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Tulip Time Art Fair Follow-up

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Blog entry by VanDesignWoodworkin posted 05-09-2022 12:10 PM 610 reads 0 times favorited 9 comments Add to Favorites Watch

This past weekend, I just finished up my second art fair, and it was a learning experience. I left at 5 a.m. on Saturday and arrived in Holland, MI with plenty of time to set up my booth for the 10 a.m. opening. I was blessed to have fun people in the booths around me, and that made an otherwise long weekend more bearable.

The first day was long and frustrating. As it turns out, the field we were set up in had no internet access, so making sales with my bluetooth Square reader couldn’t happen. This was a source of frustration for many of the vendors. I was fortunate that the few customers that wanted to buy from me had cash. One guy was very interested in one of my bigger clocks. He offered to send me money by paypal in the evening. I told him, “I have little faith in humanity, but sure let’s give it a go. Worse case scenario, I know someone out there wanted one of my clocks bad enough that they’d steal it.” He swore up and down that I would see the money in my paypal account that evening. And, sure enough, when I got to the Travelodge, there was a payment of $80. So… that was an uplifting point in the trip. Faith in humanity moderately restored.

Nevertheless, my first day saw me only bringing in $147… not even enough to cover my booth fee.

The Travelodge, situated about 20 miles from the art fair, was another story. I picked that motel because hotels in Holland, during the Tulip Fest, were at least $250 to $300 a night. I was weighing money spent versus money made… so I went with the cheaper Travelodge ($106 a night). Well, I got what I paid for. The mattress may as well have been concrete. The room was bare bones, and people hanging out at the motel were pretty seedy. I finally got to sleep, woke up at 6 a.m., and got the hell out of there. I spent the better part of two hours driving around looking for a diner that was open but, apparently, diners around Holland are not open on Sundays. In the end, I ended up eating a gas station sandwich and a bag of chips for breakfast.

Some observations. The art fair had about 250 vendors. From what I can tell, that’s good for the organizers, but not so great for the vendors. All those tents are overwhelming for the customers. When I was in Muskegon in March, the venue only had about 50 vendors. When people said they would “circle back”... well, often they did. Some people didn’t buy anything from me until their third pass.

At Tulip Time, people would tell me that they’d circle back, but I seldom saw the same people twice. I think their intentions were probably to circle back, but just starting their strolling, they had no idea how big that circle was going to be. I’d imagine, having browsed 250 booths, that by the end, they were just ready to go home… not to find that guy with the wooden clocks for sale.

The people next to me—candle makers—were not too pleased because the venue had accepted four other candle makers. They said that there’s only so much interest in candles. They made some sales, but they didn’t do nearly as well as when they are the only candle makers at a venue.

I didn’t really look at the other vendors, so I didn’t see who my woodworking competition was. I was alone in my booth so, besides quick bathroom breaks, I didn’t have the freedom to wander.

As it turned out, Day 2 was much better. I ended up with a total of $567.00 for the weekend, which more than covered my expenses. I even sold this bowl for $150:

I had a lot more activity on the second day. So the art fair redeemed itself a bit on the second day. Still, not as good as my Muskegon trip where I got close to $700 in sales in one day.

Still not sure that I’m a shows guy (man, I’m exhausted by the end) but I probably will apply for one more that the candle makers told me about… a show in July.

I also have a show in August. I did get an idea for some other things I can make, so I’ll probably give one of the new products a try this week.

A few people asked to see a pic of my booth… so here it is:

-- "What do you mean, 'Give me some wild cherry gall?' What do you think, this stuff grows on trees or something?"



9 comments so far

View pottz's profile

pottz

25765 posts in 2441 days


#1 posted 05-09-2022 02:48 PM

doesn’t sound like a good time van.oh well just cross that one off your repeat list.sad they didn’t inform you there would be no internet to except credit cards.that alone probably cost you many sales.hopefully the next show will be better.

-- working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

View VanDesignWoodworkin's profile

VanDesignWoodworkin

1027 posts in 256 days


#2 posted 05-09-2022 05:40 PM

Well, Pottz, it could have been worse. One lady I spoke to while we were packing up said that she didn’t have ANY sales on Sunday.


doesn t sound like a good time van.oh well just cross that one off your repeat list.sad they didn t inform you there would be no internet to except credit cards.that alone probably cost you many sales.hopefully the next show will be better.

