Whew, it has been quite a weekend! Jinny and I spent all day Saturday at Craft Happy, I got a photo in the Storque, and my youngest sister came home from college and we had a big family gathering. I spent an hour at a Yoga Tune-Up class today, and thank goodness — I really needed that spinal massage!
Overall, we had a good time at Craft Happy. The other vendors had gorgeous wares, attendees were extremely nice, and family and friends turned out to support us. I had tons of fun with Jinny, and we’d like to do more shows together in future. We made some sales and passed out our cards, and I’ve increased my newsletter subscriptions by more than 50%! On the negative side, the foot traffic wasn’t as busy as I’d hoped, the bathrooms left much to be desired, and the lighting and lack of windows in the building made me more tired than at FabMo (also, my lunch tacos disagreed with me, but I’ll spare you the details. Thank goodness this only happened at the very very tail end of the show!). I have many many thoughts post-show, so I’ll organize them as best I can.
Who, what, when, and so forth: the show
Booth placement: The show was laid out kind of like a horseshoe, with the entrance at the closed end of the shoe. (See hasty diagram!) Jinny and I were at the opposite end from the entrance, but ours was the only booth at that tip of the shoe. I suspect this was a good thing, because it meant people could see us the whole time they walked down that aisle; in my experience, the end booth (if it looks nice) always kind of feels like the “goal” of that aisle, so that’s a good spot to have. On the other hand, I realize now when looking over the photos, in this particular venue, being at the end also meant we had a cluttered backdrop of random tables, a piano, the stage, and our own boxes and bags, rather than the nice neat wall some of the other vendors had. But I don’t know how much that matters.
Our display: Jinny and I mocked up our display beforehand, but we still shifted things around on the day of, because of how our booth was placed and such. I love our collection of thrifted and vintage props: our table was a little mishmash of everything! I was surprised hardly anyone commented on the vintage suitcases, but even more to my surprise, we got a lot of comments on the picture frames. I disappointed several people when I told them the frames weren’t for sale! A ceramics artist would have done really well at the show. 😉
I think our display was fun and interesting, but in retrospect there are a great many things I wish I had done differently. My brooches and hair fripperies needed to be displayed more prominently, because lots of people didn’t notice them. Also, the binder dividers weren’t super visible either, but a good number of people spotted them nonetheless — and loved them, which makes me wonder if the things that speak to us most will catch our attention no matter how they’re displayed. Which also seems like a good thing to consider when it comes to all my marketing-type efforts. 🙂 Love at first sight is still love at first sight, whether it happens on a pedestal or at a weird angle partially obscured by other things!
Jinny’s earring display was total genius, and people loved her corkboard-displayed tags too. I think vertical displays work well for shows, because they’re easier to see and browse through. I’m going to think more on how to display my items vertically in future… just today I got an idea about creating shelving with ladders. Also, there’s a fine balance needed between disarray and tidiness. I love the way my suitcases full of pouches invited people to dig in, but next time I think I would do something just a tiny bit more organized… maybe hidden risers within the suitcases, so the pouches stand out at different levels? In a vacuum, people love to sift through random assortments of pretty things, but in a show setting, it’s easy to get shopping fatigue — I’ve experienced it myself often, when faced with sale bins at shops. I need to figure out a way to keep that slightly voyeuristic thrill of looking through someone else’s luggage (hee!) while removing the obstacle of having to actually dig through much stuff.
One more thing: next time I’ll bring some kind of stand for my guestbook, because the tables are just short enough that people have to kind of hunch over to write. I don’t know that this deters anyone from signing up for the list, but it does look uncomfortable, and it seems like an easily solved problem. Another vendor had a clipboard, but this seems like it might not work if people’s hands are full, plus I’d hate to have to keep an eye on it. So I think it’ll be a stand for me.
Other people’s displays: I didn’t get nearly as much time to shop other vendors’ booths as I wanted to, but I did notice a few things. Having a big, tall, eye-catching something can really set a booth apart, both from up close and from across the room. Cherish had a super-cute rotating magnet drum-thing, and Cimmerii had an amazing, stop-you-in-your-tracks, giant fabric tree that just made me happy whenever I looked at it.
Also, I liked Curious Bee and Sylvia Min‘s L-shaped table layout; I’d wanted to do something similar for our booth, but it didn’t work out. We didn’t get our booth assignments until the day-of, so we couldn’t have assumed an L shape would be appropriate for our area. But it’s definitely something I want to think about for our next show, wherever and whenever that is!
Audience/attendees: I had expected a young, indie crowd familiar with craft shows and Etsy. Instead, though the vendors were mostly young and indie, the audience broke down very similarly to the older FabMo show. The only difference seemed to be that some of the younger people looked edgier than the ones who came to FabMo. Niles is said to be an art district, so I was expecting people who are pretty well versed in art and crafts, and I do think that was true: people asked intelligent questions and noticed details, and many of them were willing to take the time to look over all the booths and talk to all vendors at length (yay!! <3). But I don’t think this was a craft-show-frequenting crowd; I would venture that about a third of our booth’s visitors asked whether we took credit cards, and was surprised when we didn’t. Is this good or bad? I don’t know, but it has got me wondering whether I should get a credit card account for future shows. At FabMo it wasn’t a problem at all, but here, I’m pretty sure it lost me some sales, and that’s never what a vendor wants to see!
