Crafts Shows R Us #10: 2008 Summary

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Blog entry by closetguy posted 01-01-2009 10:18 PM 1785 reads 3 times favorited 14 comments Add to Favorites Watch
« Part 9: Wouldn't you know it..... Part 10 of Crafts Shows R Us series Part 11: Rain, rain, go away »

Well, it was a good decision to turn down the last minute invite into the Atlanta Sugarloaf show. I visited the show and it didn’t look like there were more than 100 crafters and a lot of empty spaces. I got a hold of the final show numbers and it was dismal. Sugarloaf Shows tend to average 15 – 20,000 attendees and total sales of over one million per show. In fact, some of their shows hit over two million in total sales. The Atlanta show had 4500 attendees and only $267,000 in sales. They also canceled the 2009 show.

I guess the best way to summarize my science project is to say it has been an interesting ride this year. It all started in January with a cutting board I made for myself which somehow turned into craft shows and shipping products all over the country from Internet sales. I’ve gone from exclusively cutting thousands of feet of melamine, to my shop having red, purple, and dark brown dust all over the place from padauk, purpleheart, and walnut boards. A pint of Titebond glue use to last me a year. I have gone through five gallons so far this year.

I spent most of the summer building inventory, analyzing the craft business model and learning about craft shows and online sales. The first of my three shows this year didn’t start until October and I only got into three because I missed the application deadline on most of them (I was a no-show at one due to weather). I won’t make that mistake in 2009. I have a stack of applications right now with deadlines clearly marked on my calendar.

In March, I joined Etsy and set up a shop. I also created another web site with shopping cart that I promote in different places in cyberspace. I didn’t make my first online sale until June on Etsy. In fact, I had three sales in June. It then went quiet until around Thanksgiving. From Thanksgiving to the week before Christmas, I sold 25 boards, some candle holders, and coaster sets between Etsy and my Appalachian Craftsmen web site, with the majority coming from the AC site. I was surprised at the sudden activity on the AC web site. The referring URLs were coming from Flickr, Google, and my craft show site (DGM Woodworks). Just about every day resulted in one or two sales. I have spent a lot of time this year posting pictures and blogging all over the place, including getting mentioned in others blogs. I think some of this exposure is starting to pay off. However, it is still a bad economy and I think online sales are going to continue to suffer until we get out of this funk.

Packing and shipping was another learning experience. I found out the hard way that when you wrap a board with bubble wrap, it grows in size by another couple of inches (duh!). I had bought a bunch of boxes from Uline, only to have to buy more to accommodate the larger size requirements because of padding. Styrofoam peanuts and bubble wrap add a lot of bulk to an item. I also didn’t anticipate people ordering multiple items. I had a customer order three large boards and another order four dipping boards. I had to go to Office Max and get boxes big enough to accommodate multiple items.

Most of my items ship via UPS with the occasional small item going through USPS. Shipping via UPS is very simple when you have a UPS online account and order their free printer labels. I originally bought 8½ x 11 labels at the office supply store, but if you have an account, they will provide free labels. I just slap a label on the box and drop it off at my local UPS store. Shipping via USPS is just about as easy, however you have to download and install their shipping software to do the same thing. Unfortunately, I cannot pay online because I need a special printer to print the postage label, so I just print the mailing label and take the package to the post office and pay for it there. USPS is a little cheaper and will deliver to post office boxes, but I hate standing in lines, which seems to always cost me about 15 – 20 minutes.

One surprising side benefit of the craft shows is the few “after the fact” sales. I had a couple of people call me before Christmas from a card they picked up in my booth during a show. These were local, so I just delivered them myself.

My inventory took a huge hit because of all the sales in December and I had planned to try to replace as I sold, but surprisingly, my closet business all of a sudden increased making December my best month this year. I had a lot of repeat and referral customers buying new homes and so I worked on installations up until a couple of days before Christmas and started back at it the day after Christmas. This turn of events put me back into “melamine mode” for most of the month. Working on two fronts in December made it really intense. Fortunately, my next show is not until the last weekend of March so I have time to get my inventory caught back up. I also have just finished some jigs for a new product line I will be offering this year. I’ll be posting those projects soon.

So, I am anxiously looking forward to the 2009 craft season. Now that I have gotten past the initial startup shock and have a little experience under my belt, it’s not as scary or confusing to me. So far, I have found that I really enjoy doing the shows and feel confident that I have desirable products and the right price points. It feels good to get instant feedback from perfect strangers and that people are willing to buy my products. – Later -

-- I don't make mistakes, only design

14 comments so far

View Russel's profile


2199 posts in 3358 days

#1 posted 01-01-2009 10:39 PM

Thanks for posting this series. It has been entertaining and educational.

