Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Consumer Show Etiquette Revisited

With the largest Canadian sewing and crafting show just a few days away, I thought a repost of this article was warranted. Most people who visit my booth are wonderful, courteous and mindful of the enormous effort it takes to be there. Some unfortunately are not. Read on.
I love doing consumer shows and the Creativ Festival is certainly one of my favourites. Held twice a year, it takes about six months of ongoing planning and preparation to create a really great experience for consumers.

There is an enormous amount of preparation and expense that goes into exhibiting at these shows. There are a lot of unknowns, and vendors have only three days to educate consumers about their products and help them make informed choices. In order for the vendor to have a successful show they have to make sufficient sales to cover all their expenses: booth rentals, carpet and fixture rentals, electrical supply, lighting, advertising, signage, shipping expenses, hotels, parking and staffing. An average cost per 10 x 10 booth before the show opens is $3,000. What if you had only three days to recover $9,000 or $10,000 of investment just to break even?

The Networker:

Some individuals are looking to get into the creative industry and figure that they will meet all kinds of people who can give them advice or buy their product. And that's not necessarily a bad thing, except when the individual monopolizes the staff's and owner's precious time. The best approach is to come prepared. Spend some time educating yourself about the potential contacts' businesses so you are sure there is a fit. Next visit the show and browse the aisles, taking in what's going on and making notes.

Lastly, pick a slow time to visit the contacts you are interested in. The best time is Friday evening after 6:00 pm. Approach the booth and ask to speak to the owner. Quickly introduce yourself and state your purpose. Ask the owner if he or she has a few minutes to speak with you. If the owner says that this is not a good time, politely hand over your business card and ask if you may contact him or her after the show. If she or he agrees to speak with you, take exactly three minutes and offer to contact the owner after the show. You may then wish to stay to browse or make a purchase. If you are not shopping, leave the booth and go to your next contact. You will make a good impression and the owner will be much more receptive when you do call.

The Opportunist:

Some people like to come to the show to become educated and get inspired. That's what it's all about. It's a great opportunity to try out a sewing machine before you buy or learn about a new notion. Take all the classes and attend the free shows and seminars. But don't take advantage of the vendors. I overheard a consumer announce to a vendor who had just spent 15 minutes demonstrating a product, providing lots of tips on how to get the most of it: "I'll use my 40% off coupon at Michaels to purchase that product." Everyone likes to save money, but this isn't the way to go about it. It is highly unlikely that anyone at Michaels would provide the level of service that vendor had just given. I'm sure the service from that vendor was worth more than the 40% off coupon. Be considerate. If you're not going to buy from the local independent vendor, they won't be there to give you precious advice the next time you need it.

Support for Small Business

"Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not: nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not: the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent." Calvin Coolidge

Persistence in today's economy is tough. Sometimes it is overwhelming when the bills pile up and the sales are down. And one wonders how to continue to bring the passion for their art to work every day. I think President Calvin nailed it.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

I Don't Do Cross-Border... Yeah Right.

I have had a few individuals give me grief because they don't like that I take a group of sewers to the American Sewing Expo just across the Ontario-Michigan border. I usually don't get into it, as I pick my battles. And of course, the customer is always right, right?

If you shop at Wal-Mart, Home Depot, Michael's, The Bay or Target, guess what? You are cross-border shopping. And you can argue that they employ Canadian locals, but at what cost? Minimum wage jobs with few benefits. They put many locals out of business, so that you can have cheap goods from China.

Many quilters buy cheap fabrics online from U.S. retailers and show up at the local quilt store for blenders or backings. Garment sewers order Kwik-Sew, McCall's, Butterick and Vogue patterns online. Online shopping from the U.S. is cross-border shopping too.

Like it or not, the U.S. is our neighbour, and we could do a lot worse. Most of the exhibitors at the American Sewing Expo are small to mid-sized businesses. The teachers are creative individuals without whom there would be far fewer resources for us. Even the sewing machine companies are small players on a global scale. And none of them caused a global recession.

And if you don't think your local retailer is buying the majority of their goods from suppliers in the U.S., you are mistaken. My point is, a little weekend of fun and shopping at an independently run sewing show in Michigan is hardly unpatriotic.