Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Gearing Up for the Summer Craft Show Season....

There has been several discussions recently, both on Etsy and in the EtsyNJ team forums concerning craft shows. With the arrival of Memorial Day weekend, the summer show season is now upon us and I thought it would be a great time to do a blog with thoughts and ideas about the summer time shows.

Many summer shows are held outdoors to take advantage of the warm weather and doing an outdoor show is no easy feat. Considerations need to be made about protecting your creations and yourself from a long day in the sun. A couple well placed beach umbrellas may provide the desired shade from the sun, but will do little to protect you and your goods from those brief rain storms that are common in the summer.

An EZ-up tent, commonly found in your local WalMart, KMart or Target will usually be enough protection for you, your displays and a welcome relief from the sun/elements for your potential customers that visit your display. Make sure you buy a tent with front, back and side walls and seriously consider adding weights to each leg of your tent, should strong winds pop up with one of those rouge storms. PVC piping can be found at most Home Depot and local hardware stores and when cement is placed in the piping (I like to include heavy metal shot to increase the weight) they can weight as much as 30-40 pounds and can be strung up from the tent legs. I also prefer to include cinder blocks positioned on the base of each leg for added weight.

I have read many questions recently about the amount of inventory one should bring with them to a show and in my opinion, there is only one answer to this question.... Bring everything you have ready to sell! You can't sell what you don't have with you and you certainly don't want to have "what might have been" thoughts if you are sold out half way through the show! Bring it all!! I inactivate every item in every single shop just before leaving for a show (printing up a shop inventory and checking off when an item sells at the show makes activating your shop a breeze later that night)

Other helpful hints for doing a summer show... it's always wise to have several bottles of water and I always pack a small cooler with drinks and some finger foods (just in case I get hungry, but can't leave the table because the show is busy) I also bring a sweatshirt for the cooler mornings and quick temp changes that occur during some storms or during the late afternoon near the ocean.

Make sure you have plenty of change on hand. I like to start my day with at least 50 $1 bills, and another $50-$60 worth of $5s and $10s. You would be surprised how many people come to shows with large bills in the summer time and even more surprised at the number of potential customers that come with very little money, but they do have a debit or credit card....which leads me to the advantages of accepting credit cards.

Being able to process credit cards has, IMO paid for itself. There have been several times when a single item purchase has turned into selling several items because I accept CC. I have yet to find a processing company less expensive than ProPay (they used to run a special yearly fee for Etsy members...look up Propay Mike on for more info) and I added an inexpensive knucklebuster (with receipts) on ebay for less than $20. If you are serious about doing the summer and fall/holiday craft show "circuits", accepting CC is a very good idea to help increase sales.

I mentioned bringing a back-stock of inventory, money, extra clothes, drinks/food... other helpful things that are often overlooked... I find a roll of paper towels to be essential, as well as a good sunscreen. I also make sure I have a small bottle of Tylenol, antibacterial hand-gel, a polishing cloth for my jewelry, (there's nothing like the sun to show off a bit of tarnish/ to help tarnish sterling silver) sunglasses, Museum tape (to help hold down displays on windy days) and a couple extremely important items... business cards and flyers promoting any future shows you are scheduled to appear at. (getting customers to your online shops/websites and future shows is paramount and you'd be surprised at how many repeat customers you find coming back to visit your display or online store around the holidays!)

Summer time shows are "like a box of chocolates (referencing Forest you never know what you'll get". Between the weather, the changing temps from morning to mid day to late afternoon/early evening, you need to prepare for everything. Summer shows can become absolutely mobbed and you may barely have enough time to sneak off to the ladies room (often a porta-potty) or wolf down a snack or two during the whole day. Everything you may need for the entire show needs to be readily at hand.

Preparation is the key for outdoor summer prepared for whatever piece of chocolate comes your way. Because when doing the "summer craft show circuit" you're liable to experience every chocolate in the box over the course of the summer.

Smile, have fun with at your shows and hopefully we'll all have very little to pack up at the end of the day!

'til next time...

PS- the above images is one of my display during set-up and the 2nd image is of one of the EtsyNJ leaders, AbbieRoad's outdoor displays.

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