Hey there metro Detroit makers! I’ve been going crazy doing shows the past two weekends, and I have a few more coming up in August, so you can expect a different show review every Wednesday this month, and all four are in very different areas of metro Detroit, which is really exciting. I’m always pumped to try new shows, and I’m even more excited to share the results with you and hopefully help you as you plan your craft show year!
The Saline Indoor and Outdoor Crafter’s Market was a different show experience for me in that I couldn’t do a lot of research about it before I applied. I found it on Facebook, I didn’t know anything about the area or the organizer, there wasn’t a lot of information online about previous events, and it was over an hour away from my house. These were the exact conditions under which I applied to Junk in the Trunk in Richmond earlier this year, and that show exploded on me (in a good way). So I wanted to try another experiment. This one definitely did not go as well, though it wasn’t a total disaster.
I want to break these August shows down by price, location, advertising, crowds, and vendor perks to give you an idea of what the experience was like for me at the shows I’m sharing this month.
As always, I want to preface this review by stating that I’m writing from the perspective of a furniture vendor, and my experience isn’t necessarily representative of all the other sellers (though in this case, I didn’t see a lot of selling going on except at the other furniture booth, right across from me—her prices were insanely good. If I’d sold more big pieces, I totally would have bought this gorgeous bed frame she was selling for only $35).
I also want to say that this was one of the first shows organized by this particular group, according to what I found online and what I heard from shoppers and vendors. I think there was at least one other show before this one, in Plymouth. Normally, I don’t do first-time shows, but almost 4,000 people were interested in the Facebook event, which was about what the number was for Richmond, and so I thought I’d give it a try.
Here’s the breakdown by price, location, advertising, crowds, and vendor perks:
Price: One reason that I took a chance on this show was that the price for a 10’ x 10’ booth was only $50. That’s a decent vintage market price; any higher and it wouldn’t have made the trip worth it. The reason I say ‘vintage market’ is that that’s how it looked from the photos that were posted on the event on Facebook—it actually turned out to be more of a craft show (check out my Shabby Sundays post for a quick breakdown of the difference)—but more on that later.
Once I was at the show, the $50 booth fee seemed a bit high. It was a much smaller show than I expected, and there was no signage on the main road advertising the event (contrary to what the website said, which was that there would be “…signage all through residential areas and busy roads.”) I always get a bit nervous when I’m on my way to a craft show and can’t find my way the last few miles just by following the signs posted by the organizer of the event. If I can’t find it that way, potential customers can’t, either.
Location: Like I said, this show was about 65 miles from Rochester, which is normally a little farther out than I’d like. It was hard to earn the booth fee back and make up for mileage, time, and food. We barely did it, which means that this show was a break-even for us at best. That is, of course, totally on me—I signed up for this show knowing how far away it was and having no way of reasonably predicting how it would go. I’m very grateful that it went as well as it did (though even if it had been worse I still would have had a lot to write about!).
It was held at the local UAW, with booths available inside and outside, which made the event a bit more like doing a high school show—that’s what it felt like more than anything else. Again, the Facebook event made it seem like there would be tents out on the property in back, sprawled out, with a flea market type feel. Instead, there were about 15-20 tents in the front of the building, and then about as many tables inside.
Advertising: I touched on this a little bit already, but I’m not sure that the website was exactly genuine when representing how the event would be advertised. It may be because they didn’t get enough vendors to register for the show and didn’t have the budget for the advertising they promised, but the lack of signage on the day of the show seems inexcusable, especially when it was clearly promised by the organizers. The only banner that they did have was a generic “craft and vendor show” banner—nothing with the name of the event or in the style of what I feel like people would expect after finding the market on social media.
I mentioned above that the Facebook page misrepresented the event, and that was really reflected in some of the customer comments to me. The event page advertised the show as follows:
“This Market will have a lot of Handmade Items, Vendors, Vintage Pieces, Food Truck/Food Trucks, and more.”
The photo for the event page looks like it was pulled from someone’s “Dream Market Booth Display” Pinterest Board, and it looks beautiful—well decorated, well curated, vintage and shabby chic (you can see why I was attracted, right?). In reality, the show was heavy on the direct sales vendor side, with at least four LuLaRoe sellers alone! I get that all the LuLaRoe vendors have different inventory, but at such a small market it was overwhelming—as a customer I feel like it would have seemed as though I was bumping into a LuLaRoe rack every other booth.
