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Selling At Summer Shows And Fairs


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#1 UKRay

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Posted 12 April 2012 - 02:23 PM

Before I start, I just want to say that these are simply random observations loosely associated with sales and marketing of leathergoods. If they work for you then whoopee. If they don't, then please move on. I'm not trying to tell anyone how to do anything, just sharing a few thoughts that may be helpful. I'd personally welcome suggestions and ideas so please pitch in.

I've just returned from my first show of the season and, although I did okay with show sales, I believe the real benefits of show trading will come over the next few months as orders trickle in. IMHO, this drip feed of work is what makes the difference between doing okay and doing well. I'm convinced that the effort I make to present my work to a wider audience is worthwhile and, if you aren't doing it already, I'd strongly suggest you give it a try.

I started out with a folding Eezee up style tent but, this year, invested in a 16ft x 16ft canvas marquee (see pictures of my set-up at Glastonbury Medieval Fair 2012). It gives me loads of space to display my inventory but best of all I have room to live in the tent at shows so I can afford to do longer events. Setting up and trading for three or five days is much easier (and more profitable) than setting up and trading for one.

Getting 'out there' and talking to people is not easy for some folk. I'm one of the lucky ones and enjoy most of the banter (although I freely confess I have problems when it comes to unruly kids). I still haven't found a good way of telling kids to 'go away and trouble someone else'. I always come across as a grumpy old man - which, I guess, is exactly what I am... hmmmmm. Anyone got any ideas?

Transport to shows has been an issue for me over the past few years. I had what we call here in the UK, an estate car. It simply wasn't big enough so last year I purchased a VW Transporter van. What a difference. Suddenly everything fitted in. Unfortunately, suddenly it didn't fit any more... what happened? Quite simply, the inventory was bigger, the display stands to put it all on got bigger, the tent got bigger and I'm back where I started. If I'm not careful I'll be turning up in a sixteen wheeler before too long.

The investment I'm most proud of is a set of solid oak display stands that were custom made to show specific items. One is a five foot long belt rack, I have another that holds masks and pouches and two shelving units that stand on my folding tables. These things didn't happen by accident. It took hours of agonizing to decide how each piece would fit together (and come apart to fit in the van). I would urge you to take some time over presentation. A good display will make your work look more valuable and command a higher dollar.

It is a weird thing, but table cloths are something of a problem for me. I can't decide if plain white is better than coloured. I currently use some Celtic design cloths but they will need replacing soon and I want to get something that really enhances my display. Suggestions welcomed.

Anyone got any other thoughts on selling at shows? Suggestions, tips, shortcuts? I'd like to hear them!

Ray

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#2 albert

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Posted 14 April 2012 - 02:05 AM

Hi Ray Just wanted to say fantastic display theres a lot of work and money in that tent one observation i have found is i hand out busines cards like confetti at a wedding they seem to bring in more buiseness than flyers i supose they slip into a pocket for later ref

#3 UKRay

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Posted 14 April 2012 - 05:55 AM

Thanks for the kind words, Albert. You are quite right, there is a lot of time tied up in my inventory - and money too. Much more than I had first imagined. My last stocktake horrified me!

I completely agree with you that business cards are a great way to spread the word. I order them 2000 at a time and give away as many as I can cram into passing pockets. I also give away free postcards with pictures of my dragon carvings on them along with my website address. It works for me... LOL

I forgot to mention the importance of a card/cash machine at shows. People don't carry real money like they used to so impulse buys are usually paid for with a credit/debit card. I sell almost all my larger pieces (bags, quivers, etc) to people who want to use a card.