On sharing a booth: Working alongside Jinny was super fun. I liked that Jinny and I didn’t separate our items, because I think it got more people to look through both collections. But the vast majority of people also didn’t realize that we were two separate sellers, until we told them. I tried a nametag but it didn’t seem to do much. Is it a problem if people don’t know it’s not just a single shop? Not where sales are concerned, I don’t think, but sometimes people didn’t notice there were two sets of business cards on the table, and I suppose the mix might make it harder for people to see our individual aesthetics. I’m on the fence about whether the mixing is a good idea, but I think on the whole I vote for doing it again in future. It may fuzz our “branding” a bit, but it keeps things interesting, and it facilitates interactions between the two of us and all the people who stop to browse…
Speaking of which, it is just so, so much easier to meet-and-greet people when there are two of you. I noticed this last time when my best friend Jackie helped me out, but it worked super-well with Jinny too. When people complimented Jinny’s work, I added my own raves, and she did the same for me, but it’s more than just that. It’s always a little bit of a summing-up game to figure out what to say to people. Some people skitter away at a mere hello, while others just open up like flowers when you talk to them (this is definitely me!). With two pairs of eyes, two brains, and two conversationalists at the table, greeting people is much smoother and more natural.
On what to bring: Last time, I learned that my throat gets sore quickly when talking to people all day, so the day before Craft Happy, I stopped at our natural grocery and picked up some slippery-elm throat drops… and boy, was I grateful. They had the nastiest texture ever (that icky gritty inside-of-a-vitamin-pill feeling), but they worked really well, and I did need them both during and after the show.
Likewise, I have got to learn to bring more water to these things. Last time, I was able to refill my water bottle at a drinking fountain, but this time I had to rely on Jinny’s lovely husband, Hung, who brought me a giant can of iced tea and a bottle of water mid-show. I noticed the lady at Iniziare (didn’t get their URL, oops!) brought one of those big gallon jugs of Crystal Geyser… next time I think I’d better do the same. Headache pills wouldn’t have come amiss either.
We also managed to not bring any plain paper between the two of us. Given that we both draw, that’s just ridiculous!
The goods: what sold, what didn’t, and other insights
First, a non-insight: Let me just say straight off, I have no idea why some things sell and some don’t. It’s understandable that I might be biased about my own creations, but my predictions for Jinny’s inventory were completely off as well. I wonder how many shows I’d have to do before I could figure this out? Or would it always still be incomprehensible? I don’t know, but for now, certainly, it’s a total mystery. Jinny’s earrings did very well, which I predicted, but the ones I liked best remained unsold at the end, as did her perfect sakura donut charms and most of her wonderful travel lingerie bags. On my side, the mini pouches which did nicely at FabMo went practically untouched on Saturday, while the omiyage pouches, which most non-crafters only looked at briefly last time, got lots of attention this time. Is it the crowd, is it the display, is it the pricing? No idea at all.
Would you prefer affordable luxury, or just plain luxury? On the topic of the omiyage pouches… when I brought them to FabMo, I only brought the nicest (read: most expensive) ones, and displayed them individually or in pairs on cake stands. This time, I included several smaller (under $20) ones, and lumped them all together, so they wouldn’t seem quite so unattainable. My thought was, if someone likes the concept and fabrics but not the $45+ price tag, they’ll be glad to see there are more affordable options too. But what ended up happening? Many people expressed interest in the expensive ones, while poor Daffy and the ruby pouch I rushed the night before the show got barely a glance. Hmm.
Craft fairs as research: I was so busy preparing all my show inventory, it never occurred to me to use the event as an info-gathering opportunity. It was only after I got home that I realized that shows — particularly a show with slightly slower traffic, like this one — would be the perfect way to put together some statistics. What if I were to write down, as people walked by, the number of them who (1) passed by without stopping, (2) engaged with us and our booth, and (3) got really excited over our creations? That way, I could get some feeling for what percentage of the event’s population was actually interested in what we made, and how that compared to the number of sales. Erik tells me this could help me find the conversion rate for my shop, but I also just think it’d be interesting to know. When I’m in the middle of a show, I’m very much in the moment, and it’s hard to know in retrospect how accurate my impressions are. Keeping a tally would at least give me some numbers to refer to.
I think I’ll leave it at that for now. I have lots more thoughts, but they don’t all need to be public… and some other thoughts on marketing will go into another post for another time (already in the “drafts” folder, however!). If anyone else who was at the show is reading this, I would love to hear how you felt about the show, if you’d email me at satsumabug at gmail. For the rest of you, thank you for all your pre-show support and for sharing excitement with me afterward! 🙂