Like I said, a few customers remarked along these lines to me, asking why I was the only booth selling vintage pieces (like I said, there was one other booth with furniture, but she had more of a consignment store feel with clothing, signs, and small goods as well) and complaining that the event wasn’t what they’d expected. Someone had driven an hour expecting a large flea market and was pretty upset. To be fair, the event wasn’t marketed in print like a flea market, but I think the photos used in marketing are just as powerful (if not more so) than the copy for the event, and I understand why customers would have had this perception of the market from the event page.
If I had known that it would be more of a craft show, I never would have brought my vintage pieces—I would have focused on my painted furniture. The very first item I sold was the only chalk painted piece that I brought, and quite a few people were interested in it before it sold.
Crowds: This show didn’t start until 11 a.m., which is a little later than normal. I’m used to shows that start at 9 or 10—usually you make the most sales before noon, so starting at 11 doesn’t give you a lot of time. Fortunately, shoppers started coming even before 11, and the dry sink sold at 11:04 a.m. (I keep track of when and which items sell on a simple receipt book from Office Max). I immediately felt better despite the misgivings I was already having about the show—it’s nice to start the day in the black and then just relax and know that at least you didn’t lose any money on your booth fee.
I didn’t see a ton of my ideal clients at this show, which I was surprised by—I thought that being close to Ann Arbor, the crowd would be a bit more similar to what I’m used to in a place like Royal Oak. I did see a few young couples and young professionals, but mostly families and older women and couples.
I was also surprised that my prices seemed to be too high for a lot of shoppers—a few even came right out and said that my things were too expensive, which is the opposite of what I’m used to hearing, and even more shocking to me because I priced a lot of my mid-range pieces $10-$15 cheaper than I did out in Richmond, and dropped prices on a few of my bigger pieces $20-$50 for this show. I don’t know a ton about the Ann Arbor area, but I was really not expecting my prices to be a problem to the extent that they seemed to be.
Vendor Perks: The biggest perk at this show was indoor air-conditioned bathrooms. I’m always stoked when I don’t have to use a Porta-John, friends. Aren’t you?
Around 12:30, one of the staff members rolled around a cart of drinks and chips. I had Dan with me to help with breaks, and I was talking with a customer when the volunteer rolled by, so I just waved the cart on. They had food for sale inside and a couple of food trucks, too, and I’m sure if I’d needed it the volunteers would have watched my booth while I ran inside to take a break.
Speaking of staff, I only met the head organizer by accident when I was walking around inside taking photos. She and the parking lot volunteer were both wearing bright orange STAFF t-shirts, so she would have been easy to find, but it always seems weird to me when the organizer of the event (especially one as small as this) doesn’t come by at some point during the day and just ask how everything is going.
The form said that vendors needed to be set up and ready to sell by 10:50 a.m., which would normally be strictly enforced—but then a trailer pulled through the market at 11:30. As a customer, I would have felt like that was a little disorienting and distracting—not to mention disruptive to the traffic flow and a bit unprofessional. I guess the ability to set up late could be considered a perk…
Though this was purely an accident and probably doesn’t count as a perk, we had some great neighbors in the Leather Hound USA—one of the best parts of the show was getting to know them a little. Their leather goods (all hand-stitched!! it makes my fingers hurt just thinking about it) were beautiful.
Overall, I’d give this show a 2.5 out of 5 stars. I’d actually be interested to try the show in Plymouth and bring more of my shabby chic pieces—I have a feeling I’d do a lot better with those, especially judging by the fact that the only big piece I sold was a chalk painted piece.
One of the reasons that I went into this show a little more nervous than usual was that it seemed disorganized before it even started—the website sign up form asked whether you wanted to be indoor or outdoor, but somehow didn’t record that response, so when I got the confirmation email, it said I would be inside. I immediately emailed back requesting an outdoor space, and got a confirmation that it wouldn’t be a problem. Then two days before the event, the head organizer called me asking if I would need a table at my space, and I had to remind her again that I wanted to be outside, at which point she offered me a double space at no extra charge, because she’d underestimated the amount of space she had, which comment I read as “I didn’t get as many vendors as I wanted.” That may be unfair, but in my experience, it’s usually true, and really seemed to be the case when I got to this show.
I’ll keep you posted on the status of the Plymouth show in September and whether I decide to try it or not. It might already be out of the running for me, since they appear to be charging $85 for that market, which is really high for this kind of show, especially if they aren’t going to invest in more signage for the event.
Stay tuned on Wednesdays for the rest of the month to hear how things went at Sterlingfest, the St. Augustine festival in Richmond, and the Shed 5 Flea at Eastern Market!