Ray
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#4 DoubleC

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Posted 14 April 2012 - 08:11 AM

OK, now do I feel dinky. No miniature. No littler than that :-) Beautiful setup. Right now I'm agonizing over buying a TV tray to go with my lap desk to the farmer's market after Mother's day. Seriously though, I'm really looking forward to it. I just became officially a business here in VT. in March, and I haven't done any selling yet locally. I have brochures, business cards, etc. though made up. Cheryl

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#5 Bluesman

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Posted 14 April 2012 - 09:06 AM

Very nice display Ray. There is an awful lot of hardwork there. When I used to do Vintage guitar shows i always tried to make my booth stand out from the rest. My partner and I made custom guitar amps and used this strategy. Make sure the customer has easy access to everything, create an inviting atmosphere and make your space is different. You want people strolling by to take a second look and say, hey what's that?. So, we used neutral table cloths to enhance product colors, carpeted our entire booth, also made sure to tape it down to the floor to eliminate trips hazards. Our product offerings were displayed with a guitar from every vintage and maker. This gave the customer an opportunity to answer thier own questions, "how does your amp sound with a ?" I know leather is a different busines, but the principles apply. Give the customer the feeling of space within your booth. Maybe setup in a way so the customer can see a smattering of everyhing in one spot and have the spot duplicated several times throughout the booth. This way several customers are looking at the same thing at the same time. they may say, "I really like this but I wish it was dark brown". You can then direct them to display #2 were there is a drak brown. I like the celtic table cloths, but you may want to try a nice creme colored for your next set. You have some really great product good luck. Here
is a shot of my first show booth. Vintage Guitar magazine did a write up on us after this show. Free advertising, becasue they liked our booth setup.

Attached File  226338_1772955560910_1149923802_31602231_4377732_n.jpg   79.17KB   151 downloads


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#6 UKRay

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Posted 14 April 2012 - 12:31 PM

Small is beautiful, Cheryl! I frequently wish I'd kept my business smaller, but then I probably wouldn't have so many great toys to play with lol.

Like the pic of your stand, Jon. I envy anyone who hasn't got to display a huge range of small items. I resorted to display baskets but I'm pondering if it would be easier to use nicely made wooden boxes with lots of dividers that fit snugly inside plastic crates for transport. Whatever I do will never be right for long...

I thought about using a pale coloured table cloth but as I tend to set up in the middle of muddy fields, I'd forever be washing and ironing the cloths - hence the brown Celtic ones that will do three or four shows between washes (at a push!).

Ray
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#7 Leather Girl

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Posted 17 April 2012 - 03:02 PM

Ray,

I love, love , love, your Celtic cloths and wish I could get some. In Canada our tents are 10x10 and you get to stringing them together. I have one and wish I had bigger but can't carry bigger, personally or in my car.

I started with Highland Games and things have snowballed since then. I have been doing this for almost ten years and for the rotten children I bring my cat o'nine tails and say,"unruly children will be beaten." Most kids behave and the parents want to buy the whip...lol.

Now I am a girl who loves colour and I have clothes on a rack outside the tent that flap in the breeze to attract people. I also made a pink and purple tablecloths because I don't like white and at these things you would be washing all the time. You have a lovely banner. I love your setup but oak is heavy and I only have a toyota matrix which is usually loaded to the roof and the front seat.

This year I have a farmers market every Saturday from April 28th till the end of October, with a Medieval Faire and other faires inbetween.
I concur on the POS terminal. Last year when I brought it in I figured things out and I would have made only half to one quarter of what I did if I didn't have it. For people who don't have them and thinking of having them to do these type of things make sure you tell them it has to be able to work in a field.

If any other Canadians on here want to know of a good company that has no bank connections contact me and I will get you in touch with them.

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#8 UKRay

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Posted 19 April 2012 - 03:40 PM

The oiled oak display stands maybe heavy, Randi-Lee, but I've tried a lot of different options and IMHO nothing looks quite so nice with a good range of leather goods on it!

I have just spent all day loading the van for a show this coming weekend and leave at 4am tomorrow with a five hour drive to look forward to. The good part is that I'm reaching a whole new audience every weekend and (hopefully) picking up new website customers every time I give out a business card.

