If you are like most crafters, you dream of selling out at each show you do along with all of the dollars that can bring. Selling out is an awesome feeling but it can also bring some added challenges you had not considered. Here is a story of what happened to us and lessons that were learned from it.
As you may know, my husband is a wood turner, The Lathe Junkie. One of our most popular items are hand turned wood magic wands. We have managed to develop quite a good following on Facebook as well as on his Etsy Shop. Because of this we were invited to sell his wands at a Harry Potter event that was sponsored by our local baseball club. This invitation came two weeks before the event but there was no fee so all we had to do was show up with our wands and sell. Plus we got to watch the game for free so it seemed like a win win situation to us.
The biggest challenge we had was inventory. Hubby already had a pre-scheduled surgery the Monday before the event that could not be changed and would include an overnight stay. On top of that we had just exhibited at a popular art fair and our online sales had been brisk. We were down to only 50 wands without a lot of time to make more. With a short two weeks to work with, he started working on wands as quickly as possible. While he can finish one in a pretty short amount of time, standing for long periods was a problem before the surgery. Removing listings from Etsy would mean that our shop traffic would suffer so sales kept coming in too. The two days he was in the hospital, we had orders for 11 wands. Luckily he was able to get back to wand making quickly after the surgery and by the time we had to leave for the event we had 75 wands to sell. Not at all what we would have wanted to take but it was what we had.
Since the ball club is pretty popular in our area, there had been a lot of marketing on social media as well as on local television so the game was a sell out. As part of this marketing, we discovered the day before the event, that their own gift shop was also selling “hand turned” wands and from the pictures we saw they easily had 100 wands to sell. The scary part was that they were selling them for $5 less that what we retail ours for. Now we were not sure what would happen but since online sales had been good, bringing wands home was not going to be a problem. We went to the event thinking “we get to see a baseball game for free and whatever wands sold were just a plus”.
We arrived at the appointed time and already there were long lines of people waiting for the gates to open for the Harry Potter event. We were shown to our assigned table and it was in a great area that was high traffic. Almost as soon as we were set up, we had staff and concession workers at our table to take a look. Shortly after that the gates were opened and the Harry Potter fans poured in. Within minutes we quickly had a bunch of people around our table. Several people came over with the wands they had already purchased at the gift shop and had comments such as “wow these look better than what I just bought” and “I wished I had known you were here”. Hubby got a look at the “hand carved” less expensive gift shop wands and determined they were actually machine carved and didn’t compare to what we had to offer. Now we felt pretty confident that we would do well.
What followed was the busiest we had ever been at a show. We had a huge crowd of people gathered around our table, money or cards in hand ready to buy. I was running credit cards one after another and we were both taking cash. We ran out of change three times but couldn’t get up to get more. Every time I looked up our inventory was shrinking, now we were down to our last 16 and just a few minutes later, the last wand sold. We were sold out! Even more amazing was this had just taken place in a hour! People were still asking if we had more. We could have easily sold another 75. We looked at each other and went “wow what an experience”. We had just sold 75 wands in an hour! The biggest and fastest show we have ever had. It was an amazing feeling realizing that dream of selling everything you brought with you and all of the profits you now had. But now what…..?
They had opened the gates two hours early for the Harry Potter event. Everyone seemed to be having a great time and other vendors who were there still had very brisk sales. We had handed out a lot of business cards, but most people wanted a wand now. The gift shop manager had also been over and we knew they were sold out too. This was a very successful event with a lot of people and there was still an hour until the start of the game. We could have stayed for the game but I was uneasy having that much cash with me with the amount of people walking around. It was also difficult to nagivate around with the rolling cart and small bin we had brought to the game. Instead we decided to head home. That was a tough decision for me to make. It goes against my show beliefs that you need to stay up and selling until the end of the show. In this case I felt it was a good choice.
Now the reality set in. We just sold all of our inventory. This meant that I had to take down all of the single wand listings out of our Etsy shop. This would have a negative effect on our store traffic and our sales. We do have bundle listings that I kept up but of there were no single wands to select from to order them. We had sold a wand from one of those listings before I got them down so now hubby needed to duplicate that wand. In addition, just before the event, we had a 10 wand custom order that also needed to be filled before he could work on inventory. We lost another day purchasing and processing wood. It was 4 days later before I was able to put up any new listings.
Here are the lessons we learned from this experience:
Get dates for next year’s event as soon as available. TIP: Apply this to planning out all of the craft or art shows ahead of time.
Take at least 200 wands to the event and over estimate the amount needed for every event. TIP: Make sure you have more than enough of your most popular item or items.
With any event, make sure to take inventory not already listed on Etsy to avoid taking down listings. TIP: If you sell on line make sure you have inventory to cover both types of selling or consider not taking special items sold on line.
Take more change then you expect to need. TIP: Think ahead and go prepared with change. Make sure you have the ability to take credit cards. This is a must at a craft show today and so easy to do even if you are a casual seller.