Sunday, September 25, 2011

Notes from the NC Pagan Pride Day

Last weekend, I shared a booth with my friend Jill Liles of Liv'ngood Jewelry, as one half of the duo "Brigid's Jewels." It cost us $95 for a 10x10 foot vendor space at the Central NC Pagan Pride Festival. That was for both Saturday and Sunday, from 10am-6pm. It was the first outdoor vendor booth I'd done in about five years.

For the entire weekend, I had $368.50 in sales, and $23.30 of that was NC sales tax. I spent about $25 on food and drinks, probably about $5 for gas back and forth both days. My estimated materials cost for the items sold was $100.

So, I made $170, or less than $10/hour, counting the hours of set up, take down, and sitting there for two days. Counting the hours I spent making the jewelry I sold, and the amount of money I'll have to pay for social security tax and other taxes on my small biz income, it's probably closer to $3 an hour.

Still, not bad for an event that was dark and wet all day Saturday, and which had an attendance of about 2,000 (compared to, say, the 20,000 or more who attend the Raleigh St Patrick's Day Festival or the International Festival). And I did better than other vendors I spoke with.

The interesting thing, to me, was that most of the money I made did not come from jewelry. It came from the "lures." These are low-priced, eye-catching items placed at the end of the table, at the front of the booth, to stop people and attract their attention.

One of my lures was my Gnome Terrarium, at $8.00 each (that's with sales tax). I sold several, and I think by the end of the weekend Jill was sick of hearing the squeals of "Look at the gnomes!"

Another lure was a tray of rocks, minerals, herbs, and semi-precious stones, with small drawstring bags, so customers could create their own amulet or love charm. Each stone was labeled with its "properties" (based on a bit of internet research), and ranged from about $.50 to $1.00. By the end of the weekend, the bags were gone and the stones almost sold out.

The stones and gnomes had little to do with my jewelry -- which is mostly steampunk, spacepunk, cosplay, SF, found items and relics -- but I knew I needed to have something that would appeal to the audience.

Jill took a page from my book, and on Sunday she rearranged her side of the booth so that her earrings (typically a less-expensive and more-popular jewelry item) were at the front of the booth, and her display board of bottlecap magnets was at the end of her table. And they did lure in more customers! Everyone loved the magnets.

The festival was fun. I had a good time, met several people, and gave away a lot of biz cards. Hopefully that latter will pay off later, though I honestly can't recall EVER having an online sale from someone who took my card at a show.

Something to keep in mind -- and the Central NC PPD was no exception -- shows that are free to attend typically do not draw the type of crowds that are going to spend money. My average sale over the weekend was about $5. This is one of the reasons why I don't usually do outdoor, non-juried festivals.

The vendor-to-attendee ratio also makes a big difference in how much you will sell. Obviously, the more customers and the fewer vendors vying for their attention, the more you stand to make. This event was about 2,100 attendees to 58 vendors listed on the website

But the moral of the story is that your lures and low-priced items can save your butt at an otherwise financially-disappointing event.  

Jen Hilton makes one-of-a-kind jewelry sold through her website She is the founder of the Triangle Jewelry Makers and is featured in the books "Steampunk Style Jewelry: Victorian, Fantasy, and Mechanical Necklaces, Bracelets, and Earrings" and "1000 Steampunk Creations: Neo-Victorian Fashion, Gear, and Art" available at Amazon and other booksellers.

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