Well folks, spring is on the horizon (or already here for some), windows are beginning to be cracked open, and, of course, it’s time to think about craft shows and the inevitable question they bring: in the age of on-line selling, are craft shows really worth it?
Now, we Meatbagz Broads have very different takes on the whole idea of craft shows. Mackenzie grew up with them, as her mom sold-and still sells-her original clothing designs up and down the east coast. Mack was raised in the craft show world, worked them on weekends, and pretty much grew up inundated with the craziness that can be a part of them. So when the Broads started this whole Meatbagz extravaganza Mack swore up and down that craft shows would not be a major part of Meatbagz or a big disruption to her-or her family’s- daily lives.
Kate is the opposite side of the coin, having gone to shows only as a spectator/customer in the past and still new enough at it to not be a bitter old woman like Mackenzie (yeah, I said it). But at the same time she too has a young family to think about, and as attractive as the idea is to her to take off cross country Thelma and Louise style with a trailer full of Meatbagz hitched behind the convertible, it’s not particularly feasible. Plus, even Kate admits, she’d probably miss her dog after awhile.
Oh, and her husband and kids too. Of course.
The thing is, craft shows have their pros and cons for everyone, which we’re pretty sure both the seasoned and newcomers can agree on. The decision we need to come to is this-in the end, is it worth it?
- Immediate feedback. There is no better way to see customers’ reactions to your product, your prices, and your brand. Pay attention to customers’ comments. We’ve gotten new design ideas from customers, heard that they like this bag better than that because it’s easier to get into, the buttons are cooler, the strap is just a bit longer-you name it. And the majority of the time it’s stuff we never would have thought of ourselves…but now when we look for new styles we take these things into consideration.
- Immediate sales. Of course, there’s no guarantee a show will result in sales, but hopefully it will. Craft shows usually last a day or two, and people are much more inclined to buy from you at a show because you’re here now-and so are they. It’s a more respectable version of an impulse buy, and it’s really nice to get that solid boost to your bank account after a good show.
- Exposure. The number of people who have walked past ye olde Meatbagz booth at shows, muttered the name to themselves, and turned back laughing to ask us what it all means is not only priceless from a humor perspective, but from a sales one as well. They stop, chat, laugh, and very often end up walking away with a bag. If nothing else we’ve made a connection, handed out a business card or two, and met somebody new who will no doubt remember the two crazy women selling Meatbagz and who might look us up online later.
And then, of course, there are the cons.
- Time and energy. Holy moly, it takes a lot of both to get ready for a show, even if you’ve done it a million times before. Aside from the simple production side of things, you also need to guestimate how many bags you’ll need and which designs will sell. There’s the travel time to and from the show, the set up, the break down, and ugh-the worst part-unloading once you get home….never mind the craziness of turning your every day life upside down to make it all happen in the first place.
- It can be pricey. The booth fees for shows can range from downright reasonable to laughably expensive as an up front cost, and of course it’s a relative gamble to make sure that you are profiting enough to make it worth it. There’s the cost of gas to get you there, lodging if it’s an extended stay far from home, and if you’re anything like us, you’ll inevitably be buying food or other “necessary” items while you’re there.
- The danger of rejection. Hopefully you’re confident enough in your product that you don’t need constant reassurance that you’re good enough, smart enough, and darn it, people like you. But sitting in your booth for hours on end, watching people pass by without a second glance-that can be a killer. We speak from experience. It’s not only a major blow to your self confidence, it can really take out your motivation, and make you question your whole existence as a artist. It’s tough, and it’s a tough thing to get over. Don’t get us wrong-you can and you will, but still…it stinks. That’s why it is so insanely important to do your research and find the right fit. Finding a show that you and your product fit in-PRICELESS. You will rock out, feel awesome about yourself, and get that bank account boost. A show that has a strong customer base interested in crocheted toilet paper covers while you sell steampunk jewelry? No fun at all, and a waste of time and money to boot.
So, for the Meatbagz Broads, at least, the decision we’ve come to is this: shows are worth it-with a limit. We’ve tested the craft show waters, and found that a couple of relatively local, well fitting shows a few times a year work perfectly for us. We’re honest with ourselves: we will never walk away from on-line selling as our bread and butter, but the thing is, even with the cons, for us a good craft show is still worth the work, the risks, and yes, even the craziness.
Now the question is, do you think it’s worth it to you?