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                  Craft Shows, Music Festivals, Fine Art Fairs
      Festival Network Online Newsletter
 Commercial Vendors Edition  - November 2005

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A note from the editor...

Hello Food Vendors & Exhibitors,

Trade Shows are one more venue for your product exhibition and Festival Network Online publishes hundreds: from home shows, gift shows, and wholesale markets, to specialty shows and expos.  Enjoy this month's article that goes into detail about effective planning for working the trade show industry.

Congratulations to Ray Sieger, FNO Pro Member who won the grand prize of $500.00 for referring the most new members to FNO over the summer! 

Have a safe and happy Thanksgiving,

Trade Show Tips

You're ready to sell your products at a trade show. You've spent thousands on a space, hundreds on your hotel room, built up your stock, made your display look perfect and are now ready for some serious sales. But what's next? What should you expect? Here are some tips that will help you be prepared.


Whether you display wholesale or retail prices at a trade show is up to you. You may want to check with the promoters beforehand to find out the norm for their particular event. Either way, prices need to be easy to find. If your displayed prices are retail, make sure the discount/markdown is in clear view. (A discount/markdown is the difference between your suggested retail price and what the buyer actually pays. So if your retail price is $20 and your markdown is 50%, the buyer's cost is $10. The average buyer expects a 50% markdown from retail. This is sometimes referred to as "keystone".) If you are displaying wholesale prices, be sure your customers know before asking. The quickest way to lose a sale is to tell someone that a price they thought was retail is actually the wholesale price, therefore double what they thought their cost would be. I recommend displaying retail prices with a 50% discount.


C.O.D. and prepayment are required by many craftspeople for first-time orders. After several reorders from an established customer, a thirty-day "credit line" is sometimes given. This is acceptable with most buyers; however, keep in mind that some buyers, especially those from larger organizations, will not prepay. They are set up to make payment on their billing schedule, which could mean thirty days, sixty days, ninety days or even longer before you get paid. While most buyers are reputable and do pay on time, many craftspeople cannot wait that long to be paid because of their overhead costs. If you cannot accept someone else's payment terms, you may be able to work something out with individual companies. Whatever you decide your terms are, know them beforehand and stick to them as closely as possible.


A minimum is a certain dollar amount or number of products that must be purchased initially before a wholesale order will be taken. It can be $100, 100 pieces or just one product; it's up to you to decide what it is worth for you to sell your products at a discount. I recommend using some sort of a minimum order. By doing so, you will ensure that the buyers are buying for their businesses and not just shopping for themselves. The major advantage to wholesaling is repeat business. People who are simply buying products for themselves will not reorder like a buyer who is stocking a store.

Display your minimum opening order so that buyers know without having to ask. If you do not require a minimum opening order, be sure to let customers know that too. The more information you can give without explanation the better. A few signs spread around your booth should easily do the trick.

Shipping Charges

State your shipping terms up front. Wholesale customers do not like surprises when it comes to the bottom line. Shipping costs are a big concern to buyers, especially on large items like furniture that may cost quite a bit to deliver. They must take this into consideration when pricing their products, so be sure you let them know what they will be paying. If you give a total price on an order, be sure you include shipping, C.O.D. and any other charges that may apply. Also include shipping costs in any price sheets you hand out. This information will help the buyer decide if they can purchase your product. Without it, they may just order from your competitor.

Lead Time

Give yourself enough time fill orders. Let your customers know when an order will ship and then ship it on time. Be careful not to overbook. If you can only produce 100 floppy-eared rabbits in a month, do not schedule shipments for 500 a month. Use of a scheduling book to help you know lead times for shipments in advance, and prevent overbooking. Remember that many crafters have had to refund orders because they could not meet their shipping deadlines. Simply put, don't sell what you can't deliver.

Your Sales Pitch
Buyers at trade shows differ from buyers at retail events in many ways. The most noteworthy difference is in the details they want to know about your products. Retail customers tend to want to hear about who you are, how you make your craft and how you "got started". This is usually not the case with wholesale buyers. Buyers want to know pricing information, minimums, markdowns and lead times. While "storytelling" is a great sales tactic in arts and crafts, and while many buyers are interested in your craft and its history, serious buyers are more interested ordering details. Be ready to answer these questions when they are asked.

Acknowledge Browsers
It's important to acknowledge the presence of buyers when they are browsing your booth. I don't mean to jump on them like a hungry used car salesman as soon as they enter, but a smile and nod helps to let people know that you are there if needed. If someone is spending a little longer browsing your product line, it doesn't hurt to say something like "I will be happy to answer any questions you may have." The point is that at trade shows, one customer can make your show a success; make sure you don't ignore that customer!

Don't pick your Nose!
OK, I know most of you don't have that problem… However, there are some things to avoid that can be offensive to buyers. Do not smoke in your booth. Try not to eat there either if you can help it. Don't chew gum. And don't drink alcoholic beverages while tending customers. Remember, things that may offend your customers are things that can cost you money. Be on your best behavior at these events, it's worth it!

Appearance Matters
While a tuxedo is not required to be presentable at a trade show, it's important to look your best at these events. Dress casually, but not too casually. You may even want to go out and buy a set of clothes that are strictly your "show duds". That way, they can always be ironed, clean and ready. Whatever you wear, just make sure you save the cutoffs for the family cook out.

Source: William T Lasley, The Guide to Arts/Crafts Business

Musician Newsletter Editor
Food and Commercial Newsletter Editor
Julie M. Cochrane

Artist/Crafter Newsletter Editor
Diane Elliott Bruckner

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