-- Working at Woodworking

View trifern's profile


8135 posts in 3186 days

#2 posted 01-01-2009 10:52 PM

This has been a very informative series of blogs. I appreciate you taking the time to share your experiences and insight. I wish you a successful 2009.

-- My favorite piece is my last one, my best piece is my next one.

View kevinw's profile


189 posts in 3159 days

#3 posted 01-01-2009 11:49 PM

Thanks for sharing. Trying to ramp up my woodworking and freelance graphic design and some of this information is very helpful.

-- Kevin, Blue Springs, MO

View WoodMosaics's profile


111 posts in 2951 days

#4 posted 01-02-2009 12:05 AM

I wish you lots of luck at the shows, for myself, I’ll pass on them.

-- It’s not so much what we know that causes the trouble, it’s what we know that’s not so.

View Woodchuck1957's profile


944 posts in 3183 days

#5 posted 01-02-2009 12:23 AM

I occassionally hear of people on some of these forums selling stuff, but I never hear how they came out when it’s all said and done with. Is it really worth your while ? Or are you makeing about $5 an hour ? I really don’t see how a guy can get anywhere when you have to pay a rediculous booth fee, or a commision. Heck it’s tough enough trying to get anywhere even without those expenses. I feel if your not makeing atleast $35 an hour your pissin in the wind.

View closetguy's profile


744 posts in 3311 days

#6 posted 01-02-2009 03:54 AM

I don’t work for five dollars an hour either. Booth fees are just another deductible business expense, and some people would say you’re pissing in the wind if you are not making $150 an hour. It’s all relative. No one has ever paid me to sit in my chair at home on the weekends, but so far, people are paying me to sit in a chair all weekend at craft shows…

-- I don't make mistakes, only design

View lazyfiremaninTN's profile


528 posts in 3372 days

#7 posted 01-02-2009 08:19 AM

I can’t thank you enough for all the information that you have put into this blog series. Greg3G and I have started down the slppery slope of craft shows. It was a disappointing start for me (he has done better than me and oohs and aahs don’t cover the cost of wood I found out), but no plan survises the first contact in tact. Reading your series has pointed out things that I never even really considered, including table clothes (I got blue-gray, they were on sale in 2 sizes).

I will probably pick you brain at some point, and you only live 4 hours from me.

Thank you again.

-- Adrian ..... The 11th Commandment...."Thou Shalt Not Buy A Wobble Dado"

View Sef's profile


114 posts in 3070 days

#8 posted 01-02-2009 03:55 PM

Thank you so much for taking the time to post this series. I have been interested in shows for a while, and recent times have really got me looking in that direction. You’ve given a lot of insight into the good and bad of the craft show circuit, and given me more to chew on. Good luck with the ‘09 season, and I hope you’ll keep us apprised of how things go.

-- I may not know a lot, but at least I know that I don't know.?.?. I think.

View Woodchuck1957's profile


944 posts in 3183 days

#9 posted 01-02-2009 04:26 PM

It really didn’t answer my question.

View jimp's profile


208 posts in 3180 days

#10 posted 01-03-2009 01:36 AM

Closetguy – Thank you for taking the time to write this blog series. It was VERY interesting and informational.

-- - Jim, Carroll, OH

View MsDebbieP's profile


18615 posts in 3580 days

#11 posted 01-19-2009 05:25 PM

quite the journey!
Congrats on your successes

-- ~ Debbie, Canada (

View jSchrock's profile


48 posts in 2855 days

#12 posted 02-05-2009 01:05 PM

That’s very good article you wrote. Do you see this as a possible full-time thing or just a way to cover cost of the commitment to wood?

View motthunter's profile


2142 posts in 3218 days

#13 posted 02-05-2009 02:25 PM

thanks.. good informaiton

-- making sawdust....

View closetguy's profile


744 posts in 3311 days

#14 posted 02-05-2009 11:45 PM

JSchrock, if I saw it only covering the cost of wood, I wouldn’t do it. I make my living in woodworking and I have to make a profit. If I can’t, I will find something else to do because I actually prefer to play golf, rather than cut wood. The craft thing was just a result of needing something to do and to see if I could develop another source of revenue. It has done that, but it’s sporadic at best. I don’t see doing it full time to generate a living in this economy. My closet business generates far more revenue. I think though, that it can be a good supplemental income, especially during retirement or instead of taking a part time second job for some. I beats being a greeter at Wal-mart.

-- I don't make mistakes, only design

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