Monday, July 1, 2013

Things I Learned from the Vintage Bazaar

The Vintage Bazaar was a great experience. The community of sellers and organizers was fantastic and the shoppers were great, too. As you can imagine, though, preparation for something that big is time consuming and long. While it's still fresh on my mind, I wanted to write a blog post that I can refer to the next time I'm ready to do a big event. And perhaps others getting ready for a trade show will find it useful. It wasn't my first ever event - I've done some craft fairs for my handmade items, but it's the only trade show I've ever done and certainly the biggest event I've ever done.

My first step was to do research and to sit and think of EVERYTHING someone might need. I have to say I did a great job at this. There were only two inconsequential things that customers asked for that I did not have.

My next step was to figure out how to get all of these items and components on the cheap. I couldn't very well spend hundreds preparing for the event, so I had to make do with what I had.

After that, I took the allotted tent space and plotted out with exact measurements the layout of my booth for the day of setup. Don't wing it. You need to get there and know where everything goes. After I plotted the layout, this added more things to my "need" list such as tables, chairs, garment racks, etc.

Please note that I have an Amazon.com prime account. I find this invaluable for my business. I am able to get inexpensive supplies and large items shipped to my door in two days at no cost to me. (Plus I can watch Downton Abbey with their Prime App!)

Here is my checklist with some notes as to why the item was important:
  • Tent - I had a blue tent, because I borrowed it from a family member. It was not ideal because it tinted the clothes. A white tent would be best. You may want one with sides or without. I have this one on my amazon wishlist. One with a window will give you the most airflow - it gets stuffy during the summer.
  • Garment racks - I used cheap garment racks from Amazon, as this is what I have been using to store clothes in my home and I already had 2. I wouldn't say this was a mistake per-se, but I had to limit how much clothing I could put on the rack to keep it from toppling over or breaking. I had one rack break at the end of the first day, and I taped and re-purposed it the second day as a low-to-the-ground shirt rack.If you use cheap racks, just be aware of their weight limitations under wind, customers tugging on them, etc.
  • Folding tables - I had a long 6 footer for my craft shows that folds in half. I got it at home depot for $45. I also had a small 2.5x2.5 foot card table. These were used for displaying housewares, jewelry, handbags, etc.
  • Pop-up changing room- I got this one from Amazon. I had more comments about how smart and clever this was than anything else. Lots of people asked where I got it. It is LARGE and takes up lots of space, but is 100% worth it. Almost everyone who bought something tried it on. And since it was under the tent, it wasn't as hot inside as I expected. It has an open top so there is some airflow. Someone else suggested a cheap way to do this with a hula hoop and a shower curtain. 
  • Floor length mirror - When selling clothes, don't forget a full body mirror! I used my home mirror. I think I got it at Wal-Mart back in college for $5 during their "back to school" dorm rush. It's thin and does the trick.
  • A step-ladder - I used an old wooden ladder splattered with paint so it doubled as a tool and a display piece. Use it during set up, and then drape it with blankets and vintage linens. Here are some great ideas for using your step ladder for display: Put necklaces or vintage belts on it, Put some painted boards between the rungs and use it as a shelf, or  put an assortment of little vintage items like gloves on it. I'll post a picture of how I used mine when I get my computer back up and running. Click here for lots of ideas on pinterest.
  • Other display pieces - You may want a shoe rack, a book shelf, a print block drawer for jewelry or smalls, or any other number of items you can use to display your wares. Think ahead!
  • A sign - I made a bunting with my shop name and tied it together with a chalk board resting next to my dress form. I used printer paper and printed the words, and then used spray adhesive to attach them to poster board and cut them out. This makes them nice and sturdy so they aren't flipping around in the wind and getting heavily damaged. 
  • A dress form or other way to display a garment in front of your boot

And now for the small items:
  • Receipt book
  • Square reader (invaluable to close sales. Make sure you have one. I had a $15 minimum for cards)
  • Tags/labels
  • Business cards
  • Chairs (I got fold up camping chairs for myself and a friend. If you are there for an entire day, trust me you will want to sit eventually)
  • Small dinner tray table for keeping pens, tape, receipt book, etc.
  • Hangers - Make sure you have enough! I had to send my husband and a friend on a bonsai run  for more. Make sure you have the right hangers to hang wide-neck dresses or skirts.
  • Scotch tape
  • A music player for set-up energy
  • Twine/heavy duty string
  • Clips with hooks from Ikea - These were perfect for hanging garments along the edge of the tent and for clipping up my sign.
  • Scarf spinner w/ clips
  • Pens
  • Scissors
  • Spare paper
  • Sharpie
  • $100 in cash (40 in singles, 40 in fives, 20 in tens) - I made all prices to the dollar to avoid change.
  • Small purse to carry cash around (cash boxes are too vulnerable)
  • Cooler with more bottled water than you think you could ever drink
  • Snacks (avoid overly salty snacks)
  • Bags (virtually everyone wanted a bag to take home their purchase)
  • Storage tubs to transport garments
  • Flexible measuring tape
  • Signup sheet for your e-mail newsletter on a clipboard
  • Sign telling what type of payment you take
Things I did not bring but will next time:
  • Duct tape
  • Small sewing kit
Other things you will need to do:
  • Figure out an inventory system you can use to reconcile sales and make sure you don't have sold items listed on your online shop
  • Tag your items with prices, or else go with a flea-market ask and tell style. I don't recommend this as you can easily make a mistake and under-value something, forgetting how much you paid for it.
I'll add more items as I think of them, including a download-able checklist of all of the items I mentioned before... but right now I have to go unpack all those garments and put my racks back together to get my shop back on track and active again!

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