Inventory Management and Show Post-Mortems
Prompted by a post by Cindy Peterson over at Howling Wolf Jewelry, I have a couple of blog posts in the works about Inventory Management – why it’s necessary, why you want to do it early, what does it mean, how does it help you, and what’s the easiest way to manage it. I’ll be splitting the information into two posts – the whys and wherefores, and the system I’m currently using – in an attempt to help you on your “makering” journey.
However, I want both posts to be *really* concise, and I’d like to take a bit of time on them, so in the meantime, I’m going to do a quick postmortem of my last two events, since those have been waiting for attention.
Garden Club at Palm Coast, District VI Meeting
This was a small, invitation-only event specifically for Garden Club members in the District VI area. They hosted a luncheon and meeting at the Hilton Garden Inn, and asked a few vendors to sell items. Tangles, Twists and Treasures was one of three or four vendors present. Table fee was a percentage of sales, which went towards the scholarship fund for the Garden Club at Palm Coast.
The day was rainy, but the venue was nice. There was coffee and danish for the morning, but the vendors were left to their own devices for lunch. As the meeting was over by two, an easy option was to skip lunch. Conversely, we could pay the $20+/person to attend the meeting, and get to enjoy the panels and the hotel-provided lunch, but we opted not to do that. Our third option was Panera, which was within walking distance. Next time, I’ll bring a lunch. Panera was almost as expensive as the meeting lunch!
Another small downside to the event was the cramped table setups. Part of this was my fault, not having had the experience to know how to manage such a small amount of space. The tables were set up on either side of a corridor which had to remain clear for hotel traffic. We were allocated a table with two chairs, but the table was pushed against the wall, and the chairs had to be placed on either side, rather than behind it. This made for a different kind of setup, and as we never actually got our second chair, my assistant and I had to take turns sitting, or borrowing an open chair from another booth across the way. It was rather aggravating. Often, I had to remind her not to pull a chair up to the table, as that prevented buyers from seeing everything.
On the other hand, it gave me a taste of what it would be like to have an open booth setup, where people walk into the booth, and I’m sitting in the middle of the goods, rather than behind the table. There are definitely problems, as chair placement is a serious issue, otherwise people are walking behind you. I also found managing supplies and the cash box to be a challenge. I’m still trying to determine the merits of each approach, and that might turn into another blog post at a later time.
This was my third time selling through the Garden Club at Palm Coast, and I’ve never regretted my affiliation there. They’re a wonderful group of people, and spend a great deal of time and effort to make the world around them a more-beautiful place. They’re active in education, assist the community by monitoring green spaces, and planting trees to honor deceased members of the community, and regularly lobby for funds to help clean waterways, rebuild reefs and repopulate pine trees and other native plants lost for various reasons. Furthermore, they’re very supportive of each other, which makes the Club a terrific place to make friends.
Because of this event, I got asked to attend another Garden Club event in Ormond Beach in February. The Tilandsia Garden Club is hosting a game-night event, and is looking for a few vendors. I’m both honored and excited that the coordinator said, “I want your booth there!”
St. Brendan’s Catholic Church Annual Craft Fair
This event has been going on for several years – four alone, I believe, under it’s current coordinator, Cara O’Keefe. This was, to date, the biggest craft fair I’ve attended. Over 50 vendors set up in a social hall over a weekend. Outdoor spaces were available, but very few were purchased. Almost everyone was inside for this event, which was one of the smoothest events I’ve ever known.
I saw three or four times the traffic I’ve had at other events, but unfortunately, made half the sales. I doubled table-fee, which was good, leaving me some wiggle room for materials after-the-fact, but based on reviews, I expected to do far better. Apparently, I wasn’t the only one. Quite a few of the vendors expressed surprise as this was usually one of their best shows. Several didn’t make table all weekend, making me extremely proud that I had. There was a lot of speculation as to reasons, and the general consensus was “not enough traffic”. To me, there seemed to be more than adequate traffic compared to my other events! Apparently, when you have 50 vendors in such a small space, you need to have a lot more traffic than I thought!
I found out later that we were fighting for traffic with several other craft fairs in the area, as well as the Seafood Festival, the Greek Festival and the Volusia County Fair. Others said they’d attended the County Fair after leaving Saturday evening, and they saw people eating, but nobody was buying. Speculation continued that there were too many events fighting for attention, while some folks wondered if the economy were taking a downturn. Vendors who attended the Ponce Inlet event in September (the one I missed because I couldn’t procure an event tent quickly enough), said that was their best show; followed by the Prince of Peace event (the one that was overbooked for me), then another slight decline at an event right before St. Brendan’s, with St. Brendan’s being their worst. They wondered if this steady decline was a trend which would continue through Christmas?
While the sales did not meet my expectations, nor match the sales I’ve done at other events, I would certainly attend this event again. This event had many repeat vendors who said that this is often their best show of the year, and this year’s poor sales were an anomaly. It was one of the best-run events I’ve ever witnessed. It was smooth from end-to-end, and the coordinator was visible and available all weekend. There were multiple amenities for vendors. Saturday there was an on-site breakfast of bagels and donuts, for a small fee. On-site, homemade lunch included a choice of three different soups, fully-loaded hot-dogs with homemade chili, various types of home made breads, and brownies for dessert. ($3 purchased 12oz of soup, 2 rolls and a brownie.) Pizza was ordered Saturday evening, and available for $1/slice. Sodas were available for a small charge, but coffee was free all day. Sunday saw the same breakfast and lunch choices, except that a brilliant individual also made gigantic homemade cinnamon rolls and sold them for $0.50 apiece. Vendors didn’t have to travel off-site at any time during the weekend, and got a better, less-expensive meal than could be procured at any nearby takeout place.
Volunteers were also available to sit at your table if you needed to run to the restroom, take a lunch break or you just wanted to stretch your legs. The entire hall was spotless, including the restrooms.
Every vendor I met was friendly and helpful. Many offered advice and spoke of their experiences, which was a huge help to someone starting out. I enjoyed the entire weekend, because the company was just great, and the event was so smooth.
At the end of the weekend, the coordinator passed out a survey asking the vendors for feedback, and whether they’d be willing to attend again next year. Returning vendors are put on a priority list. There was also a drawing for a free vendor space at next year’s show.
All-in-all, this event is a “must-do” in my book, and I plan to attend for at least the next few years. I want to get a good long view of how sales pan out over time, and it’s certainly worth the risk, in my opinion.