Summer shows are hard work but the camaraderie among the various traders is great. I can't imagine getting stuck on a showground as there would always be a team of folk ready to lend a hand. I suspect that the friendships are why I keep doing it 'cos the money I make isn't always the best!

A rainy day can cut takings dramatically but as long as I cover the diesel for the van I'm safe. I can't afford to bill my time - but then again, I think I'd do it for free as I enjoy the shows so much. Sitting round a fire at night with your fellow traders takes a lot of beating.

Wish me luck!

Ray
"Some mornings, it's just not worth chewing through the leather straps"

Ray Hatley
www.barefootleather.co.uk

#9 Denise

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Posted 19 April 2012 - 04:34 PM

Ray, we enjoy the few shows we have done too. It is fun to go just to visit, because we aren't allowed to sell anything at shows in the US - just take orders - and there aren't any in Canada for our customers (saddle makers) per se. But it is a 20 hour drive to get there. Hey, a 5 hour drive just gets us to the closest major airport... :)

#10 dirtclod

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Posted 19 April 2012 - 04:52 PM

I'm not much a people person but i do enjoy going to shows to sell and visting with the other vendors. Ray i'm sorta like you as long as i pay for my trip and don't lose any money i'm ok with that. But making money is always better !!! My closest show is a two hour drive. A couple are a four hour drive one way. But most are a day to a day and half drive one way. I've went to three that were a two day drive one way. Hope ya kill a bear at the show Ray.
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#11 DoubleC

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Posted 19 April 2012 - 05:05 PM

Good luck at the show Ray. And really I don't mind being small right now. I have to do things mostly myself and would never be able to get 1/100th of your stuff anywhere. I don't drive either so the Farmer's market is going to be fine for me over the season, with local calls in between once we get the never ending paperwork taken care of.
I played hooky today and didn't touch a piece of paperwork, made a leather belt buckle and another necklace. Finishing them up now. When I have a piece of leather in my hands I remember why I'm doing all the other things I don't like so much, like the paperwork and meetings, etc. And when it turns out nice I REALLY remember, LOL.
Again good luck, sell a gazzilion things and have fun. Cheryl

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#12 Leather Girl

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Posted 19 April 2012 - 07:40 PM

Ray,

All the best on your show and what can kill your takings more than rain is snow. Here we can and have had snow every month of the year.
This year the farmers market, I get to be indoors and no struggle with the tent in hail and high winds. My favorite show is by far the Medieval
Faire.

Randi-Lee
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To others, a nightmare.

#13 Chavez

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Posted 20 April 2012 - 04:40 AM

Thats a very interesting thread you started, Ray =)

Are there any alternatives to card machines to take card payments on the go? I know there's a card reader gadget & app for an iphone, but as far as I remember, the comission the provider charges is huge. Perhaps one can use their paypal account & mobile interenet access to process a payment with a smartphone?



#14 dirtclod

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Posted 20 April 2012 - 09:35 AM

Chavez a couple of times i have had people pay useing paypal on a smart phone. I had them show me the screen where i had been paid and it worked out fine. I don't have a credit card machine yet. Some say they use a service where they write everthing down and put the information in when they get home. If i was the buyer i wouldn't do that. Theirs to big a chance that they will lose the book with my information or for somebody to steal it. Paypal has one of the card readers for your phone now i belive.

Edited by dirtclod, 20 April 2012 - 09:36 AM.

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#15 Sylvia

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Posted 21 April 2012 - 12:07 AM

HI Ray:

Here's how to deal with those "annoying" kids. Cram a box of cards or post cards... or on hot days... those cardboard fans on a stick....in their little ambitious hands and tell them you will give them a 'store credit" or a "fiver" if they pass them out for you. :o) You'll suddenly transform from that old bastard at the leather booth, to that cool guy who is paying me to hand these out!

One of my most fond memories of summer fairs was MY handing out fans and I did it for free. LOL
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