It’s been a while since my last blog on this subject and I have finally got to a point where I can collect my thoughts on last year’s shows here in the South. I’ve actually been busy building inventory as I get ready for the 2011 shows, but my mind has been in a writing funk.
Last year was my best year for sales in this business. In fact, sales were a little more than double over 2009. I did the same number of shows as 2009, but I dropped a couple and replaced them with new shows in 2010. There is no doubt that even though we are still feeling the effects of the recession, people started making more impulse purchases in 2010. Those who were buying in 2009 were making smaller purchases and paying in cash. Last year saw larger purchases, multiple product purchases, and a significant increase in credit card use. Yep, the economy is getting better. Except for one show, every one in 2010 produced a significant increase in sales over 2009. Even though I had a good year, it still comes down to the weather and the quality of the show.
I am trying something a little different this year by cutting the number of shows and doing higher end ones. These are ones with $300+ entry fees. It is just as much work to do a $100 show as a $300 one. I found myself doing shows in the $100-$150 range and selling $900 – $1200 for the weekend. But, for the same amount of effort, I was doing $3000+ for the weekend at the $300 shows. It’s a no-brainer. However, there are exceptions, and you just have to do different ones to find that “diamond in the rough”.
I did a $150 show in 2009 that was wet and cold all weekend, but I still managed to squeeze $1200 in sales out of it. In 2010, there was not a cloud in the sky and it was mid 70s all weekend. I sold around $5000. Yes, the same show, but with better weather, a better economy, and the addition of lazy susans and P.O. door banks (cutting boards still outsold everything). There was easily three times the number of people in attendance over the previous year. This one is still a keeper for me.
One of the ones that I am dropping this year was always my first show of the year in March. The most I have ever done at this show was $300. It’s a big show, but the demographics are just not there because people only look instead of buying. I gave it two years, but it’s just not worth it. March always brings challenging weather in Georgia and I have decided that it’s just too early for outdoor shows. My first one this year will be the end of April. I usually skip July and August because it gets so hot down here during these months. When it is 100 degrees with 80% humidity, people won’t go outside, let alone attend a show.
I’m staying with my current product mix from last year with one exception. I had to drop something to make room for the P.O. box banks that I added last fall. I decided to drop the dipping boards. They sell decently, but not nearly as well as the banks which also sell at a higher price point. I only have four of the custom made bowls left and the dollars to buy more bowls were competing against the dollars to buy P.O box doors, so the doors won.
When I started doing shows I thought I would do about 20 per year. The most I have done in one year was 9, and it almost killed me. As a one man shop, it is just not possible to crank out enough products to support a large number of “good” shows. I experienced a complete sell out twice last year, and believe me, it is not a good feeling knowing that you have another show in two weeks and you don’t have product to sell. I am usually a little fried after each show and prefer to take a few days off to play golf, go to a movie, or hang out with friends and drink a little liquor (ok, maybe a lot of liquor if it was a good show). Hitting it hard in the shop the Monday after a show and not stopping until the next show wears me down. I also ran into this challenge with online sales during Christmas last year. I’ll go into details about this in the next blog entry.
The bottom line for last year was only one bad show and good overall sales for the year. I had one show that was rained out on Saturday, but Sunday was nice and sales were better on that one day than most full weekend shows. This was one of those $300 shows. I had shows that I was disappointed at the sales because I expected better considering the location, but I wouldn’t call them “bad”. I’m anxious to see how the 2011 spring shows play out.
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