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Experience with Gift Shows


#1

I’m in the process of producing a line in large enough quantities to
be able to wholesale. My plan was to deal directly with stores but
I’m wondering if it might not be more efficient to do a gift show.
Does anyone have any experience with gift shows? I don’t think I’ve
ever seen them mentioned on orchid. I’m in Vancouver, Canada and
there’s one here in September.

Thanks very much
Joanna Francis


#2

Hi Joanna,

For the last year or so I have been working for another designer at
various gift shows. I have made friends with lots of vendors and we
all swap stories so I’ll share my observations here.

Our success varies widely from city to city and even time of year.
We have never done Canada but we have done NY, LA, San Francisco and
Seattle. NY and Seattle are especially good for us. To be specific,
we did the FAME show in NY, not the gift show which had no openings.
I don’t know if there are other fashion/accessory/jewelry shows in
Vancouver, but you might check them out as well.

We are usually in the “cash and carry” section and I find that even
in a slow show, this is the busiest section. And, of course, booth
location matters a lot. Sometimes, in the jewelry section upstairs,
where they just write orders, it is like a tomb. In Jan. at the LA
Gift show I talked to some of the vendors in the “Handmade” section
and they were dying. Maybe that was just L.A. If you haven’t already
done so, visit the show you have in mind and chat up everyone who is
willing to talk. You will learn a lot.

If you decide to go the gift show route, be prepared to try it a few
times. It is normal to start slow and grow in sales with each show as
you develop a customer base and gain new ones. One last thing, don’t
give up calling on those shops. You will need to do both. One friend,
does gift shows and the occasional gem & jewelry show, calls on
clients, has 2 reps in 2 different cities, a showroom in her home
city and still does charity events that accept vendors. She has been
in business only 4 years and works like a demon. She has her jewelry
made in Asia and when it comes down to it, who can do all that
marketing and still have time to fabricate anything.

Hope this helps.
Beverly


#3

Hi Beverly,

I didn’t ask the original question but I’m interested in the topic
too. You said:

We are usually in the "cash and carry" section and I find that
even in a slow show, this is the busiest section. 

Are those customers actually buyers for retail stores, buying for
resale, or are they end-customers buying “wholesale”? What I’m
trying to find out is, if I was in the “cash and carry” section,
would I be generating new accounts and repeat business, or mostly
making one time sales.

Thanks,
Laurie


#4

In “cash and carry” customers range from legitimate wholesale buyers
to personal shoppers with resale licenses from their husband’s auto
body shop. Some sellers require a minimum purchase amt. to qualify
for wholesale. Others just sell wholesale to anyone and there is lots
of in-between. There are many variations on how to deal with this. My
employer marks everything retail. The true wholesale buyers get the
wholesale price. Personal shoppers pay retail. You definitely can
establish new accounts. Really, that’s the main reason to do the
show.

Beverly


#5

Laurie,

Are those customers actually buyers for retail stores, buying for
resale, or are they end-customers buying "wholesale"? 

Have you walked the cash and carry section at a Gift Show? It’s a
little like a sidewalk baazar. I’m not saying you can’t find amazing
things there, because I have. But you really have to dig between the
crap to find the gems!

As far as your customer… I think you’d be getting a lot of both,
and I couldn’t speak to the reorders.

But… what’s your product? Could you afford to make enough to sell
for 3-5 days, and remember you would be selling at wholesale. Does
it make sense for you to make enough product, pay the show fee, stand
there for 3-5 days and sell at wholesale to the public and to stores
without knowing if you could expect future reorders?

I used to be the assistant buyer for a retail jewelry store and we
used cash & carry as a way to fill in the gaps in the store. 99%
imports. We would blow the majority of our budget upstairs and then
run downstairs for some cheap little imports to go on the counters,
and for some personal shopping!

I would strongly suggest walking the cash and carry section before
applying.

Good Luck,
Amery


#6
Sometimes, in the jewelry section upstairs, where they just write
orders, it is like a tomb. In Jan. at the LA Gift show I talked to
some of the vendors in the "Handmade" section and they were dying.

That’s funny to me, because I had my best LA show last Jan. I am
also in Handmade. I picked up about 15 new accounts, wrote tons of
reorders, and the majority of these stores have been reordering ever
since.

I have discovered that show performance is flukey. People say “oh
it’s busier on Saturday because all the intown buyers are here
reordering before they find new product”, and “Monday is the best
day, you’ll do great on Monday because the big-time buyers always
show up on Monday”, etc… Everyone has their theories. I don’t
believe in any of them.

I’ve tracked my sales from year to year, and they change from day 1
to day 4 during each show. No two shows even in the same venue are
the same. I usually do better in the July shows than I do the jan
shows. (But of course, as soon as I say that I have a great winter
show) People scoff at this but it’s true. In July I write Christmas
to Valentine’s Day orders! In Jan I write summer season orders, and
some Christmas. There have been shows that my neighbors have been
kicking butt, and I’m drowning. And there have been shows that are
the opposite. There’s no rhyme or reason.

I think you have to give a show a chance, at least three times to
see if it’s going to work for you. Some buyers want to see you more
than once before they order. I’m still writing first orders for
buyers that have come by my booth for the last 4 years and are
finally ordering. On the other hand, some buyers will buy immediately
(love those!).

I do think LA gift is slow and I think there’s a heck of a lot of
jewelry in the handmade section so there’s a lot of competition and
it’s probably hard for a new jeweler to break into and write good
orders. (I do a lot of reorders at this show). But, I’ve also noticed
people doing the show one time and then not coming back. It seems to
have a high turnover rate.

Just my long-winded 2cents worth!
-amery


#7

Is there a nice centralized list of there shows? Cost to get in?
Description of “facilities”?

Justine


#8

Hi Amery,

What shows do you do??

I’m interested in finding the right shows for one offs and limited
addition pieces, but being from Ireland I don’t know where to begin. I
would really appreciate your advice.

“Thank you”

Tina
Co Cork, Ireland


#9

Hi Beverly,

Could you tell the names of the shows in NY, LA, SanFrancisco and
Seattle? As I told Amery, I’m trying to find the right shows in the
States for my work. I would really appreciate your help.

Sincerely
Tina
Co Cork, Ireland


#10

Hi Tina,

I currently do the Rosen Show, Atlanta (AmericasMart), and Cal Gift.
Do you have a website that I could take a peek at? It would help me
give my opinion about whether or not you’d fit in at the shows I do.

amery