Success with Shows
Q: Last year, I took my jewelry products to a couple of outdoor shows for the first time. The jewelry, I feel, is of good quality and priced accordingly, but I didn’t have too many people stopping to look. Many of those who did, however, purchased a few pieces. I suspect that my booth isn’t doing enough. What can I do to improve my presence?
—Charlotte Hayes, via e-mail
A: This situation may be bigger than your booth, you, or your jewelry; let’s take it apart. The first clue is that you were a first-time exhibitor. Often, buyers have to see product more than once before they make a purchase. Second, you may have been in the wrong show; shows are not one-size-fits-all. Did you do research and visit the shows before you signed up? I always strongly urge a visit to a show before deciding to sign on. A visit allows you to talk to exhibitors and get a sense of what sells well at a particular show. It’s also important to watch the visitors/customers; look for clues that they come from the socio-economic group that might purchase your jewelry. It would also be helpful for you to know how well other exhibitors are doing; sometimes, a show just doesn’t work for any of the exhibitors.
So, if your jewelry is well-designed with an eye toward fashion and priced correctly, and you’re confident that you were in the right shows, perhaps it was your booth or you. You first. Did you position yourself toward the front of your booth or, perhaps, even in the aisle so you could greet the visitors as they passed? Remember, the show visitor is there to see what’s up and needs to be engaged to be turned into a customer. Were you well-dressed and wearing your jewelry? I think it’s important to go into a show dressed like you’re already successful and to behave that way; success makes more success, so invent some for yourself, if necessary.
Your booth design must also be well thought out. Remember, the visitor is walking up and down endless aisles and needs to be lured into stopping and taking a serious closer look. You want to be sure your booth is easy to enter and leave; or, if your display closes the booth, be sure to have your cases back a bit so that visitors can get out of the crowded aisle and look at your jewelry more peacefully. It’s always a good idea to place large images of your work on the walls of your booth, especially the back wall. Of course, you need to have great lighting so your jewelry really pops; people can’t and won’t buy it if they can’t see it.
Once you’ve caught them, you want to make a sale. That may not happen in the booth, so be sure to send them away with a catalog of your work or, at the very least, a professionally photographed and printed postcard as a reminder of your work. One last tip: Be sure to get the e-mail addresses of people you engage so that you can let them know where you’ll be next.
Donald Clark is the author of Making a Living in Crafts and was a partner in Ferrin Gallery for 25 years. In addition to writing, he is currently a consultant to artists, a personal property appraiser, and a collection manager. He also continues to create his constructions that have been shown extensively and collected internationally.