Wednesday, October 29, 2008

2008 was a bad year for sales

It's been a while since I posted much. I've got a number of things to post about. I'll try to get to them over the next few weeks. However, for now, I just want to touch on how my art shows went this year. In a few word: not too good.

This year, before things even got started, I could see the writing on the wall with the economy (especially here in Michigan), and I wasn't too confident that things would go so well. So right from the start, I tried not to get my expectation too high. That was a good thing, as most of my shows went quite poorly. My only consolation was that I wasn't the only one doing bad. At each show, it was the general consensus among artists that things were bad. So it's not me. That's good to know, though I'm not sure what to do with that knowledge.

I examined my schedule from last year, and decided I wasn't going to add any new shows. I decided just to take the best of last year and eliminate a the bad parts. There were 2 shows that were outright terrible. However, one of them (Livonia) I had made the mistake of prepaying for the year before, so I was stuck going anyway. The other one (St Clair), however, got eliminated. Another show (Wyandotte) was actually reasonably profitable the year before, but it was such a long, drawn out show, that the number of hours I end up investing was just huge in proportion to the profit I made. I reluctantly eliminated that one from the list. Finally, the Troy show was also a pretty decent one day show the year before. However, now that I had a new booth setup and it takes a little more time setting up, I wasn't confident yet in my ability to be able to finish during the small setup window available for this show.

What I was left with was Livonia, Northville, Sterling Heights, Shelby Township, and South Haven. Much like last year, Livonia was a disaster. This time I was smart enough not to pay for next year. I won't be going back. Northville and Shelby Township were my 2 best shows last year, but this year I barely got a tiny profit out of them. In Sterling Heights, my sales were less than half of the previous year. Yet, when you consider that the booth fee was the same, and gas prices were higher, my actual profit was only about 25% of what it was the year before. Very discouraging. South Haven was the only show to do well. My sales total was within $50 of the year before.

When it was all said and done, the 5 shows I did this year actually got me about $400 LESS than the 5 shows I did in my first year (2006). Ugh!

So where do I go from here? At this point, it's looking like 2009 may be even worse than 2008. With a presidential election coming up very soon, I think the outcome of that may have an impact on how next year turns out. In either case, I don't think we are going to see a massive turn around too quickly. However, it seems one candidate does have the ability to inspire people, and inspiration can be a wonderful thing in making good things happen. But other than that, I'm not seeing a lot of promise. I'll have to evaluate a lot of different things, decide which shows I might want to keep as my cornerstones, and which ones to replace. Perhaps I'll think about why it is that South Haven did so well and see if I can come up with other shows like it (easier said than done).

The one good thing I can say is that I've got a lot of my expenses out of the way now. Overall, I'm very happy with the booth setup I have (other than I'd like to make some new print item on my list for this year that never got done). I've upgraded my camera and lenses this year. Next year I'm hoping I'll be able to keep expenses to a minimum and actually turn a profit for once.


Matt said...

I wouldn't be too negative. Every year (at least once a year) I try to analyze my operation (booth, presentation, prints, etc.) and I see if there any improvements that can be made. There's always room for improvement, although you can only do so much so often. And you never know, with all those Obama tax breaks coming our way maybe the buyers will be out in force ;)

Parker said...

This was a hard year for almost everyone, but very tough for artists at the lower price points. I noticed that many shows had lots more lookers than buyers, and having some higher end more exclusive work helped encourage those with deep pockets to unlimber those wallets.

A couple of Michigan shows surprised me this year. Art & Apples had a positive upbeat crowd that was actually buying art. And Arts Eats and Beats managed to have a good day, but it was three days of unbearably hot weather to get to that last good day.

Try to up your game in both subject matter and presentation (booth). It's gotten so easy to be a photographer that now we have to compete with the consumer himself to get pictures on his wall!