigger, better shows we have on our calendar? Wouldn’t it be best to have a bigger, better selection of products at the larger, more popular shows that we’ve paid so much for than to fill every gap in the schedule with small, less expensive shows that may or may not pull a shopping public? Maybe those gaps would be better filled by spending those 8-12 hour days at home producing.

I had lunch with two of my craft show buddies today. Between us, we have over 70 years of show experiences - or to quote one of my friends “craft show adventures”. We discussed upcoming events and various selling venues including a few standard Christmas craft shows.

At one time or another each of us has had to depend on our craft sales for either all or a large portion of our incomes. Now, all of us have other sources of basic support and count on crafts for supplementing those incomes. Yet, at least one of us, is still pursuing sales as if her life (or at least her rent) depends on it. I, personally, have cut way back on doing shows and pick and choose very carefully. I also pursue more “other” venues than these ladies.

One friend is doing a show every three weeks from now through Thanksgiving weekend. She has set up a production schedule that demands she completes a specific number of items per day. We had planned lunch several weeks ago but she was having trouble reaching her production goals that week and canceled so she could produce merchandise. She knows this is the only way she will have enough merchandise to carry her through. She has followed this routine for the last few years and it has worked well for her.

The other friend has booked a grueling schedule of shows and events with only three “free” weekends from now until the second week of December. She seems to be working around the clock to produce merchandise and is now beginning to panic, thinking she might “run out of product” before the last few shows. She’s looking pretty harried already. I asked why she has set such a demanding calendar for herself and her answer was, “My work is selling well at the moment. People seem to be really into it this year and I’m afraid some new trend will knock me out of the market come Spring. I need to get those sales now.”

We then went into some long philosophical discussion of crafting trends and how they’ve flowed through the years. We laughed over our efforts to be “trendy” throughout the years with tailoring our products to the current wants and desires of the general public. Some of the discussion involved some of the strange items we have each produced throughout the years trying to run with those trends. Some of the words we used to describe our own “trendy” items included: “ridiculous,” “bizarre,” “peculiar,” “downright ugly” and even “absurd!” Believe me, this discussion had us laughing so hard, we were actually wiping away tears!

Well, we realized we’ve finally stopped trying so hard to be “with it.” Now we just make items we enjoy making, in colors we think look good and with designs we like. While we may have managed to sell well when we were “trendy,” we don’t think we were enjoying it as much. Now we enjoy our work and like our products.

Know what? We’ve come to the conclusion we put more energy into our shows when we’re making and selling work we like and enjoy doing. We work harder to make the booth show these items off to the best advantage and we’re much more enthusiastic when talking with potential customers. We smile more even when the show is a tough one with long hours and less than great accommodations. Don’t get me wrong. We do still feel totally wiped out by the time we get packed up and we still drag pretty bad the next day but you just might catch us smiling on our way out. That’s because this change in attitude is good for sales!!

As for our busy friend, I think we convinced her she is overextending. She is actually considering canceling a few of her later shows and concentrating on the two larger ones in November and December. This way, her booth can be fully stocked at the shows most likely to command heavier traffic and she just might survive the season without dropping over from exhaustion. All of those shows she is considering dropping have wait lists and if she drops out now, those folks will have a fair shot at prepping for the shows.

Maybe now is the time to take a serious, honest, look at your upcoming show schedule and decide if it really is a manageable schedule or if it needs tweaking .

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