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Thread: Winter Holiday Market - The Saga

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    ABQ NM

    Winter Holiday Market - The Saga

    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
    When the going gets weird, the weird turn pro. - Hunter S. Thompson
    When the weird get going, they start their own forum. - Vaughn McMillan

  2. #2
    Join Date
    Oct 2006
    Tokyo Japan
    Well that really does suck, I'm sorry to hear about this, I had hoped that things were starting to tick up for you guys in the US, as Japan follows, but I guess this and other things I've seen/heard/read, tell a different story

    Things here are also dismal, we had one of the sales guys for one wholesaler come by and show us some data for this year compared to last year, our orders to the month of December so far are only about $2000, last year at this time, it was over $4400 They are not the exception, it is like that all the way around here, people are just not spending the money they do have.

    I can only hope that we are in a much better place next year.

    The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.
    William Arthur Ward

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Jul 2009
    Amherst, New Hampshire
    Sad story but nice video.
    You sure are a talented turner.
    Faith, Hope & Charity

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Monroe, MI
    Sounds like the promoter didn't do a very good job of promotion if people weren't even showing up. You could blame it on the economy if people were coming through but not buying.

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Nov 2006
    Elgin, IL
    That sucks. I was really hoping to hear that things were picking up. Hang in there.


  6. #6
    Join Date
    Sep 2009
    Upper Cumberland, TN
    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Meiser View Post
    Sounds like the promoter didn't do a very good job of promotion if people weren't even showing up. You could blame it on the economy if people were coming through but not buying.
    I agree, Vaughn's pieces are beautiful but you can't sell to people that aren't there.
    I love making wood spin while I poke it with sharp metal objects.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    Dec 2006
    Yorktown, Virginia
    Vaughn, That's a gallery worthy display! I really liked the rotating exhibits. You'd think interior decorators would cruise these shows looking for accent pieces. Your work is beautiful and it will find a home sooner or later.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jun 2008
    GTA Ontario Canada
    Vaughn great video. I am sorry to hear of the poor show.

    I would only add that looking at the video and your work it does not belong in a flea market environment.

    In retail they always say location location location.

    You wont find Rolls Royce putting their product in cheap location.

    From what i read and see you in a territory that is one of the hardest hit in the USA.

    Nothing wrong with your work or your display.

    Personally i dont think bargain hunters should even see your work they aint worthy of it. So a vacant building might have been cheap entry fee but doesnt attract those who appreciate art and have the money to show it.

    Vaughn ya gotta get hooked up with someone that can promote you and take it to the next level for you.

    A gallery of sorts or an art promoter that has the network. Even if it costs you margin in the interim its worth it. At the end of the day you cant eat the bowls so given the labor and cost is already sunk into them letting a gallery have a bite into them aint really gonna hurt that much if it gets you further down the road.

    I would also seperate the craft stuff (pens pottpouri etc) from the art stuff. To me they two different markets and one does not good to the other. Its like having a new car lot in the middle of a used car lot area. Two different customer bases.

    Good art has never been affordable to the masses unless it was imitation or prints. You would be better off exhibiting with an art club where people attending are aware upfront its art and not craft and hence have the mindset in the firstplace.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Dec 2007
    Tellico Plains, Tennessee
    That sucks for a holiday market and especially when we usually move most of our products over the holidays... sorry you had the bad shows.

    I understand though... the economy has kept most of the disposable cash in people's pockets this year... My holiday markets this year were out side, the first one was cold, it was snowing when I set up and I sold only a few pieces... second was much better, but it was still cold and miserable.... the last is tomorrow and the weather is turning nasty again... raining today and predicted to rain tomorrow then turning to wet heavy snow in the afternoon... thinking about blowing the market off and saving my toes from frostbite.

    My wife's step mother lives in the Northridge area... LOML's father was with the Armed Forces Radio as an announcer for all of his career... he worked in Japan and Washington before he moved to the LA area where he retired. I lived in the LA area for about 18 months after I got out of the Navy, but mostly south of LA... I've only been to Northridge once when I went out to evaluate a computer system and since it was near the area, we got to visit with my step mother in law... as I remember, it's a pretty nice area... I was out there a few years before they had the earthquake that did so much damage around the area. I remember that we went to a nice restaurant that sat way up high and out on the patio we could look out over the whole LA basin.. at night with all the lights it was spectacular.

    Anyway, If I don't go tomorrow to Knoxville, my winter season is over and all I can do now will be get ready for next year. I have a gallery that wants me to put some stuff in on consignment... thinking might do that.. better to expose it to possible sales than to just store it...

    Edit to Correct: My mistake.. mentioned to the wife about this post... she corrected me.. her father and step mother lived in North Hills..... not Northridge.. and North Hills was where the earthquake was... it shook my wife's mother's house enough that she was afraid to stay there for several months... one of her daughters lives nearby and she stayed with them for nearly 6 months before she felt safe enough to go back home. She's in her 80's... and probably shouldn't be living alone anyway.

    Merry Christmas and wishing everyone a Prosperous and Happy New Year.
    Last edited by Chuck Ellis; 12-18-2009 at 03:39 PM.
    Tellico Plains, TN
    My parents taught me to respect my elders, but it's getting harder and harder to find any.
    If you go looking for trouble, it will usually find you.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    May 2007
    Kansas City, Missouri
    Bummer dude...sorry to hear that it was a flop, hopefully the summer one will make up for it.

    To a small child, the perfect granddad is unafraid of big dogs and fierce storms but absolutely terrified of the word “boo.” – Robert Brault

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