Wednesday, February 27, 2013

NYIGF vs. BMAC: Comparing the Shows

Feltware Cups.  Photo copyright Blackbird Photography

Last year, I tried the New York International Gift Fair in January and again in August. This year, I decided to try the Buyer's Market of American Craft. My reasons were twofold: most of my buyers from the NYIGF also went to the BMAC, and the BMAC is significantly cheaper. So how do the shows compare? Here's my thoughts:

- BMAC is less expensive. Significantly. my booth in NY was $4000. in Philly, $2250. But I did notice that the costs for everything else was comparable. Electrical fees in Philly were higher, and I got slammed with a "material handling fee" of  $350 for choosing someone other than the official show carrier to deliver my crate to the show. That sucked. I also had to have floor covering in my booth which was unnecessary in NY. This wasn't something that I had in my crate, which had been stored in New Jersey since the August NYIGF, and I didn't feel like dragging a carpet across the border with me so I had to rent one for the show. It was way overpriced and they didn't even install it properly so buyers were tripping in my booth.

- BMAC is ONLY handmade. Which is awesome. This means the buyers that show up know all about handmade, know that it's pricier, know that we can't crank out 10000 widgets in 4 days. I didn't have to deal with complaints about pricing which is a huge bonus. It gets tiresome defending my right to make a living wage.

- NYIGF is MUCH larger, because there's so much more at the show. There's suppliers and products and designers from all over the world. The show is MASSIVE. which means there's more buyers there. But that's not to say they are all there for the handmade. The handmade section is actually much smaller than what's available at the BMAC.

- I didn't see as many of the big buyers at the BMAC. If you're goal is to get picked up by Anthropologie or somewhere like that, your chances would probably be better at NYIGF. And I didn't see as much of the media in Philly that I saw in NY. There was no House and Home, no Martha Stewart Living, no Country Living. So if you're looking to hook up with media, NY would be a better option. And none if this is to say that these people weren't at BMAC, but I didn't see them, so maybe they just didn't stop by my booth (which is entirely possible).

- Both shows are very well organized and staff communicate regularly and easily with vendors. I had no problems with set up or tear down, or getting questions answered before, during or after either show. Now I have my entire booth packed into a 3x3x5' crate which gets delivered right to my booth, becomes part of my display and gets picked up there after the show, so I don't have to deal with move-in, move-out or waiting for my crate to be delivered to me at the end of the show.

So down to the nitty gritty, how did the shows compare?

- I picked up as many buyers in Philadelphia as I did at BOTH NY shows, as well as re-orders from buyers I met in NY. BUT, the orders were smaller.

- I had a lot more follow up to deal with after NY, buyers who left their cards but weren't interested in placing orders at the show. This tripled my sales from what I wrote on the show floor and I got orders as a direct result of the NY show right into January of this year.

So what are my plans moving forward?

- I haven't decided if I will do NYIGF in August again or not. I guess I need to get on that and make a decision.

- originally I was hoping to do both the BMAC AND the NYIGF next winter but I heard some nasty rumors about the superbowl being in NY the same weekend as the gift fair. This does not bode well for hotel rooms and I have a hard time believing buyers will come to the show when hotel room prices are hugely inflated. I'll look into this further so see what's going on, but if it is the case, count me out.

- I'll definitely be back to BMAC. It was a great show: more affordable, fun to do, wonderful buyers, amazing vendors. BUT, due to the auto show booking the convention center the same weekend that the buyer's market is usually there, they had to move the show dates for next year. Waaaaaaaay up - to mid January, which is early for buyers. It means weather is more unpredictable, it's the same weekend as another wholesale show (Orlando) and the week before NY. We'll see how this plays out. It's entirely possible that it will have a negative effect on the BMAC next year but only time will tell.

So if you've been thinking about either show, there's my 2 cents. I had two bodies of work with me at the show, my Classic Collection, and my Feltware line. So have a peek and see how it may compare to what you'd like to take to the show. If you were at either show, feel free to share your thoughts!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

The Long and Short of It All: I'm Terrified

Tea Set - Classic Collection. Photograph by Blackbird Photography

Tomorrow I leave for Philadelphia for the Buyer's Market of American Craft.
This is a wholesale trade show where retailers and gallery owners come and have a look at my work and (hopefully) place orders for their shops. I have been doing this type of trade show since 2006. This will be my first time in Philly.

Despite the fact that I've done this for years, despite the fact that I'm very comfortable talking to retailers about my work, despite the fact that I literally know my work inside and out, despite the fact that I know how these things go and should have nothing to worry about...

 I'm terrified.

Each show is the same, actually. Whether it's a wholesale trade show, or a retail craft show, the terror is the same. It sets in sometimes up to a week before the actual event. All rational thought seems to be jettisoned, and I become overwhelmed with anxiety; trouble breathing, panic, upset stomach, short nerves, trouble sleeping...

And it's all silly, when it comes right down to it. And ultimately I KNOW that. But that doesn't stop the deluge of evil thoughts: will people like my work? will I make any sales? will I be invisible at the show? will some catastrophic event blow the whole thing to smitherines? Will the global economy crumble the night before the show opens? What if none of my previous buyers come back to re-order? What if customers come and storm my booth to scream at me and tell me how much they hated my work and wished they never bought any?

See? Silly.

But I suspect I'm not alone in all this pre-show inner torment. And I wonder if all these negative thoughts are something that plague other artists as well.

Feltware Cups, photograph by Blackbird Photography

We embark on our 8 hour drive tomorrow morning, bright and early. When I get to the show, my crate with all my stuff will be sitting patiently in my booth, ready for me to unload. I'll set up my little space, retreat to the comfort of the hotel, endure a long, sleepless night, choke down some breakfast while trying not to gag, clean myself up, and trek down to stand in my allotted 100sq feet and wait. And the people will come. I'll chat up retailers and gallery owners, talk about my best sellers, share some laughs, meet some amazing people, and more likely than not write at least SOME orders. Repeat this for three whole days, pack up my stuff, and trek home again. And then I'll sit in the quiet solitude of my living room, surrounded by my cats, and cry. Even if I have a completely kick-ass, knock-my-socks-off, amazingly awesome show, I'll cry. It's a release of all the tension that I endure to get me to the show and through the show. It's the result of being an introvert, a deeply private person who has just displayed my heart and soul to be judged, mocked and loved by complete strangers. It's nothing bad at all. It's just the accumulation of emotion that needs to be cleansed.

And then I'll be back in my studio, making pots, sitting at my wheel where I'm happiest, and life will continue. Just like that.

So am I crazy? Probably.
Am I alone in all this? Probably not:)