As I’ve mentioned in passing the last few weeks, I’ve been showing my wares at an indoor market the past few weekends. Although it was a great venue with some excellent values for Christmas shoppers, sales-wise it was a bust. I figured it was time to tell the sordid tale. Sorry for the long post. That’s just how it is.
This show, dubbed the Winter Holiday Market, was held in a vacant Linens ‘n Things store in Northridge, CA, about 30 minutes from my house. This store is in a strip shopping center across the street from the Northridge Fashion Center, one of the bigger malls in the LA area. The show was (or is being) held every weekend from November 28 through this coming Sunday, December 20. I originally signed up to do just the first two weekends, but ended up doing three. More about that in a minute.
Since I was figuring on people doing gift-buying, I stocked up on lower-end items like pens, bottle stoppers, vases, night lights, and potpourri bowls. I really didn’t figure any of the higher end pieces would be likely Christmas gifts in this economy. Ironically, the smaller things cost me the most to produce. I can easily spend $15 on a pen kit, blank, and box whereas a bowl or hollow form costs me nothing more than chainsaw time and sweat. (OK, I’m not including consumables like sandpaper and finishing materials.)
One of the appeals of the Linens ‘n Things building was the fact that most of the store fixtures and shelving were available for the vendors to use. Also, the floor plan has lots of alcoves which make perfect display spaces for typical art and craft vendors. There were only about 20 vendors the first weekend, and a number of empty spaces. As a result, although I paid for a 10’ x 10’ space, the show organizer told me to feel free to spread out my display. I ended up using more like 15’ x 30’ when all was said and done. Nicest display I’ve ever had, and the only thing I had to bring in was one table. (Instead of three tables, two shelves, floor mats, a canopy, etc.) Another bonus was that we could leave our merchandise in the building during the week while the market was closed. No schlepping my stuff in and out every night or weekend.
The first weekend, right after Black Friday and all the shopping madness that brings, was dead. One of my fellow vendors counted 58 people past her booth on the first Saturday. I sold a potpourri bowl to one of LOML’s friends and a pen to a neighboring vendor. Sunday was about as slow, and I sold another pen to the vendor neighbor. Without exception, all of the vendors had very weak sales, if any at all.
The second weekend was a bit busier. The head count Saturday was 125, with Sunday about comparable. Still, that’s a virtual ghost town, and only about half the vendors sold anything. Nobody was even approaching making back their $200 per weekend entry fees. I sold a couple more pens to the vendor neighbor.
At the end of the day Sunday, just as I was getting ready to take my losses and pack up my stuff, the show promoter came by and offered me a free weekend if I wanted to stay. (She was scrambling to keep booth spaces filled so the place didn’t look like a vacant store. By then, the show was down to about 13 vendors.) I took her up on her offer, figuring I had nothing better to do the next weekend, and the stuff wasn’t gonna sell itself sitting in my living room.
The third weekend was no better than the previous two. I was completely skunked Saturday. Sunday I sold a pen and a bottle stopper. Big woop. At the end of the day on the third Sunday, I figured I’d had enough fun, so I packed up and brought it all home. I’m pretty certain the promoter would have let me stay another weekend for free, but I decided I wanted the last weekend before Christmas to do some other things. Needless to say, I came out in the red on this show. As a consolation, the promoter did tell me that I can have a free space in another show they’re doing this summer at the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica. The Promenade is a great pedestrian mall with lots of good tourist and local foot traffic. It should be a much more profitable location for trying to sell my kinds of things.
I took a few pics of my display, but they didn’t come out worth a darn since the display was pretty spread out. I did shoot some video, but mostly of the individual pieces, not the entire display. Here’s a link to my attempt at edited video. Cecil B. DeMille I'm not. Sorry for the relatively low quality...I was unable to get the higher-resolution version to upload.
Workingwoods at the Winter Holiday Market