Monday, August 02, 2010

Craft Show Booth Merchandising 101

A very very very long time ago I worked in retail hell. While I hated it for the most part (the bad pay, the mean customers, inevitably getting sick right before Christmas every year due to exhaustion) I learned a lot of things that have helped me as an artist. I was a Visual Merchandiser in home furnishing so it lends itself to ceramics. I never intended to be a Merchandiser nor did I go to school for it. I fell into it and as it turns out I was quite good.

When I go to art shows I sometimes cringe. Its hard to set up your booth at first and every show becomes a trial and error. Here are some tips that I hope help in merchandising your work effectively.

1. Always have finely pressed tablecloths that extend all the way to the floor. No matter how great the rest of your booth looks seeing boxes under the table can totally distract the eye. Wrinkles are messy and make you look lazy. You spent a lot of time preparing for the show and making new work. Take a few minutes to make sure that is exemplified in your booth.

2. Color block. This is soooo important. I have brightly colored work. If I kept all of the mugs together, all of the plates together, etc it would be a bombardment of the senses. If I organize the work by color suddenly the eye can rest easy and the shopper can easily target the colors that appeal to them.

3. Make sure your displays enhance your work rather that distract from it. One great example is a local artist that uses cigar boxes to show off his jewelry. His style is clean, masculine and has a weathered antique look. The boxes create varying levels of height and accentuate the work. His displays garner just as much attention as the work but you can resist his pieces because of how it draws you in.

4. Don't set all of your work on the table with no varying degrees of height. Work should pyramid towards the center of the table if using one table. This helps draw the eye. If you are in a 10x10 booth space you can place with this idea a bit more. It just takes some time.

5. Have some of your work at eye level to attract customers. Simple and effective. Try putting your best sellers there first. Once they are gone experiment to see how product moves from show to show.

6. Have enough work out to fill the table but don't over or under crowd. Too sparce and it looks like that's all you have left leaving the customer will little options. Too much and it looks quite simply like a mess. You can replace pieces as they sell. Or if I have 8 mugs in one style I only put 4 out at a time. If a customer inquires I can tell them I have more if they wish to see them.

7. Make sure all work is price tagged but try to put it somewhere that isn't distracting from the piece. I try to keep my tags low towards the foot of the piece. Also price tags don't have to be huge. Its all about the work. Keep it that way.

8. Experiment from show to show until you figure out what works with your wares. I know through years of practice (and screw ups!) that some pieces sell themselves. No matter where I put a mug or coasters I sell them. But other items move slow so I experiment with their placement.

9. Be original. This is hard especially for jewelers. The standard displays for necklaces, etc are great but when you are 1 in 60 at a show a unique presentation can help bring attention to your work. If your display is original chances are your work is as well.

10. And finally if you have a 10x10 space try to make it inviting to the customer. Play with table arrangements so that a few customers can move around freely.

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