As I’ve already stated, this was my first show as a vendor. I knew I wasn’t going to get everything right the first time and that the learning experience was going to be the true gain (though financially I didn’t do so bad!).
So let’s go back and talk about what worked, what did not, and what I’ve learned for next time. Some are pretty obvious but I’ll mention them anyway.
What Did Not Work
For this show I swapped services with the festival. We performed for the festival and in return we had a booth for the weekend. I was even given permission to split the booth between Aranmore and my business, (seriously, I can’t thank the festival coordinators enough, they were fabulous AND patient with a newbie who didn’t know what she was doing!). Anyway, since it was the dance school that was the reason behind the free booth I put the dance table front and center.
Now, I knew ahead of time this would probably hurt my personal revenue, but again, I owed it to the school so I did not mind! So the first day I made sure the Dance table was out front to get the attention. I made sure to try and invite everyone in the tent to look at my stuff but a lot of people would just glance at the dance pictures and maybe sign up for the raffle then move on without taking a look at my stuff.
Since we were raffling a month of free dance classes we would try to engage the viewers and encourage them to sign up. We were in no way egregious and pushy but being asked about dance lessons definitely scared some people away! (Others, however, were very interested and happy to put their names down)
Making the booth accessible:
Since the dance table was out front, stretching 3/4 of the way across the entrance of the tent, I think it looked like you weren’t allowed to enter. We realized this early on but again, I’d committed to the dance table so we did our best the deal with this. We left as much room as possible for people to get in and made sure to politely invite everyone who came by to step in and take a look. This worked to some extent. The solution is pretty simple for next time. We’ll line the walls/edges of the tent with the tables instead of putting one across the front. (This was my original idea but the tent layouts made this difficult for this show). I would then put my clothing rack and dress forms out at the front of the tent to catch people’s eyes and lure them in.
Hanging costumes of the same fabric together:
I had lots of skirts, shirts, and blouses made of cotton gauze for sale. Most of these were in black or red with some purple. I hung all these garments together thinking that made sense. On reflection, people seemed to pass right over that whole section without looking and I think this is because you couldn’t tell what each piece was because they were all camouflaged against one another. It also looked visually uninteresting. Solution: separate these pieces and find a better way to display them.
Not enough sizes:
This one I knew would be a problem, months before the show. However, I had already spent quite a bit on materials, to make a dozen versions of each piece in various sizes was financially out of the question as I had no idea what people would like/look at. With a better idea, I will slowly rectify this issue and strive to have more diverse sizes in my stock.
A center piece:
My biggest piece was a beautiful Jacquard and velvet pirate coat with buttons down the side and working pockets. I wanted it to be displayed front and center but with the dance table and no dress form large enough to display it, it ended up hanging in the back. Well, guess what? It still sold! This was my biggest sale of the weekend and I was so excited I almost flew right out of my boots. Even when I didn’t have it displayed correctly it still caught attention. I know I’m not always going to sell the most expensive piece but I will always make sure to have a garment that is the focal point of my booth.
Having Sue out front:
I made sure to dress Sue up in nice pieces of my stock and set her out at the front of the tent. While nothing she wore sold she did earn a lot of attention. I saw a lot of people walk right past my table then stop and go back for a look at what Sue was wearing. I intend to have more forms for my next shows as I think being able to properly display the clothing (instead of just hangers) really makes a difference.
Accepting credit cards AND having a minimum:
We got the square credit card reader****read review below**** in preparation for this show. Without it I would have missed out on close to $200 in sales. Since the square system take a percentage out of each sale we set a credit card minimum of $20. This worked to our advantage as a few times someone wanted to buy a piece of jewelry with their card and on hearing we had a minimum they selected a second piece so that they could be over the minimum and use their card. No, I’m not trying to scam people into buying more, It’s just simply not worth accepting credit or debit cards for a tiny purchase when you lose part of it! Everyone understood and was more than happy to comply.
Having the small cheap items:
Most of my sales came from the smaller things, people are going to be more spontaneous and open to an impulse buy when its something affordable. That doesn’t mean price your wares too cheaply, just make sure you have some small stuff that anyone can afford.
I could list a dozen other small things, both good and bad (like the little brat who ran up and grabbed a big handful of jewelry, dropped it all in a pile then ran off… grr, I’d like to have chased him down and walloped him…) but I think I’ve covered the big things. Of course, having friends and family to help with the booth, and members of my dance school hanging around to support me was fantastic and added to the fun and success of the weekend. The next show I’m looking at is Jan/Feb so we’ll see what I can do better!
Square Credit Card Reader Review****
Ok, well first off, yeah, it worked. It accepted credit cards quickly (once I figured out how to use it) and I’d be poorer without it. However, I absolutely hate this service and recommend that people find a different way! I tried to sign up to get sent my free reader. I filled out the form correctly and it said it needed my who SS# to verify my identification. I was not thrilled at that, but typed it in.
It rejected me and told me to go check my information and try again. Checked everything over and tried again. Same thing. I searched for help, but the only help available was a useless little page that warned me to use my legal name. Duh, it’s not like I was trying to register under the sobriquet Fluffy McAwesomeness.
At this point I stopped because I was afraid there was a minimum of times you could try (NOTE: It does not actually say if there is a certain number of times you can try, it just says ‘try again’. Getting desperate, I picked up a square from BestBuy hoping that maybe if I already had the square plugged into my phone I could somehow bypass this difficulty.
No such luck, rejected again and this time I got the notification I feared. I’d tried one time too many and was permanently locked out. Pissed, angry and frustrated with a useless square reader, I searched for some way to contact them for help. There is a phone number BUT you can only get access to it if you have a customer code, which you have to be signed up to receive. Bullshit.
At least I found a way to email them and shot off an email explaining my problem and begging for help. After a while I got a canned reply. “We wish we could help you but you have reached the maximum amount of tries. There is no way you can ever use this service to accept credit cards, you are permanently locked out, go screw yourself, best of luck.” (I paraphrased a little)
I have never seen such utter bull. Why was I rejected in the first place? Is it by some random draw? And how HOW can you be forever restricted from using it? How is there no way to get some help and have someone take a look at your account and hit an ‘activate’ button? Again, I was given NO warning that I had only three tries, each time I was Rejected it simply told me to ‘try again’.
After a lot of indecision and raging, we decided to have my mom try to get an account. We really did not want to do this as we did not want to support this fraudulent bit of trash at all. In the end we realized that with the show in less than a week we had no choice. It accepted her and after a long and frustrating hour of trying to get it sent up my square was set up under my mom’s name and bank account. Not ideal, all the money I made went into her account meaning we then had to transfer it but at least I could accept credit cards.
We intend to see if I can switch bank accounts so at least, while still under her name, the money will go into my account.
So, yes, it works, for now. And if the system likes you, you hopefully won’t have a problem with it. But I intend to search for a different way to accept cards as I don’t want to support this shitty system a day longer than I have to.