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Show dealer at Tucson

For those of you who have done the show at Tucson, I’m wondering how
much inventory is needed to be a vendor. I sell beads, have done
some local shows, but was told by another bead dealer that she took
$150,000+ worth of inventory to Tucson. (I don’t know if that was
wholesale or retail value.) That’s beyond my league either way, so
do you think I’d be in over my head with, say, $50,000 (wholesale)
worth of beads? The table fee is so high, I’m thinking I can’t
afford it anyway, but would like to know what I’m shooting for when
someday gets here.

Oh, by the way, if anybody knows a good source of gaspeite
(wholesale) beads, I’d like to know about them.

Sun Country Gems

I live in Tucson so I have been to all the shows and have sold
jewelery at them from my own booth and shared them with friends. The
cost of a booth is real high and the competition is totaly crazy I
sell one of a kind gold and platinum work that I design and make and
barely make a profit sometimes. Selling beads you would be up
against all the dealers and importers from India, Africa and the
rest of the universe who are willing to sleep in their car or in the
park and sell their beads for pennies on the dollar it is truly
amazing how low some of the dealers will go if you are willing to
buy alot from them I sometimes get overwhelmed and discouaged at the
number of dealers in town for those two weeks.

good luck

Dear Susan, When it comes to dealing at shows, bogus cost accounting
is rampant.Those of us in the jewelry business tend to get carried
away dreaming about making a killing at a show. The fact is that
very few people ever expect to make much net profit at shows. By the
time you have included all the REAL expenses it is likely that you
will have gone in the hole. On the other hand, many show dealers
rationalize their efforts and expenses on the basis of future
business from contacts. There are also the benefits of being current
with trends and scoping competition. Since you can’t quantify these
latter benefits it is dangerous to make assumptions about their
future worth.

Perhaps the greatest consideration for the potential attendee is to
get a handle on whether you can effectively compete in an
environment where there may be hundreds of people carrying the same
goods. You had better have a gimmick, a killer price ( there go the
profits ) or be able to charm the undies off your clients or you
will rapidly come to believe that you are the lonliest person in the
world inspite of being surrounded by hundreds of people !

I have done dozens of shows of all kinds and I have always found
them to be worthwhile inspite of seldom being truly profitable. I
use them to get rid of surplus stock, meet new friends, get a better
handle on trends and to support my habit ( i.e. buying more stuff
that I will bring back later as surplus ) What it all boils down to
is that the best reason for going to a show as a dealer is that it
is fun and a great way to subsidize your shopping.

Actually, when you really think about it, the people who go to the
major shows have the same dilemna. Most of the buyers are shopping
for a small business and are on budgets. If any of these buyers
approached the show with the view in mind of saving money on their
purchases they would be kidding themselves. The costs of attendance
suck your savings dry ! The best you can hope for is diversification
of your stock wherein you score somethiong that might not be
available over the phone. This latter consideration is THE reason
for attending a show…you might find a bauble that will freshen up
your offerings at home and that you couldn’t otherwise obtain. Ron
Mills at Mills Gem Co. Los Osos, Ca.

Susan, I would talk to several bead dealers who have ‘done’ Tucson.
I am NOT in the bead business (neither buyer nor seller,) but I did
spend a week in Tucson this year, and it seemed like beads were
EVERYWHERE (and in HUGE quantities.) Do plenty of research…it looked
like a saturated market to my eye.

David Barzilay
Lord of the Rings
607 S Hill St Ste 850
Los Angeles, CA 90014-1718

I agree with Ron that you have to carefully figure the costs of
attending a show, whether as a buyer or seller. I attend a very few
shows as a buyer, and to get costs to the point where I can justify
attending the show I either do ones I can drive to and back in a day,
or I pack up the camping equipment and tent camp, and combine
business with some vacation days. Then motel rooms and restaurants
have not eaten up savings, and the time driving counts as "vacation"
time (and time with my teenager, which is nice!). This is the only
way I can really make it work. Sometimes I have enough frequent
whatever points for free rooms - I’ll do it that way also.

If you figure just your sleep and eat costs, that gets pretty high!

I looked at your website Susan - lovely stuff, but I would really
question whether you could compete with the big importers in Tucson.
I wonder if you wouldn’t do better at retail bead shows, where you
have lots of bead lovers who are looking for neat things? They have
these around the country. Should be cheaper than Tucson also!

