The number one common assertion between my friends who sell at art and craft fairs and festivals is "You cannot predict. Anything." One potter I know told me about a time when he made for a festival, on a whim, two pieces he'd never made before. If I recall correctly, they were bowls with holes in them...like a funky, cool colander for draining the water off berries. Anyway, he set up at a pottery fair with his usual offerings, and his two berry bowl thingies. People bought 'em so fast and asked for more. So he made more. A lot more. Three weeks later at a similar fair, he had all these lovely berry bowls. Didn't sell a single one. Customers wanted serving bowls and vases and mugs.
This doesn't stop me from trying to predict a few things, though. Watch trends and notice what people do and listen to what they say and I still believe you're better off than if you didn't pay attention to everything about an event. So it's become my own personal goal to offer as much variety as possible at my booth. I learn a lot of lessons at every one.
Yesterday left me pondering two things: 1. That this was a new venue for me, in a nearby town that already has its own jewelry designers, and 2. I didn't give enough thought to my audience.
- I'm formulating a theory that waffles between "Don't go to new towns and expect to sell as much as you sell in your own town," and "You have to let 'em see your face again and again." Not only was this the first year the Jamestown Public Library held a fair of this kind, all intermingled with the timing of their Christmas Parade and the Santa-Reads-To-Your-Children-Afterward draw, but it was the first time I'd participated in any such festival in Jamestown. People were lovely and I really quite enjoyed myself.
Did I sell a lot of jewelry? Um, not so much. Sure, I covered the cost of my booth and a bit more, but I didn't really make money. (Although I understand that all around, sales were not what people had hoped.) As a writer, though, I gathered some great fodder. I love people and interacting with people and who knows when I'll find myself writing about this or that person I met at this festival? I also got good feedback on my booth. Vendors came downstairs to talk to me about my displays, even. But they were selling their own jewelry, and they were familiar to locals.
Next year they'll recognize me a little more, too. I'm not saying one year's participation is going to make me the down home local girl everybody's running over to see. Their friends will still be selling whatever it is they sell and if it's jewelry, even if that jewelry is very different from my own, friends support friends. But familiarity breeds comfort. And if you want to be familiar, you've got to be, well, familiar!
- I failed to consider my audience. I'd thought, of course, of all the moms who would bring their children to see Santa, and I was right to do so. Lotta' moms came by yesterday. But moms are not always necessarily in "buy jewelry for myself and my loved ones" mode. No, they're in "mom mode." If I were a mom and in mom mode, I might have been very pleased to see that the artsy fartsy pottery pendant jewelry lady also thought of my little girls and offered a basket of little stretchy, sparkly bracelets for them...at an affordable cost. It might have kept me at her booth longer, and I might have discovered, while my daughters tried on the plastic bling, that I had to have this one particular piece for myself too. Alas, no such basket was to be found on my table. And no jingle bell necklaces on ribbon, either, as I've offered in the past.
All this food for thought bounds around in my head as I gear up for tomorrow's Holiday Bazaar. Which means I'm finishing those fun, memory-wire beaded bracelets I started last month and set aside for a convenient day. Because I sold a lot of those last year, and since it's historically been a good event for me, I'm going to make sure I better consider my audience.
But remember my potter friend and his berry bowls? Who knows if anybody will care a hoot about beaded memory wire bracelets? Maybe they'll keep buying earrings, as they did last week and yesterday at the library, and that'll be my draw. And of course, hopefully I'll sell my favorite pendants, too, which was a huge hit last week, as well. I guess we'll wait and find out. Hope to see you there!