Monday, June 14, 2010

Was It a Great Craft Show to Be In or NOT?!?

For many crafters and artists, summer marks the start of the annual craft show circuit. If you're like me, you've done 3 or 4 a year, thought about doing 5 or 6 other shows and agonized over whether it was the right showcase for your artistic products. I recently came across this article that provides such an interesting twist to determining whether a show is "Good" or not, I felt compelled to share it with all of you.

"The best and worst thing about vending at a craft show is that you have absolutely no idea how you'll fare, sales-wise, at the show. Signing up to be a vendor at any given craft show is a crap shoot. You pay your booth fee, however small or nerve-wrackingly large that may be, and then you show up that day and hope for the best. No matter how well you've planned for the day--all the work you've put into making amazing products, tagging and packaging each one, devising meticulous displays--you can't control about a zillion other factors that go into whether or not your day will be a success.
Generally, the goal is to sell (gross) about 10 times what the booth fee was for whatever show you're selling at--which is to say expectations will vary from show to show, of course. How did I arrive at this number--10 times the booth fee--and really, do I exist on another planet with that expectation?

Here's something to think about . . . .

When you sell your work through a gallery or boutique, whether on wholesale or consignment terms, the gallery is going to pay you anywhere from 50-80% (typically), and take the remaining as a fee for not only paying for the overhead costs of rent, utilities, marketing for the gallery, etc., but also to provide displays and staff the shop to actually sell your work for you. It's something of a luxury fee for not having to do the selling yourself.

When you sell your work online, you typically pay the venue you're selling through a smaller percentage of your gross. For example, we all know etsy charges 3.5% + $0.20 (or more, depending on how often you renew your items to stay visible in the never ending flow of relistings). Let's call it about 5% of your price. Then paypal charges another similar fee on the amount paid to you for processing the payment. So, let's round that up and say that 10% of your price has gone to web fees. This makes sense--they provided you the service of hosting your items while you provided "displays" (in the form of your photos), salesmanship (in the form of the item listing information), and delivery (actually housing the product and getting it to your customer).

In many ways, a craft show is providing a similar service to an online venue, in terms of selling your work to the general public. They have a venue, they do some marketing and advertising, and they give you an opportunity to make your wares available to the adoring masses. So 10% is a perfectly reasonable cut to expect to give them of your total sales for the day. And that is how--drum roll, please--I arrived at the magic number that 10 times the booth fee is a fair goal.

Can a show be worthwhile if you make less than the magic 10 times number? Absolutely! You can make great connections, form relationships, give shoppers an opportunity to see your work in person (thus inspiring confidence in future online purchases) and much more. So making say, 8 times a booth fee (in other words, giving an organizer 12.5% of your gross) isn't such a bad deal, either, of course.

All of which raises the big question--Is there a point to all of this? Of course there is! At a few shows I've done lately, I've heard other vendors mention that they thought a show was "okay" and they'd consider vending at it again, since they made back their booth fee. Now, let's REALLY think about that--if you sign up for a show, pay a booth fee in advance and then show up the day of the show to sell and then only sell the amount that you paid for the opportunity to sell there, you've just given away however much the booth costs in products, and much more if you consider time spent making the products, schlepping the products there, and sitting and selling (not much) all day. You might be a charitable person, but you would have done better to just pay your booth fee and not even shown up, really!"

I don't know about each of you, but I've been known to say, "Well, at least I made my booth fee back--that wasn't so bad!" So the next time you're considering which shows you want to vend at--especially if you've done the show in previous years--you may want to ask yourself, "Is this a 10 times the booth fee show?"

Have a great and productive summer show season!!


Ira Mency said...

Thank you so much for this article. It is going to be helpful to a lot of members who have been contemplating craft fairs. For many the concern was the initial cost. This is sure to help them decide by offering the pros of doing so!

GreenTrunk said...

Yes thank you for the very helpful info!

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