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Mark C.

Anatomy Of A Great Show

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I had the best show of my career earlier this month in an out of state show.

What this takes comes down to many factors

Having items that folks want to use and enjoy is a key element for functional potters and this you learn over time

1st I have done this simi annual show for 23 years non stop

So 46 shows minus the one I missed for wrist surgery 3 springs ago

2nd is the plenty of stock as well as lots of back stock _ I mean lots

4th is booth placement or in my case the same booth space every show so I can be found easy by returning customers

 5th is wares priced for each party to work-they can afford it and I can make some profit

6th lots of display space well laid out

7th good weather

 

This was a 3-day show the fair starts at 9am so I’m there by 7am or earlier each day getting ready-sweep booth and fill shelves

Show closes at dark

When I have a double booth I need a helper so having one that’s great with people is a must.I took my best man

The Friday was 235 sales- solid day

Saturday was 305 sales-a very good day indeed

Sunday was 204 sales -another solid day

With a total of 744 customers

That’s a lot of pot wrapping and customer service.

My average sale was just a bit north of $26

I also brought a dinnerware set for pick up as well. Which sweetened the totals

This show has been on the rise for me for many decades this is not the case for all artists at the show including some clay artists so it’s a muti factor deal.

The Christmas show is stronger than spring as one would guess.

What’s worked for me is being consistent and giving it 110% every show.

Outstanding customer service also helps.

For me most if not all shows are up this past year including my local outlets.

Keeping in touch with your customers needs has made this happen.

I do not do a mailing list anymore or any sort of show mailers I just go to the same shows in the same spots for decades and it’s really worked well for me.

 

 

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So here's what I see in your set up.  You don't have a theme, pretty dressed up booth, decorative accents, etc. etc.  Your booth set up is utilitarian (don't get me wrong, it does look nice).  You just put out LOTS and LOTS of well made beautiful pots and the people came.

Wish I could make pots that fast.

 

Well done, and thanks for sharing.

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Mark,

  Thanks for posting this information.  I am still trying to ramp up my show schedule, but unfortunately will be out of the country for the main show I was hoping to add this year. 

  I found your $26 average interesting.  I try to have lots of small items, but in general I have a much higher average.  Not a higher total, but folks seem to spend around $40-60.  It sounds like your average sale is about 1 mug.  Can you provide more detail on the range of smaller items you sell and the prices?  I have added a couple more small items that I hope will sell well, but I am worried someone who might have bought a $30 bowl will just by two small $5 items instead and the profit margin on the smaller items is lower to begin with anyway. 

Jeff

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Jeff
One of my ways to really increase sales for every show I do and what I mean is bring home a few extra thousand per show is to offer small stuff. This lowers the average sale because
it dilutes the total and brings your average way down but when I sell say 400 5 dollar spoon rests that's another 2 k I,m bringing home
I sell many 40 to 80 dollar sales but those small spoon rests and 10 dollar sponge holders and soap dishes lower the average
So I offer at least 3 items that are 10 dollars and under and folks most always get a few of then along with other items
A few buy just a spoon rest and at Xmas it's often 10 or more spoon rests
This decesion to offer small stuff which I made only about 15 -20 years ago has been a financial boom for me
It's not for everyone as many potters will not make small stuff as its beneath them but I,m laughing about it all the way to the bank .
I can extrude soap dishes fast throw 50 spoon rests in 45 minutes and knock out the sponge holders fast
Most of them fit in kiln spaces as stuffers for free firing anyway
When you bank your 1st 100 k in small stuff sales you will feel different about making the,
I track how many spoon rests I sell at a show so I know to bring 100 more next time
I, at a show to make money and am long over any ego issues on what items that may involve.
I should add that every item in terms of these small items has a sweet spot price wise and when you exceed that price point sales go way down on that item. I have learned to keep that price at the spot that maximum sales occur.

My take on your question is many buy small items as add ons to other sales some just go for the smalls but thats ok to.

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Cushioning is huge if you have problem feet like me! My feet used to ache at the end of every show. I bought a small, cheap rubber door mat. It's covered in little rubber bumps. I keep it right at the base of my chair where I spend the most time standing. No more achy feet!

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The carpet guy is me before show opens
The throw rugs are polypropylene . I have spokenen about them before as they do not hold water or dirt. They are light and roll up.
You will have to run them down at a Asian market . They are sold by the meter the large ones are 3 meters like the two in the photos.
These are 3 section ones which come folded when new
I use shoe goo on the seems when I buy one as the seem thread wears out 1 st and this keeps them going for years
I do not use my rugs at all shows but they make for a nicer display than the street and you stay cleaner restocking on your knees and they keep my bag box off any rain on street as well.
You can find them in china town or sometimes in Mexican markets
They are not easy to find but well worth the effort if you do shows for a living and have an open booth concept.
I also have some other rug options for single booths
I work on wood floors in studio and crushed rock with rubber matts at kiln area
When you lean about taking care of your feet all this stuff will come to you
Shoe inserts better shoes now this tihread is going sideways about feet.

