A Market For All Seasons

Next up in the series of posts exploring the craft market scene is a riff on this comment on the This Scene Is Dead post.

“Poor sales has become a major concern for us and this is why we have decided to cut back on our events. We were doing monthly summer fairs and at least two more during Christmas and another on Valentine’s but unfortunately we’re cutting back to host only events on the major holidays because people aren’t buying like they used to. Now we’re considering only hosting a Christmas fair because that’s pretty much a good deal for everyone involved.”

Craft Guerilla are an East London-based designer-maker-led collective set up to work with independent artists, creatives and designers-makers. As such, they regularly organise events for their members to sell at.

To hear this comment from them, as a seasoned events organiser,  is actually very heartening. They have done their homework and they know what is and what is not working in their area. Cutting back on the number of events throughout the year can be a good thing, despite possibly not being what you would first think. Having done craft fairs for so long, I know from experience that the summer months are a write-off for me and that the ” big season” really runs from mid-October to mid-December. Valentines – Easter is worth a shot for me if it’s a great event in a great location.

Outside of that, it’s a total punt but I’d still give a well-organised and promoted event a try. But I’ve wasted so many weekends in the past giving events a go in hopes of good things, even though deep down I know it’s not going to work. I’ve been cheating on myself.

Knowing that organisers are on this is great and a really good sign that they know their onions. Look at an organiser’s calendar of events – do they have a market every weekend? If it’s too regular, chances are it’ll be gash – for you, for them, for customers. You can have too much of a good thing. Weekly markets are great if you are stocking up on essentials, but not so great if it’s all luxury goods – and let’s face it, your design-led items are luxury goods in this economic climate.

There are, of course, like all good rules, exceptions to this. The exceptions I’ve seen are all really well-organised and promoted regular markets which encompass more than one thing and are in a great location – urban farmer-type markets with luxury food, design-led handmade, maybe some entertainment or event attached, too. I’ve spoken to makers who regularly attend markets like this who consistently do well (though, of course, they have their bad days, too – usually weather-related).

For my mind, even monthly is too frequent for a design-led market. Quarterly would seem like an even balance. You’re hitting a Hallmark holiday with each period, or near enough, and it’s infrequent enough to keep the punters interested. Customers eyes will glaze over if they see the same thing advertised too often – it’s like when your Facebook pal spams you with the same plea for votes for that contest they entered every day for a month – you stop listening, you unlike their page or you hide their updates. Customers will disconnect with the event in their minds, even subconsciously if they feel apathetic about it.

However, if  they’ve visited the event and thought it was amazing and full of quality, no amount of reminders will be enough for them and they’ll lap it up. They’ll engage with it on social media, they’ll actually read those email newsletters and they’ll come back. They’ll tell their friends and bring their loved ones. And more importantly, they’ll support it with their wallets, snapping up the awesomeness on display.

A good organiser knows this. A bad organiser may know this but ignores it, blinded by the £ signs in their eyes. Go with the good guys. They’ll keep you right.

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