- pottz


-- "What do you mean, 'Give me some wild cherry gall?' What do you think, this stuff grows on trees or something?"

View MrWolfe's profile

MrWolfe

1835 posts in 1580 days


#3 posted 05-09-2022 06:59 PM

Sadly Van that has been my experience for the most part too. The internet part hasn’t been an issue but that sounds like the icing on the cake. I haven’t given up on markets yet but the market I was last at for Christmas is now doing a Summer Market twice a month May, June and July. I decided to sit this one out.
We just need to find that niche or market that works for us.
Thanks for sharing.

View splintergroup's profile

splintergroup

6944 posts in 2679 days


#4 posted 05-09-2022 07:12 PM

Hmmm, hadn’t though about the internet service. When I use the wife’s Square on her phone, it works over her data connection. If she has cell service, she can run cards.

Good to hear you made out. The certainly can be grueling if you have no support!

View pottz's profile

pottz

25765 posts in 2441 days


#5 posted 05-09-2022 09:55 PM

craft shows will never make you rich thats for sure,but hopefully make enough to pay for the hobby.i plan on doing some when i retire,a good way to get rid of the stuff you make.main thing you should enjoy it and talking to people otherwise forget it,it will just be misery.

-- working with my hands is a joy,it gives me a sense of fulfillment,somthing so many seek and so few find.-SAM MALOOF.

View VanDesignWoodworkin's profile

VanDesignWoodworkin

1027 posts in 256 days


#6 posted 05-09-2022 11:11 PM

Yeah, I mean I’m happy to do a little better than break even, but finding that just right market is tough. I have a show in August, and right now that feels about the right amount of time to wait. I couldn’t imagine chasing around to shows every weekend.

Sadly Van that has been my experience for the most part too. The internet part hasn t been an issue but that sounds like the icing on the cake. I haven t given up on markets yet but the market I was last at for Christmas is now doing a Summer Market twice a month May, June and July. I decided to sit this one out.
We just need to find that niche or market that works for us.
Thanks for sharing.

- MrWolfe


-- "What do you mean, 'Give me some wild cherry gall?' What do you think, this stuff grows on trees or something?"

View VanDesignWoodworkin's profile

VanDesignWoodworkin

1027 posts in 256 days


#7 posted 05-09-2022 11:11 PM

If you can believe it, we barely had cell service.


Hmmm, hadn t though about the internet service. When I use the wife s Square on her phone, it works over her data connection. If she has cell service, she can run cards.

Good to hear you made out. The certainly can be grueling if you have no support!

- splintergroup


-- "What do you mean, 'Give me some wild cherry gall?' What do you think, this stuff grows on trees or something?"

View Thedustydutchman's profile

Thedustydutchman

264 posts in 364 days


#8 posted 05-12-2022 01:00 AM

No cell service is absolutely crazy. I didn’t realize they were having it at a different location until very late. Normally its right downtown. I was going to go on Saturday but the line of cars to get in was insane. I couldn’t believe how many people were waiting to get in. Sorry Holland didn’t work out well for you!

-- Jerry H - Holland Michigan

View northwoodsman's profile

northwoodsman

1075 posts in 5203 days


#9 posted 05-12-2022 01:45 PM

I have done hundreds of trade shows and I have one comment about the set up. I would place your tables along the sides and back instead of along the front and get people to come “in to your store”. The way you have it set up people are just “window shopping”. Also with those boxes out in front with items on top of them it’s hard for them to get close enough for them to look at what’s on your table or to have a conversation with you. If people are in your store you can more easily engage them in conversation and hold their attention as you explain your inspiration, the type of wood, your additional capabilities, etc. On a hot sunny day people will spend a lot more time in the shade! Also make sure that you let buyers know that you can accept payment now for these one of a kind items and that you will gladly hold them until the end of the day for them so they don’t have to carry them around. Do you have any stable shelving that won’t fall over to increase your showroom space vertically instead of just having it on a single layer? I would make your merchandising display as attractive and as interesting as the goods you are selling.

-- NorthWoodsMan

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