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Jeff as to the averages sale talk I use a small cash register at most shows and thus I can see each sale and divide them buy total money for the day or days or whatever.

Looking at my smart phone visa average my average sale is always larger that is say for this show in December

The total in card sales for the same 3 day show is almost 12 k with the average at 38$ so cash sales always dilute this higher number.

I do not overthink this stuff just make what they want and if it works well and is prices well they come back

My plan has been simple and works

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So here's what I see in your set up.  You don't have a theme, pretty dressed up booth, decorative accents, etc. etc.  Your booth set up is utilitarian (don't get me wrong, it does look nice).  You just put out LOTS and LOTS of well made beautiful pots and the people came.

Wish I could make pots that fast.

 

Well done, and thanks for sharing.

I do have a theme it's functional pottery for sale

It's been the same theme for 40 plus years

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Mark,

  Thanks for the further details on the small items.  I am certainly not above making smaller/cheaper items to increase sales.  I have been selling a lot of extruded soap dishes, thrown sponge holders (two styles), thrown small bowls (~2" thrown off the hump), and I just started making small square bowls made from slabs draped over 1/2 softball sized plaster molds (made from cutting plastic christmas ornaments in half).  Looking at the time, the smaller stuff is still my lowest profitability, but it is getting better as I get faster.  Mugs are also a bottleneck for me.  I do not like extruded handles, so the pulling adds a bit of time.  I tried raising the mug price to $25 (from $20) this year and sales dropped considerably.  All other pottery vendors had nice mugs for $20.  Dropping the price at the second holiday show increased mug sales by a factor of 4 or more.  Midwest art pricing requires a little adjustment.  I used to be a serious woodturner and found certain things would just not sell in this region, no matter the quality or price. 

  The new Peter Pugger is helping a lot with increasing production of small items.  I am working through my 700+ pounds of scrap clay backlog and the consistent 3" pug is quicker to cut into consistent weight pieces than workign with the 25# bags. 

  Thanks again for all your help,

Jeff

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Mark

How many potters do you have working on production in your studio? 

The physical demands of producing that amount of pottery every year would do me in.

 

Thanks for sharing

Karen

It's me and an assistant who does not throw much but she does the handling and interior glazing and some slab work

I also have another potter who makes mug bodies up to 6 hours per week not year around

Pottery is physically demanding and production work is not for everyone

It's something I have done almost my entire adult life

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I've been to one of Mark's shows, what it looks like is lots of very well made pots, many choices of glazes, nice range of price points and very efficient cash/wrapping.  The day I was there (Anacortes) it was pouring out and yet his booth still had a lineup of customers. 

 

Re carpet, those polypropylene mats/carpets are available at RV places. This one is 83- in Canada so about 60- US. https://www.rvpartscanada.com/index.php?main_page=product_info&cPath=27&products_id=607&zenid=44eb4d18c1f7b5f0b93d4c015bbaaa1e#.VoRWGGQrJz8

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In my contracting days I got to work on many of the major dept. stores around St. Louis. During that time I got to meet the big wigs and listen to the ins and outs of retail sales. Millions of dollars were spent designing the perfect store, with the perfect traffic flow, and displays specifically designed to spur impulse buying. Was rather amazed they spent millions studying colors and lighting: doing subject studies of what promoted consumer spending. Bright reds and oranges promote impulse buying according to their paid psychologists. So I think I would have one or two bright red/orange pieces high up on the shelves, in the most visible spot that stuck out like a sore thumb for those milling around. Like a big neon sign- come over here and spend your money. We are curious creatures, we will come and look even if we do not like the piece.

 

Nerd

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In my experience, display and merchandizing for a pottery audience is different from merchandizing for the general public. Pottery fans are very knowledgable and their priorities are deeper than "oooh shiny!" My advice to anyone who wants to sell is to disregard the impulse shoppers. Instead try to impress the educated customers and their deeper values.  

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Some of the psychology of big box retail merchandizing applies to pottery display building in terms of how your eye travels over a setup, but that's about where it ends. Colour psychology is actually highly subjective, and varies widely from region to region. No one wears white at a wedding in Asia because it has a very different meaning there. And green isn't a "peaceful" colour if you have negative associations with it.

Merchandizing for a 10x10 booth at a trade show is a different animal than a full time retail setup is a different animal than a 6 foot table display. I speak from experience, having built several of all of the above.

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" how your eye travels over.." That was the point I was making, am aware of the differences between a booth and a box store. However, the principle remains the same. If you are competing with booth after booth, having something up high that catches their eye; draws attention to your booth. Home Depot has bright orange signs and logos for a reason: draws your attention to them. Was not suggesting a line of orange and red; just one or two to draw attention. I also buy home remodeling magazines on occasion just to see what the latest color trends are. What potters call personal aesthetics, marketing calls branding.

 

Nerd

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