Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Craft Show Preparation (Part 2 of 2)

Norma Rudloff runs the shop Dough Roses and has almost 30 years of show experience under her belt. She was asked to share her insight on preparing for a craft show and how to deal with the unexpected stress it can bring and hope make the experience easier. Last week she shared how to prepare for your Craft Fair, this she goes further into some things you may not think about, especially if you're getting ready for your FIRST show.

Always think safety - both yours and that of your customers coming into your booth. Don't box yourself in so that you can't get out from behind your table easily and don't use a display that can tip and break. I've seen glass shelving topple over and break and had a customer catch the footrest of her wheelchair under my standing folding display last year. Who would have thought about that happening in advance? Even good planning can sometimes fail and you need to do everything to keep yourself from getting sued!

If you are using a cash box, where will it be kept? Keep it closed but not latched if someone should reach across your table to grab it, they'll be in for a big surprise as everyone's attention will be riveted on them at the sound of cascading coins!

Consider it! It's too risky to do a show without it! I have a business policy through RLI and have never considered having my insurance tied into my homeowners policy. Years ago at a show in Fishkill, a customer tripped over a concrete curb in front of a tent and ended up suing the craftsperson, the show promoter and the town. I never followed through to find out what happened as a result but have never wanted to take the risk of being sued personally!

Take a chair but don't plan on sitting for long periods of time. Don't bother to bring your favorite book either as sitting and reading are a big turn off to potential customers. Dress comfortably and neatly, you are presenting yourself as a craft "professional". Setting up and taking down your display can be stressful based on a lot of factors: the location of your vehicle, the time, whether or not you have a dolly, the person you are setting up next to, and other factors.

If you are traveling with a partner and things aren't going well, try to keep your comments quietly contained. Your mood can affect others around you. Also, if you are traveling with a partner, take turns watching your booth. Sometimes two people standing behind a table can be intimidating and made worse if those two are being silly or are in deep conversation with each other.  If you are alone, keep in mind that you are there for one reason only, to sell your work! I've seen too many people leave their booths to go off to gab with another vendor and lost sales as a result.

If a problem develops with another vendor, don't air it in front of the customers walking by, if it can't be easily resolved, call on the show promoter to help!

As vendors, we are required to collect and remit sales taxes to the state of New York and any other state that we do business in that collects sales taxes. There is nothing more aggravating than to have a customer tell me that I'm one of the few collecting sales taxes at a show.

Be aware that there is a possibility that your potential customer might be a member of the sales tax department and be aware of the fact that at some of the larger shows, agents walk the shows to see if you are in compliance with their rules like having your sales tax certificate posted where it can be seen.
Be aware that if you do shows in other states that you need to register with those states and file reports just as you do in New York and be aware that some of those states can really clamp down on anyone who isn't in compliance. Some states have agents who walk large shows with small computers strapped around their necks with the instant ability to check on the history of the vendors attending the show. I've heard of a vendor being shut down at a show in New Jersey for not having filed his sales tax reports for previous shows. He ended up having his vehicle confiscated and a large fine assessed - not a good ending to his day for sure! You have to be careful and cover yourself legally when doing business. I never fool around with the Sales Tax Bureau.

The most important thing to keep in mind is that a show might be a financial disappointment but is never a loss! Sometimes the people you meet and the information shared is even more valuable to you in the long run than the money you might put into your checking account. Have fun and recognize that you'll gain confidence with each new experience and make new friends who are experiencing the same things that you are.

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