Good luck whatever you decide to do.

Beth in SC where we got ice on top of the snow last night. Not fun!

I just read an excellent post from Ron @ Mills Gem.

I’ve been doing shows for 9 years now & really wonder how well I
fair when year-end rolls around. There’s no doubt that it funds my
passion; dichroic glass jewelry/art. This is the time of year that
show fees cut into my profit in addition to replenishing my

I only do juried, high-end shows that are well attended & sell very
well. I was considering applying to Tuscon but will now rethink
this due to Ron’s post.

Gallery sales are also sporadic. So what does one do to increase
sales & profit? Is a website feasible?

I’d appreciate feedback on this issue.

Regards, Audie Beller of Audie’s Images-

Dear Ron:

Your post is so true! I’ve been doing shows for nine years now &
really wonder how well I actually do at year end when I prepare for
taxes. It DOES fund my passion; dichroic glass art & I’d truly be
lost without it but…

This time of the year makes me “show-poor” in applying & paying for
the high-end shows.

Gallery income is sporadic.

I was considering applying to Tuscon but now will disregard that
option as realistic.

So what are your suggestions for increased success?

Regards, Audie Beller of Audie’s Images-

Dear Rural Art, Thanks for your insight into show attendance. One of
the things that I forgot to mention in my post on the subject of the
costs of doing shows is that of ways to save with regard to
transportattion. For those of us who live within a day’s drive of
Tucson perhaps the best way to save money on transporatation is to
rent a car. You can rent an intermediate sized car with unlimited
mileage for about $250.00 per week. When you figure the real costs
of operating your own car you will find that your long term cost
will be two to three times that of the rental car. I look at my
personal vehicle as a long term capital investment. The longer you
can stretch its usefulness the more money you save. The best way to
do this is to properly maintain it and rack up as little mileage as
possible. The taxi cabs in London know all about this. Those funky
vehicles are utilitarian to the max. The bodies are made in England
by Austin and the diesel engines are Toyota which last 350.000

My own vehicle is a Ford pick-up which I find very useful for doing
shows and for hauling building materials. ( I have learned that
making money at shows is best served by doing only those which are a
short drive from home. I haul lumber because my second love is
building cabinets, display fixtures and doing remodeling ) Now that
gasoline is so expensive the mileage that I get with my pickup is a
negative factor in planning trips. When you rent an intermediate
sized vehicle you can be reasonably assured of getting very good
fuel mileage.

Ron Mills @ Mills Gem Co., Los Osos, Ca.

I agree with Beth – the Best Bead Show has refined over the years
and is very high quality. It was also packed with buyers; I had to
wait in line at several stone carvers (check out 2Cranes stuff –
really fabulous). I never made it to Whole Bead Show, which used to
be great. I am focusing less on beads these days, even though the
bead jewelry is where I make the most profit.


Thanks to all who responded to my post about doing the Tucson show.
Of course, I know how tough the competition is on pricing, and would
have to drop my prices in order to compete. Actually, I’d probably
want to do one of the retail shows there, so I could still make a
profit. I am a direct importer from China and India, so could afford
to do that.

However, a point well taken is the cost of hotel and food. That
fact does eat up a huge chunk of change. When I think about how many
beads I could buy over the phone or by email with that amount of
money, the long distance shows with overnight stays suddenly pale in
appeal. Then when I consider the booth fee at Tucson, well . . .
maybe when pigs fly?

I’ve heard that the local shows are not very profitable, but they
have been somewhat profitable for me, so I’ve signed up for two in NM
this year, where I can sleep in my own bed. I guess Tucson is going
to have to wait:)

I was just trying to get a feel for how much inventory one would
need to be properly prepared for a really big show.

