Sunday, July 14, 2013

Forensic Discussion of a Craft Show

I attended a local craft show this past weekend, and as usual, I learned some things.  This is a show that I have done a few times and as recently as last year.  I opted not to apply this year as it hadn't been as successful as previous years and thought I needed a break from it.

There were a few vendors set up who I know well enough to ask the unaskable question: Are you having a good show?  Two of the vendors doing the show for the first time said they were having a good day despite the rain, one having a potentially great day.  Neither was selling jewelry but had brought new products to this older show. Three who have been doing the show for years told me they probably wouldn't be back.

So what's happening here?  Is it just the usual changes that happen with a show from year to year?

Let me start by saying that I'm talking about a mid-level show that falls between a tiny church bazaar and a high end arts show. Admission is over $100.  It's juried. They try to jury out resellers (though they sometimes miss one). Most vendors sell good quality, well made products for middle to upper middle class pocket books.
1. It has to be about arts and crafts
There are 3 shows annually at this same location that include craft vendors. I've done them all but only this recent one have I done several times.  The other 2 shows have a focus other than arts and crafts, include activities for children, include local organizations & businesses, and have music.  They encourage families to come and make a day of it. I never went back to the other 2 shows because young parents focusing on giving their children a fun day do not buy jewelry.

2. Don't fix what isn't broken
This recent show has always been about arts and crafts.  It did include music and a book sale.  This year they added activities for children and the customer composition changed.  Some of the typical attendees were there but children and dogs were added to the mix.  The off and on rain didn't help either.

3. A show before the Fall needs to be better to draw buyers
 Any show that takes place before the Fall needs to work hard to attract buyers.  And let's face it, traffic doesn't always equal buyers.  You have to shine, let the public know about the wonderful products available, keep reminding people of the date.  Facebook works really well for that but not all your buyers are on Facebook.

4. Limit each category, including jewelry, even if it means a smaller show
I was distressed at the number of jewelers in attendance at this show last year.  So this year as a customer I did a little informal census.  Twenty-six jewelers, 12 of them all in one row.  With that much competition none of them will make much money in a category that is primarily an impulse buy.

Now in all fairness I understand that the still poor economy means fewer sales.  Fewer sales means fewer vendors willing to come back to a show. And fewer vendors means you have to take what you can get to fill the spaces.  And there are more jewelry makers out there than country songs.  But filling all the empty spots with jewelry is not the answer.  Show organizers shouldn't place emphasis on the bottom line but rather on the art (even if your event is your big yearly fundraiser). It just perpetuates the problem.

In recent news about a series of craft shows in the area--they closed one of their shows.  Last year the number of vendors was way down and traffic was insignificant (though that's not the reason they gave for closing.)

Applause for the organizers of a new series of craft shows
Two local women have been putting out a call for vendors for a new series of craft shows at the Greenfield Fair Grounds and the high school.  I wrote a bit about their first attempt a couple of posts back.  While I wrote that the first show has potential, it did have a few glitches.  Well one of their vendors from that June show told me that they listened very carefully to feedback from vendors and customers.  This vendor says she was monetarily compensated for being in a not well posted location that received lower traffic.  And Karen Towle and Betty Sokoloski are making it tempting for June vendors to return to their Sept. show.
Way to go!!