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Business after 9/11

Hi Friends, A few weeks ago Robert Lowe asked, from Brazil, about how
sales were running after the attacks of 9/11. I reported I would be
doing my second show since that date, and would provide more feedback
afterward. This is my follow-up.

The show I did was very “crafty”… I was among what might be
considered the upper echelon of vendors. My gross sales exactly
matched my booth fee (break even for a local show), which was
certainly less than I had hoped. Fortunately, follow-on sales that I
have booked in the couple days since the show, but directly resulting
from it, have more than doubled my revenue, and I expect at least one
or two more commission jobs to result from specific conversations.

I did speak with a few higher-end shoppers who recognized and truly
appreciated the quality of design, material and craftsmanship I
offered. I always knew I had someone when my opals made their eyes
pop out of their heads! A few of my more eclectic designs got some
admiration, but for all my trying, I was unable to get these folks to
part with their cash. Is it my inability to “close the sale” or
resistance due to uncertainty and concerns about the economy?

Okay, given that this might not have been the right choice of show
for me to do (too much craft, not enough art), let’s look at what the
“traditional craft” vendors had to say. Most of them indicate that
their sales were down 50% from the same show last year. The $15 and
under products appeared to be selling reasonably well… kind of
“feel good” knick-knack sort of things.

My conclusion is that the mid-range customer is tending to hang on
to his money. In the past few years, he (or she) might have been a
little extravagant and made a special purchase, with confidence he
would pay it off in a few months. Now there is not that willingness
to make the finances stretch. There will always be higher-end buyers,
but I think they’re going to be harder to find… especially as
everybody starts trying to identify and target them.

Just one person’s observations and conclusions…

All the best,
Dave Sebaste
Sebaste Studio and
Carolina Artisans’ Gallery
Charlotte, NC (USA)

Dave, Thanks for the business at shows after 911 update, but you made
an interesting comment that I wanted to respond to. You said that
your gross sales exactly matched your booth fee, which you then said
was break even for a local show. If your sales only covered your
booth fee, this is not a break even situation, even if the show is
local. You must have spent a bunch of hours setting up, breaking
down and actually selling at the show. Unless the cost of making your
product is $0 then you also didn’t actually cover your booth fee with
the sales, nor did you cover the time spent making that product. I
also assume you have packaging of some sort and tools that you need
to use to build the jewelry. I am bringing all this up because I
have too often seen this kind of thinking lead to fiscal disaster
for jewelers. Break even for you would have to be at least to cover
all of these expenses beyond the cost of the show. I am happy to
hear that you had residuals from it but I think all the jewelers out
there need to look at what the true costs of doing business are and
consider this seriously when making fiscal decisions (particularly
involving doing craft shows). I speak from experience. Long ago
before opening my store I did a lot of craft shows, and unfortunately
far too many of them were money losers.

Daniel R. Spirer, G.G.
Spirer Somes Jewelers
1794 Massachusetts Ave
Cambridge, MA 02140

Hi Daniel,

If your sales only covered your booth fee, this is not a break
even situation, even if the show is local. 

Of course, you’re right. That was kind of a tongue-in-cheek form of
accounting. I could say I’m basing that on my out of pocket
expenses, but that’s not even accurate. I end up spending a few, to a
few hundred dollars here and there to improve from my previous show.
This past show was three full sized photo posters from slides, and
six in-the-case halogen light strips at $95 a whack. Those pre-show
expenses far outstripped the booth fee, but they’re “capital
investments” as opposed to expenses directly related to doing this
specific show.

If I start trying to account for the cost of my time at the show
(including setup and teardown), the situation becomes horribly
depressing, so I prefer to delude myself for the time being by using
this simplified (or stupidified) form of accounting that tells me,
“It wasn’t that bad… the next one will be better.” Otherwise I’d
have to start looking in the paper for a management trainee position
at the nearest McDonald’s.

I appreciate your effort to set me straight… but don’t confuse me
with facts! :wink:

All the best,
Dave Sebaste
Sebaste Studio and
Carolina Artisans’ Gallery
Charlotte, NC (USA)

My gross sales exactly matched my booth fee (break even for a local

Does this mean that your materials were free as well as your time?
Also you didn’t have to purchase any displays, cases, packaging,
etc? You used no solder or polishing compounds or other supplies
in making your product?

You would have been further ahead to have put the show fees in the
bank and then taken what you sold at the show and thrown it into the
trash. There you would have only had to cough up the trash fees
for the week. Also you could have written it off your cost of goods
on your taxes for the year.