Sun Country Gems

On the general subject of “doing” shows there are a couple of
considerations that are often overlooked inspite of their being
somewhat obvious. It is essential that you try to get a handle on
the demographic makeup of the attendees. First and foremost would be
the perception of whether those attending might be wholesale or
retail buyers. Most shows will try to screen out the public if they
are wholesale. Other shows don’t make a distinction and will sell to
just about anybody with the cash. If, as a small operator, you
decide to do a wholesale show you had better damned well have
something that will stand up to the competition with respect to
price and selection. Retail shows are probably more flexible
iinasmuch as you can sell to either category of buyers. After all,
price is nearly always geared to quantity and who gives a whit about
the distinction if the deal is right for you and the buyer ! Again,
on the subject of retail shows, you want to get a take on the
composition of the attendees. Almost all shows are thematic and will
tend to draw those who identify with the theme. Rockhound shows
obviously will attract rockhounds, but they will also draw from the
general public. My experience has taught me that if shows are open
to the general public one should have a diversified selection of
goods. I am sure that there are exceptions to this generalization.
It goes without saying that if you have a gimmick or novelty you
might be able to get along with as little as one product. On the
other hand, a limited selection can be risky. It is also important
to make some judgement about the financial qualifications of the
potential showgoers. If the promotion of the show encompasses people
within an affluent area your prospects of selling high ticket goods
are going to be enhanced. On the other hand, selling high ticket
goods at shows lacks credibility with the general public inasmuch as
they perceive the sellers to be less accountable by virtue of their
itinerancy ( here today, gone tomorrow ) One of the biggest failings
of rockhound shows is that they have very amateurish publicity and
that they often don’t appeal to the general public. A well run show
will recognize that the public CAN be induced to attend if their
curiosity is piqued. The TGMS show at the convention center in
Tucson is exemplary in that it makes a concerted effort to appeal to
the general public with the net result that tens of thousands of
locals pay to see it. On the other hand, many rockhound shows that
confine their publicity to the rockhound network alone fail
miserably. ( Rockhounds don’t spend much money…they often make
their own gems and create their own jewelry, not to mention the fact
that the average age of the rockhound fraternity is somewhat
elevated and, therefore, not as acquisitive.) In summary, it is
essential that you find out as much about the show as possible
before commiting to it. You need to talk to people who have done it,
ask questions about the promotion and form opinions about the
demographic makeup of the potential attendees. Better yet, if you
have the opportunity, attend the show beforehand and imagine how you
might fit into it. This will also give you the opportunity of
getting a take on it from the dealers’ perspective. Try to get that
perspective towards the end of the show. If a show has not been good
dealers will reveal their feelings about it very openly. If you
observe a lot of scowls on dealer faces you will already have a
pretty good take on how things went…Ron Mills at Mills Gem
Co., Los Osos, Ca…

Hello, Adding a bit to Ron Mills excellent thoughts about renting a
vehicle, I have a friend who rents one of those mini-vans (like a
little motor home) equipped with a bed, frig, etc. She uses that for
multi-day shows and doesn’t have lodging costs and saves on meals
too. Of course, personal hygiene issues could dictate whether or not
you might want to go this route. :wink: Just a thought, Judy in Kansas

Judy M. Willingham, R.S.
B.A.E. 237 Seaton Hall
Kansas State University
Manhatttan KS 66506
(785) 532-2936 FAX (785) 532-6944

Hi all Great to read about saving some money at the Tucson gem show.
During the gem show, my friend and I rented a place with a small
kitchen, save quite a bit rather than going to restaurant everyday.
Of course, cooking is fun.


...the average age of the rockhound fraternity is somewhat elevated
and, therefore, not as acquisitive. 

Ron - love it, love it, love it!!! You are SO right! !!!
Last April my 13 year old daughter and I went to the workshops at
Wild Acres in NC put on by the Southeastern Federation of
Mineralogical Societies (well, that is close anyway - apologies if I
don’t have it exactly right!). I am in my 40’s, and was about the
4th or 5th youngest person there! My daughter at 13 was at least a
decade younger than the next youngest person, and probably 2
decades, and was about 4 - 5 decades younger than most of the

In spite of which, or maybe because of it, she had a blast and made
lots of very good friends. They just happen to be many decades older
than she is! Pretty neat really.

For anyone looking to increase their skills and knowledge I would
highly recommend checking into your mineralogical socities. You can
join even if the nearest is too far to really attend meetings, but
being a member enables you to attend workshops, etc. I’m doing Wild
Acres again this April, but unfortunately they moved the week to
later in April and my daughter will be in school. We are both going
to the William Holland school in Georgia in June.

Beth in SC who two days ago was sledding, and is now limp in 80+degree
weather with high humidity. Go figure!