Well I did it!! My entire summer seems to have been spent thinking, stressing and making for the Kirstie Allsopps Handmade fair last weekend. Furnishing clients have been put on hold, family have been neglected, garden is a jungle and the dust in the house is frankly gross. (The ironing only got done the day before I left when I realised I had nothing remotely decent to wear)
Did I enjoy it? Most definitely
Would I do it again? Probably not the Hampton Court Venue, but I'm considering the Manchester Christmas Event if not this year then definitely next.
Did I make any money? Not much profit but covered considerable costs and It was a personal best gross takings.
Would I recommend it to other makers? well consider the following then make you own mind up.
Stand £600 + for a broom cupboard, Harry Potter would have felt right at home but I just couldn't have risked the £1k plus for a standards 2m front. It has advantages, makes you very ecnomical and creative with set up and it was big enough for me, (just not me and Mel at the same time!)
Extras: stand painting,stand repainting, tables, shelves, lighting, power, wifi, non standard brochure entries. Non of which you have to have but for me taking card payments is no brainer and if you're in a field you need to know your iZettle card machine is going to work. I actually think it was working better on the 3G signal but didn't dare turn wifi off in case it didn't come back!
Packaging, bags, label them with your business and stand number so you have a walking advert going around the show. Money off voucher codes, business cards, order book, pens pens and more pens!! (they run off and hide you know)
3 Nights hotel (you have to set up on Thursday)
3 evening meals
300+ miles of car wear and tear and petrol
Now you may be thinking "Why would she consider doing this again!"
Primarily for market reaearch, You sit at home and make things, take pretty pictures, put it in your online shop, blog about it, add it to facebook, pinterest, twitter, instagram et al but you never get to see that instant reaction from potential customers, that feedback is priceless.
What do you learn? Is the product getting oohs and ahhs? does that convert to purchases? No? why? It could be price, listen to the comments, even those muttered under the breath as they walk away. Wrong target customer?, is this the right place or time for that product? I made up lots of felt sewing kits, nicely boxed and presented, ideal presents for Christmas, they didn't sell well but the lucky dip, simple, pre cut tweed owl kits were decimated! Conclusion, shoppers were crafters and buying mainly for their own pleasure.
Placement: It never ceases to amaze me how much influence product placement on your stand has. I notice which item keeps getting all the attention, which item seems to be invisible, what gets noticed and dismissed. This is all valuble feedback and market research. Move things around, change the levels on your stall if possible, get things in eyeline with the customer. Do not put valuable items on the front out of your eyeline, (Yes it happened an "Iwont Iwont Iwont Brat" we reaised had "got" by walking off with an owl), also they do get handled alot if you allow people to pick up so easily soiled items should be less accessible.
Get Help. I couldn't have done this event without my friend Mel Anderson Bear in mind she gave up her weekend and had to get cover for her gallery just to help me out. Ok so we had a great time and she introduced me to Rugby but its still a big ask.
Make Contacts: You usually get to know your neighbour stands well and can make some lasting friendships and useful connections and collaborations. The Silver Shed, you and my mice, Phillipe and Brian know what I mean. They now have their own Instagram back story
Most exhibtors at fairs are just wanting good sales, if the Organisers are helpful, visible and respect the time and commitmment you put into attending their event it's frankly a bonus and I have to say The HMF team were excellent. I couldn't fault them, and a Thank you and Drinks and Nibbles on the Saturday after show close was very welcome.
I so very nearly got the lady herself to my stall! she was whisked away before I got a chance to wow her!
In conclusion, yes I would do another, why? because I enjoy it and I also think there is a little element of addicition about it, a little like gambling addcition maybe?
This time next year Mel we'll be millionaires!