02 March 2010

Surviving my first wholesale show. Part 4: Other 'notables' and observations

Read Part 1: Deciding to do the BMAC Show

Read Part 2 : My initial Questions.

Read Part 3: Defining terms, writing orders, and other things I needed to know.

Part 4 : Other 'notables' and observations

Promoting the show.

I didn’t apply early enough to get a lot of advance mailers and/or advertising spots purchased to let the buyers know I was coming. But, as soon as I was aware of my booth number, I did let folks know via email, twitter, and my blog that I would be attending the event. Brochures and stickers were provided by BMAC. I put my booth number on the stickers and applied these to my postcards. That way, buyers were sure to know at what booth they saw me. (It can get confusing in such a large place!)

I also created a profile on the NICHE Marketplace to let the buyers of American Craft know that I was coming and at what booth they could find me. This service was provided with my booth fee shortly before the event. Again…if I had applied earlier, I would have had more time to create the profile. So….word of advice. Apply early!!! This will ensure that you get the advanced mailers, your name printed in the catalog and adequate time to promote your wares via NICHE Magazine, etc.

Some buyers stopped by my booth and told me that they had seen my artwork in advance of the show. One of the nice features about the NICHE Marketplace is that it tracks the visitors to your site and tells you if they are buyers or vendors. And, it’s incredibly useful to vendors in the event that a buyer doesn’t make it to the show. (You might recall that Philadelphia got hit with a blizzard just days before the 2010 BMAC show started. Several vendors and buyers were unable to attend due to canceled flights or weather-related delays.) I’ve had inquiries from galleries who were unable to attend the event, but who have accessed my information from the NICHE Marketplace.

Booth Etiquette

Sounds funny, but I think this is important. You want to be professional and polite at all times. You are making a first impression and it’s important that your behavior reflect the quality items that you are selling. I was extra careful to not be seen eating or drinking while buyers were in my booth. (These trade show events are exhausting…but I tried to nibble on food or take a drink only after buyers left my booth.) I greeted everyone who entered my booth…..buyers, guests, visitors, other vendors. I figure that even if the person isn’t a buyer, they are still someone who is showing an interest in my artwork and deserves to be treated as a potential customer. I noticed that a couple of vendors used empty vendor space to make a little lunch area behind a curtain. This was a good way to take the ‘lunch’ off the selling floor. I was the only person in my booth for the 4 day event, so I had to be there the majority of the time. But, I was fortunate to have awesome neighbors who could keep an eye on my booth in the event that I had to take a quick break.

It certainly is more help to have an extra person with you, but this isn’t always feasible. (And makes quite a long day for your helper.) I did notice that BMAC allows vendors to hire help. You could purchase an extra helper for ½ hr. increments throughout the day….just in case you wanted to take a lunch break, etc.

Try not to be sitting down when buyers enter your booth. Stand up, be enthusiastic and don’t cross your arms. Be ready to welcome them and answer any questions they might have. It’s also a good idea to be holding onto your purchase order book (on a clipboard). Many were ready to write an order right away….and they work quickly!

Layout of your booth:

Again...I have a lot to learn about booth displays and what will work best for my artwork. But, when designing your layout, make sure customers can comfortably walk-around within your booth and see your items clearly. Have prices easy to read without having to move things, turn things over, etc. If you have a wide-range of prices, you might want to put some of the more affordable items up front to draw the buyer into your booth. There were all sorts of displays at this event. Some had very elaborate, professional booths…others had simple tables showing their wares. Many vendors also had banners and photographs showing what they offer. They displayed the banners or photographs on the wall behind them, and then had the products on display on the tables or podiums.

Did the show live up to my expectations? Yes. Overall I’m thrilled with my first BMAC show. I made it through the 4 days and wrote several orders with new galleries and boutiques. I also exchanged cards with several other potential buyers. I didn’t notice many buyers from museum shops and catalogs, although other vendors confirmed that they were there. They just didn’t visit my booth. But, that gives me incentive to try harder next time! The show lived up to my expectations, but I was hoping for it to be really busy with barely any time to think! Several vendors commented that attendance was down from years past. I suspect that the attendance might have been affected by the massive snowfall just days before the event and the tough economy. But, overall….I’m happy with the results given my first show. I met some incredible artists and wonderful new buyers and am hoping to keep in touch with them throughout the year.

Next up: Part 5: Pictures from February 2010 BMAC and additional advice from 'those in the know'


DawnCorrespondence said...

Kristen, thank you SO much for taking the time to post all your ideas and experiences! So great! I learned so much just from reading these and am ready to conquer my first wholesale show!! I agree that booth etiquette is VERY important - essentially you are representing your company's brand, so you want to make it a good one!

Paper Squid said...

I completely agree with Amanda.
Etiquette is so important. I've been to even small craft shows where I didn't purchase and buy something because of the attitude or demeanor of the seller. This is soo important...and in a show like this even more so.

Thanks for taking the time to write these 4 posts and Congratulations on a sucessful first wholesale show.

Anonymous said...


WOW! You always amaze me!! Your art is amazing and your energy and spirit are inspiring! Thank you SO VERY MUCH for sharing your knowledge and experience with everyone; I value your advice and admire you for your support for other artists. I'm so honored to be a part of your team.

Thank you for your time and support.

Very Respectfully,


A Painting a Day by Kristen Stein said...

Thanks! I'm glad you found the posts helpful. Amanda - I can't wait to hear how your even goes. (It's in May, right?) I'm excited for you.

Good luck!!!

A Painting a Day by Kristen Stein said...

Absolutely Tammy! I figured I better try to organize my thoughts now before they become distant memories. haha! I was brand new to this type of show, so I thought my experiences might be useful to other artists considering this type of event.


Pam Corwin, Business of Crafts said...

It sounds like you learned a lot for only having done just one show! BMAC is the best there is, and Laura is a gem. It used to be that it was impossible to get in on such short notice. Frankly, I'm amazed that you did, and then jumped in with both feet and made it work. You really lucked out and it sounds like it really paid off for you. Congratulations and welcome to world of wholesale!

Wholesale really has the potential to change your business and your life. Shows will get better and better and soon you'll be seeing buyers who have become old friends and order regularly which makes it even more fun. and worthwhile. You made a wise decision when you took that leap of faith on January 13th!

Rebecca said...

Congratulations, Kristen! What a great start. Sounds like you came away with a lot of information, and I'm sure you'll make the most of it for an even better show next time. Your observations were spot-on, and I wish we had more newcomers like you who really dig in to pre-show planning (impressive with the short time you had, too) and stay positive on the floor.

Welcome to the Buyers Market family!


Rebecca Mercado
BMAC Jewelry & Suppliers Manager

A Painting a Day by Kristen Stein said...

Thanks Pam and Rebecca. Pam - Your booth was one that I wanted to stop by and see in person! I had seen your name in the BMAC catalog. I didn't get too much time to venture through the aisles, but I'll look for you next time!

Thanks for the warm welcome Rebecca! I probably saw you running through the aisles throughout the event as I was right next to the jewelry section (and in arm's reach of the afternoon cocktail bar and comfortable lounge chairs! :) )