Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Street Fairs - Sometimes You Lose

Encinitas Chamber of Commerce

On April 28, 2012, we left our house in the desert at 4:30 in the morning and drove to Encinitas, California to do a two day street fair.  We had to get there early, between 6-7 am to set up our booth and then park our truck away from the venue area.  Encinitas is about a two, two and half hour drive from Palm Springs.  I was looking forward to the fair as it is located a few blocks from the beach and I'd never been to Encinitas.  I'd picked Encinitas as one of the fairs to attend because of its beach location as we sell sea glass jewelry.  I was thinking "location, location, location."  

Looking right at vendors setting up

Looking left at vendors (later the street would be crowded with fair goers)

When we reached main street, I looked around and thought "what a lovely town," with its specialty store fronts and beachy atmosphere.  We were told to set up our booth at space 818.  This early morning setup is always fraught with difficulty of maneuvering around the cars, trucks and trailers of other vendors to get to our spot. Finally, we parked and unloaded, tent, tables, signs, chairs, jewelry boxes and other stuff.  Steve went off to park and while I waited for him to come back, I looked at the long line of vendors.  The fair boasted 400 vendors, but I didn't know if this was good or bad.  Good that a lot of shoppers would be at the fair and maybe bad because of all the competition.

When Steve got back, we set up the tent and tables and then laid out our jewelry on the displays.  We are always changing our displays - trying to find the most attractive way to show off our pieces.

Steve standing by one of our tables

We also had a table going across the front.  It is always a decision on how best to place the tables for best visibility.  Lately, we've hit upon one table across the front to catch the eye of the people strolling along.  Also, in the best possible world, if we can get the sunlight to fall on our jewelry we are happy as the light makes the sea glass glisten and sparkle.  

Shirley's crocheted sea glass necklaces

 Sea glass Earrings

Various sea glass necklaces

The fair opened at 9 am.  People started coming.  We were excited, then we were not.  No one seemed interested in sea glass jewelry.  A lot of people didn't even know what sea glass was so we had to educate them.  I was surprised as I'd thought since we were in a beach town, everyone would know about sea glass,  but that was not the case.  The vendor next to us who sold hats did a brisk business, while we sat and sat.  Occasionally, someone would stop and admire the jewelry or tell us about their sea glass hunting adventures.  And occasionally, someone would actually buy a piece of jewelry - especially the lower priced pieces.  We were happy to have a sale, any sale.  As the day dragged on, the street became crowded with people - really crowded.  People strolling, eating ice cream and carmel korn or hot dogs, pushing baby strollers, walking dogs.  I realized that most people were just looking - not buying.  It was a day to get out of the house and go to a free event.   I also realized that most of the vendors were selling food or low priced items made in China - the street fair was a glorified swap meet, not exactly our venue.  It soon became crystal clear that we needed to be in art fairs, not street fairs.  Art fairs are juried affairs which allow only artisan wares, paintings and other things created by artists.  

Sea glass with Abalone pendant

Sea glass pendant with sterling wire wrap and sterling mermaid

Rare cobalt blue sea glass wrapped in sterling wire

The fair closed at 5 and by 6, we were headed out of Encinitas back to Palm Springs - a two hour drive home.  We were exhausted and disappointed, but we'd learned a lot.  While Steve drove, I tallied up our sales - $305 which wasn't so bad, but we'd spent $300 on the entry fee for the two day event and another $80 on gas to get there.  We were in the red.  As we drove home, we decided that we weren't going back for the second day.  We reasoned that if we didn't sell anything we'd be out another $80 for gas and deeper in the red.  We called my sister and we all agreed to forget the second day.  Was it the right decision?  I don't know - I just tell myself that you win some and you lose some.  

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  1. Hi, So sorry that it was not the right venue for you. Your merchandise continues to be exquisite, and you will find the right audience. Are you actually doing any wholesale business? I think some of the upscale boutiques in various California cities would love to carry your jewelry. Just a thought. Wishing you success as you continue to navigate the path of entrepreneurship.

  2. Thanks so much Marion. We are in one store up in Carmel, CA and need to find some more. Still looking and working on it. Best to you.