Last year I participated in a local show that has a good reputation. I have been in the show 2 years and been satisfied with the results, There were a couple of other weavers in the show, and our prices and products were compatible. Last year there was a new weaver, who was placed directly across from me. Her prices were about half, so the result is as you expected. People did buy my scarves etc., but sales were down. For some customers the goal was a handwoven scarf (or whatever) and if the color was right, one for half price was the winner. I realize competition is a good thing, but I overheard this weaver telling the show promoter, that "she just retired, and was able to weave, and if she covered the cost of her materials she was happy.""
My question is what would you do in this situation? My options seem to be to pull out of the show and look elsewhere, but it is fairly frustrating. This show had the advantage of allowing me to travel backwards and forwards, so no hotel expense. I understand that the jurying committee looks at pictures and doesn't care what the prices are. I was also annoyed that our booths were in the same building and so close together. Am I just being unreasonable, and I need to figure out how to handle this, or is there something I could do. It bothered me at the time, and now the application is here again...
Any feedback would be appreciated,
Cheryl-I would have a talk with the promoters. Let them know about your experience. It is their responsibility to put people whose work is similar far enough away from each other to make it work. I've heard promoters say 30 ft, which feels close to me, but at least it's not right across the aisle. Figure out what your bottom line is and let them know, gently, of course. I have talked to promoters about uncomfortable situations and usually, they're interested in listening and resolving things. I don't think that having a vendor whose work is comparable, but half the price, is a good thing for anyone, including them, and there's every chance that they could end up not just losing you, but the other weavers as well. If the other weaver is going to be in the show again, you could consider calling her up and talking. She may not understand that her pricing affects everyone. I had a conversation with one of my students recently who was undercharging for her work about the affect it has on other weavers. It opened her mind to the intricacies and helped her think differently and price differently. If all else fails and you know the situation will be the same, you need to figure out if the show is going to continue to work for you.
One more thing...a number of years ago, a weaver with similar work started doing a show that is really important to my livelihood....same situation...she wasn't looking to make a living at it, just to pay her expenses and her prices were much lower than mine. I spent several years feeling angry about it but not saying anything and then eventually, she raised her prices. Selling at shows is hard and although someone may enter into it with the attitude that making money isn't important, eventually, there's every possibility that will shift.
All of the shows I participated in had a good mix of artists and placed them so the customers didn't see the 'same' items for at least 12-15 booths. This management really needs a wake-up call. As an added note, I don't do shows at this point due to the economic situation....shows should keep this in mind when planning their placement of vendors.
that booths are placed apart. At several of the bigger shows here in Sweden artists are placed "by category" - thus all weavers together, all knitters together, all blaksmiths together...
Just some different perspective/experience
The nerd in me can't help but think of this in terms of economics. Under normal circumstances, prices would eventually stabilize to somewhere near the cost of materials plus the time of an efficient, average-paid worker in the field, plus overhead/mark-up. But this situation is strange; certain people are jumping out there, not understanding these basic principles. They're essentially "donating" time and/or money to their customers.
Having an agreement, spoken or unspoken, among weavers at a show is essentially price fixing. Sure, it is price fixing according to where the price really should be, but it is price fixing nonetheless. And what does economics say about price fixing? It encourages someone else to come along, not part of "the group", and undercut the set price.
So what can you do?
Well, my day job is working at a trading firm. Guess how we would view this situation? Someone out there wants to throw out their money and time. . . might as well be there to catch it. If they have grossly mispriced items, buy them and resell at the appropriate price!
Ok, yes, I realize this is not really realistic. I just wanted to point out how market forces act in situations like this, as the parallels in the situations are rather striking.
Edited: oops, accidentally posted twice...
Another approach is to offer something that she does not offer. You could offer some custom work, or some unique products. Sometimes the best designs WIN no matter what the price.
There is no way to 'force' people to raise their prices. At one show there was another weaver who was selling their placemats at half of what I was charging. While I assume I may have lost some sales to the lower priced goods, ultimately the customer for the cheaper mats was not likely to be my customer anyway. When someone pointed out to me that I was being 'under cut' and asked if I was going to drop my prices to match, I just smiled and said 'no'.
If you want to do the same show again this year I would talk to the promoter and request that the other weaver not be placed opposite if for no other reason than that it's demoralizing to stand and watch their booth!
The woman who had retired and only needed to make her expenses isn't likely to be doing that for a whole year! Doing shows is hard work and there are associated expenses that she probably forgot to count.
Some of the larger shows like ACC (American Craft Council) used to group by craft category but they changed to having mixed booths and giving people a directory. If you only wanted to see woodworking, you could note the booth numbers and head for those booths. Since these are wholesale and retail shows with hundreds of booths, it helps to have a directory. These high-end shows charge a lot per booth and have long hours- you never see people with underpriced items.
Just getting ready for a show is hard work!
The answer to the lady is: "my placemats are a higher quality, remember you get what you pay for"
I've long been exasperated by "hobby" weavers who show up and undercut the professional weavers...well, this applies to all crafts. Frankly, I've pretty much sworn off crafts fairs, and sell from my studio or a gallery. This "undercutting" happens on Etsy A LOT, as well. I watched Etsy for a while before I decided whether or not to participate and, ultimately, decided not to do. (It has really gone down the drain a lot lately, anyway)
I don't know what the answer is except to pick your venues carefully, and present your wares in a professional way, so that customers can see that your product is unique and worth the extra money.
The idea of buying the person out in the first 5 minutes, then marking up the purchased inventory to reflect true production costs and offering it for sale immediately across the aisle made me giggle.
Cheryl, I am wondering what you actually did? Did you participate in the show, bow out this year, request another location, or try to educate the fellow vendor in thinking about her pricing structure?
This was a great question!
Due to a planned trip to England on October 2nd, I opted out of this show for this year. But, I have not written off the show completely, and armed with everyones thoughtful suggestions, I feel prepared to tackle the show sponsors next year. I think I will also attend the show, to see if the prices are still the same.
I actually took a break, and did not committ to a single show this fall, as I work full time and the travelling, (and preparing!!) took a good chunk of my time. It has been a blessing to be able to weave without a deadline breathing down my neck. When I come back from England, I plan to tackle some projects that have been "idea notebook" plans for quite some time.