The show we chose was the inaugural Southern Charm at the Farm in Walnut Cove, NC. (You can read about it here.) It was a huge success, and I made sure I was on the list for the spring show, as well. (The first show was in October.)
Like anything, there is always a learning curve involved. There is a joke in my family that I always had to fail the first test in a class, just to get a feel for what the professor wanted. After that, I could get an "A." Well, the show was much the same way. I learned a few tips and tricks and now I can be over-prepared!
1. Have a tent. Mine is one that I borrowed from a friend and never returned (she didn't want it back). It was free with grocery purchases, and it is obviously one of those "free with purchase" tents--but it will work for now. We'll invest in a new tent if we decide to regularly participate in shows. A tent is a MUST for several reasons: it makes your space look professional, it gives you good boundaries for set-up, and it is somewhat of a protection from the elements...whether it's sun (one hopes) or a drizzle. Not sure it would be good protection in a monsoon or tornado, but one would hope you don't have a natural disaster occur during your show.
2. Make your display eye-catching. I have studied a LOT of show spaces (there are a plethora on the Pinterest, if you're interested) and I have incorporated some elements, but I know this year's booth will be better. I was happy with the layout--the large table towards the back and the smaller items on the sides--and the levels, with smaller pieces like chairs and stools on top of larger pieces. I love the look of an all-white or neutral booth, but I am going with a lot of color because of the items that I have.
3. Have a variety of price points. If everything is either very expensive or very inexpensive, you are losing sales. People may be intrigued by a larger piece, but most won't want to drag it home. If you do have a focal piece, though, you can put it at the back so that folks have to pass all of your OTHER stuff in order to see it. Chances are, if they like one item, they'll like others! For me, it was folks coming in to see a bright aqua cart...which no one bought. They did, however, buy a ton of smalls.
|Pillow covers can be found here!|
4. Be narrative. The more you know and tell about a piece, the greater the investment folks are making in it. And the more they're invested, the more likely they are to buy. One example is the pillow covers I sell by Elliott Heath. I buy in bulk and get a deal, and at the show I charge what she charges in her etsy shop. I can talk about Heather and her special-needs child and how this pillow cover business fits their lifestyle. Your customers are more than likely humans, and humans have been telling stories since they first began living together!
5. Keep items grouped. Humans also like patterns. They like organization (despite what my classroom looks like). You can group by theme (I will have a whole "beach" area going on in my booth this spring) or color (all the white stuff on one shelf)...whatever works for the space. It also makes it easier on you...when someone asks "Do you have any more mermaid paintings?", you can say, "If I do, they are all over on that table with the other beach stuff."
6. Be prepared to negotiate. It's my least favorite part of doing a show, but it's to be expected. Folks want to think they are being crafty by haggling, so you need to understand that they DON'T understand this ISN'T a middle eastern marketplace. For these instances, you have a few choices:
*Price everything with some wiggle room. That way, you can negotiate without feeling as though you are giving things away.
*Tell customers that you will mark everything down an hour before the show ends, and that they can return to purchase that particular item then (warning them, of course, that the item might be gone). Several of my friends who do shows regularly do this so that they don't have to pack as much at the end of the day.
*Be honest about pricing. I know that everything I take to a show is priced fairly and I try to let my customers know that by telling them what I've had to do to shore it up, paint it, clean it, what have you. I don't get specific or complain about what I've done, but I will make a generic statement like "that piece is really great after all that work I did on it."
*Mark tags "firm" if the price really is firm. I do this for items in my booth that cannot be negotiated, either because it's a new piece or it's already priced so that I'm breaking even (or even losing money). I do this for my booth spaces, and that way the folks who work there know that they don't need to call me if the item is marked firm.
7. Get to know the other folks involved with the show. Southern Charm was fun for me last fall because I knew several of the other vendors. I met a few more folks and before I knew it, I had wholesaled some of my artwork to be sold at venues where I didn't have a space. Hopefully, that will generate more business for me in the long-run. Other vendors can also be helpful in watching your space while you run to the restroom, or in sharing information about other shows, best practices, etc.
It's also good to get to know the organizers, because they often have the "inside scoop" about other shows or new ventures. The Southern Charm ladies also have a brick-and-mortar, and several vendors from the show also sell there.
8. Last but not least, have fun! Your customers are not just there to shop, but also to have some fun. Don't be afraid to chat with them about whatever...the weather, your items, their outfit...whatever. Folks want to be noticed, and if you notice them, they are more likely to purchase from you. Research shows that the longer someone stays in a store, the more likely they are to purchase something. If you engage your customers, it's a win/win situation.
(My funny story about this is that last fall, my tent space was over a dog grave. It wasn't terribly noticeable, but there was a good-sized marker on the ground. The organizers were afraid I would be weirded-out, which I kind of was, but then I decided to make it a talking point. I brought a copy of Stephen King's Pet Sematary and made a funny narrative about the whole situation. I got some new blog readers because of that story!)
These are hints that worked for me (you can read Part I here), and I hope one of these hints is helpful!!