Thursday, June 19, 2008

Starting off year 3 with a terrible show

Once again I'm off to a bad start for the year. Last weekend I did the Livonia Art From the Heart show, for the third year in a row. It ended up terrible...I lost money. However, it was good practice with some of my new equipment, so not all is lost.

History of Livonia Art From the Heart

Just to recap a brief history, Livonia was my first show ever, and ended up as my best show the whole first year. The second year was a LOT worse. I actually lost money that time and it was my lowest sales show of the year. However, at the time I did the show, I had not yet experienced a better show, and so (not knowing what was out there) I was too quick to just write it off as a bad year and thus signed up for year 3 on the spot (in order to get a $50 discount). Well, year 3 turned out just like year 2.

Way fewer artists this year

When I received my welcome packet a while ago, the first thing I noticed was the layout of the show. The isles looked like they had way fewer booths than last time. This time there were less than 100 booths, whereas (I believe) the prior year had about 150 booths. Obviously a lot of people were upset about 2007 and didn't return.

When I arrived on Friday night to to check in, the thing I noticed was that they were hand writing in several people onto the show layout chart and filling out their signage by hand. In contrast, most everyone had them prefilled in and computer printed. It's possible these were alternates called in at the last minute. However, given the decrease in the number of booths, I don't think that was likely...I suspect they actually accepted everyone who applies. The only other thing I could think was that they were actually accepting last minute entries.

One benefit of the fewer artists was that our booth space was increased from 10x13 to about 15x13. That would have been useful had I realized it before I finished setting up...I could have put up another awning and put some more work on the outside wall. Oh well.

Friday night the rain

When I arrived to setup on Friday night, it had just started raining. On the plus side, we missed the lightening that was originally forecast, and the rain was only relatively downpour. Normally I would have been upset about the rain, but this year I had my new Trimline canopy. If it were as good as its reputation, I'd have nothing to worry about. Another upside to the rain was that we were one of only about 6 people who chose to setup on Friday night, so there was no fighting for parking spots.

Even though I bought the trimline at the end of last year, I never used it because I wanted some more practice setting it up. The only setup I had done before, I got as far as assembling the frame and top, but no walls or awnings. Well, I never got around to practicing, so essentially I was doing my first whole setup of the tent on the spot. I ran into a few small snags, but nothing I didn't quickly figure out. I'll write more about the booth in another post.

Once we got the canopy up (including walls), we were much relieved, as we were able to finish our work in the dry interior. We setup the pro-panels (which we also had never setup before), hung a few frames, and then decided we were exhausted enough to head home and leave the rest for tomorrow morning.

The show

Saturday was entirely uneventful. No rain, no major traffic, no snags. Nothing interesting to report on at all. Sunday started out the same way. Then there was a minor surge in traffic that made it hopeful that things would start picking up, but it ended as quickly as it started. A few more brief surges happened over the next few hours, but it never went anywhere.

There was a storm scheduled to come in right around the time we were to close (5PM), but it arrived early. At 1:30PM the storm hit. I closed up the booth, but there was lightening, so I figured it was safest to retreat to the car. The rain lasted only about 15 minutes. I returned and reopened.

The early exodus

Right after the rain, artists immediately started packing up. Our row held the line (we only lost one booth), but the next row over lost all but 3 booths. About 3PM I decided to take a walk around the show to see (what was left of) the other artists. It was sort of embarrassing how quickly I walked the entire show. There was hardly anything left.

It got a bit windy, and one of the artists who was packing up had her easy-up canopy roll on her. She made the mistake of leaving it up with no weights and no stakes holding it down.

The results

When it was all said and done, I made about $190 in sales on a $200 booth fee, so I lost $10 plus materials, gas, credit card fees, and time. What was most interesting was that even my cheap $5 gift cards couldn't save me. I sold a set of 5 and a single card. Three of the prints I did sell were discounted prints on my clearance shelf (I had too much inventory for my bin and wanted to move some of the older prints).

Another artist near me only sold a bit over $500 worth of stuff, and $325 of that was due to to a single large canvas sale. A jeweler near me only made $35 on Sunday.

Done with the show

I was a bit stupid for signing up again, but now I know better. I've found better shows, and there's no need to hope for a turnaround on this one. I'd rather spend my time trying out new shows than come back to this one, so that's another show off my list for next year.

Next up...the Northville show this coming weekend. Also up this weekend....a forecast for scattered thunderstorms :-( On the upside, maybe all this rain (if it keeps up) will make for a wonderful display of autumn colors this year. That upside is 4 months away. I must be desperate for good news.

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