Every January for the past 5 years, I pack up samples of my work and head to Toronto to display at a wholesale show for artists and craftspeople, where retailers can come and place orders for goods for their stores. It helped me get my business off the ground and put me in touch with all kinds of amazing shop owners all across Canada.
I loved this show. It sent orders and money my way. It put buyers in touch with makers and created a space where those interested in selling handmade out of their stores could find everything they were looking for and then some.
I usually get info on the next upcoming show by about August. This year August came and went and I heard nothing. And then September came and went. After sending an inquiring email to the organizers of the show at the beginning of October, I finally got word on what was going on. Or rather, what WASN'T going on.
I was told that there would be no Toronto show for January 2011.
My jaw hit the floor, and panic set in. How was I going to connect with my wholesale clients? Where was I going to replace this income from?
This part I can deal with. I'll need to send out lots of mailings, print up some snazzy catalogs and make lots of phone calls. But it's the why that has really gotten to me.
This particular show always runs at the same time as other wholesale shows, so that buyers can see everything in one trip into the city. One of those shows decided that we (artists and craftspeople) were too much competition for them (mass-produced crap out of China). They book blocks of rooms at ALL the hotels in the area of Toronto where these shows are held. They also book space at all the major conference centers in the area to host this event. This year, they placed a clause in their contract at ALL these locations, saying that they had veto power over anyone who decided to use any other space in these buildings, and VETO they did. Our show was unable to find a venue for the 2011.
YUP. Those assholes blocked our little show from happening. They were too intimidated by the hand made work of Canadian artists that they decided to block our access to buyers.
How's that for nice?
If I REALLY wanted to, I could sign up to have a booth at this "other" show, and at some point in the near future, I will have to (hence, I'm withholding their name thanks to Google notifications). But signing up for this show requires a $500 'initiation' fee, plus a $325 annual fee. That only gets me a 'silver' membership. From there, I'm reviewed by a board of directors who will decide whether or not my business is worthy of a 'gold' membership. Once I am offered a gold membership, I have the privilege of being placed on a wait list (of one to 4 years) before I can show at their wholesale show. Lucky me.
Now this wouldn't be so bad, except that this particular show is frequented by idea poachers. Industry reps who scour these shows looking for ideas that they can steal and brand as their own.
I shudder to think of what this selfish act will do to the artisans who rely on that show for income. I shudder to think of what this selfish act will do to the retailers who seek out one of a kind, hand made goods to carry in their stores. There was no need for this company to do this. In other cities across Canada, these shows co-exist and have for a very long time. They even share the space to show in. Retailers shop around at ALL the wholesale shows looking for products to carry in their shops. To claim that our little show was too much competition is ludicrous. It all boils down to corporate greed. It always does.