A couple of big shows took place in our area this past weekend. Unfortunately, I couldn't spend a lot of time running around to visit all of them as I had a lot to get done before we leave on vacation later this week.
As one of our favorite bands was entertaining late in the day on Saturday at one of the shows, we did make an effort to get there although we arrived late in the day (about 3 p.m.) at a show that closes at 6 p.m. This is a huge street fair that encompasses about 6 square blocks around the country courthouse, features four stages and approximately 400 vendors of various types ranging from food and crafts to civic groups to realtors, and more. The event runs for two days and generally attracts at least 15,000 people per day.
When we did this show, it was always one of the best of the year. From talking with a number of friends who still sell there, that has not changed. The day was very warm, sunny and a bit humid (normal for our area!) The crowd was unbelievable! We literally shuffled along the event. People were loaded down with bags of merchandise they had purchased. It's moments like that when I really miss doing the huge outdoor shows but I simply cannot physically handle them anymore without a lot of additional help that I no longer have.
All this brings me to one of my biggest complaints about crafters at these shows: Those who pack up and leave early!!! With three hours left to go for the day, humongous crowds of "buying" folks and the biggest entertainment draw of the day still to take one of the main stages, we found several spot already vacated for the day and had to dodge several crafters who were trying to maneuver large carts loaded with their tables and display pieces through the mob. As there is no vehicle access until after the event closes, these people were pushing these carts for a number of blocks to their vehicles (a minimum of 5 blocks!) They really acted "put out" that it was so hard to work their way through the crowd! Hey guys, there's a reason why promoters add that sentence to the contracts that says "Crafter must stay until the show closes for the day."
I stopped to glance at a few things left on the table of one packing jeweler. The pieces were lovely but I wondered what else he had displayed earlier. I asked if sales had been bad. He indicated it was a fantastic show for him so I point-blank asked why was he leaving early. He shook his head and said, "This place becomes a zoo when everyone tries to get in and load at the same time!" I guess he found it easier to haul everything several blocks instead regardless of lost sales!
I purposely called another friend today who was selling jewelry there to ask how the last few hours had gone. She was set up six spaces down from the early packer. (They were, incidentally, immediately adjacent to the entrance to the stage area where at least 500 people listened to the final band.) She advised she had sold approximately 130 pieces in those last 3 hours at prices ranging from $25 to $55.00. She figures the other guy did her a favor by leaving as they had similarly priced items.
I have often made my biggest and best sales in the last hour of a show, especially at street fairs and such where folks simply don't want to carry the purchase around all day or, in the case of this event, want to see all of the displays before making their choices. As a customer, I have personally done both myself. Leaving early does not just hurt you as a seller but it harms the show in general. If you were only expected to sell in the first few hours, no shows would last past lunchtime. When buyers show up later in the day and find a large number of spaces empty, they won't be back next year. I wish promoters would enforce their rules. They cannot physically restrain crafters to keep them from leaving early but they can force them to forfeit the second day of the show or not accept them at future shows as punishment. I have actually only come across a few promoters who have taken such action.
As professional craftspeople, we must act professionally. Living by the contracts we sign is just one small part of that attitude. We'd all be unhappy to arrive at a grocery store advertised to be open until 10 p.m. at 7 p.m., only to find they closed early as business was slow or they wanted to avoid the congested highway on their way home.