As craft and vendor show enthusiasts, we spend a lot of time talking about the positive aspects of shows. We love pretty much everything about them. That said, it is important to always be able and willing to take a step back and consider shows critically.
ShowWiz is a resource that aims to have a comprehensive calendar of shows. We have some criteria for adding shows (including that a show must have at least 5 unique vendors to be listed) but we do not vet shows or organizers for their quality. A show appearing on our calendar is in no way an endorsement from us. Due to the sheer scale of shows – it is simply not feasible for us to undertake this level of screening.
In the past few months, we’ve seen an uptick in show cancellations. This is disappointing for everyone involved – but it has been especially disheartening in cases where vendor fees have not been returned. Table rental fees for shows can range drastically in price – anywhere from free to $3600! It is an investment – but it is also a gamble. Legal remedies are time and energy consuming and often fruitless. Prevention is best remedy – so what can you do to protect yourself?
Do your Due Diligence
One thing to keep in mind is that as vendors, you ARE the customer for organizers. Yes, organizers care about shoppers coming through the doors. But, without vendors, they would not be able to put on a show. They want vendors, and they should be aiming to attract a selection of quality ones. It is okay to ask questions. It is okay to push for answers that satisfy you.
Here is a list of some of the questions we suggest at least considering, if not asking, before putting down money for a show. (Please, don’t copy and paste this whole list and send to organizers! Do some research yourself first – look at their websites. Many of the established organizers have pages with the answers to many of these.) Many of these questions are not individual dealbreakers – but collectively they give you a better picture of what you are committing to.
- Where is the venue located?
- Is there (free) parking?
- Is it accessible via transit?
- Is there foot traffic?
- Have similar events been hosted in this venue before? (If yes, were they successful?)
- Has the organizer managed events before?
- What is their marketing plan?
- Is there time for that plan?
- How do the marketing materials look? (Is the call out to vendors well written? Do the graphics, if applicable, look nice?)
- Is the organizer…organized? Do they respond to queries or seem to have a plan?
- Are they transparent? How hard are you having to look for these details?
- How are the tables for this show priced in comparison to others? (Make sure to factor the marketing plan into this!)
- Is there an entry fee for the public?
- Is the show juried, partially juried, or first come first served?
- Does the look and feel of this show fit your product?
- Do the anticipated demographics of shoppers fit your product?
- What type of vendors are going to be there? (All handmade? Some direct sales?)
- Is there a structure in place limiting the number of vendors per category?
- Is the table fee within your means?
- What does the vendor contract or terms and conditions say happens in the case of cancellation?
If the answers to these questions do not make you feel confident, it is okay to pass on a show. There are so many options – and not every show is a fit for every vendor.
The most important thing is to follow your gut feeling. If you are nervous about something or if something sounds too good to be true…trust yourself and save a potential headache down the road. If the event goes well and you have regret – chances are it will be held again the following year!
Ask for Feedback
While looking for answers for the questions above, there’s no need to rely solely on yourself and the organizer for the answers. Many Facebook groups exist that are excellent forums for feedback on previous events, organizers, and venues. If you have a personal network of maker friends – ask them!
If possible – and especially with shows that you might be uncertain about – consider using payment methods that allow for chargebacks and disputes. PayPal Goods and Services (not Friends and Family!) and credit cards provide an additional avenue should things go sideways.
We’re not trying to say that first time shows by new organizers or at new can’t be successful. We are, however, saying that there is a larger element of risk to these new shows. Participating in any show is a risk – factors beyond anyone’s control can lead to poor turnout or a show being cancelled. Being aware of the risks and taking steps to protect yourself can minimize your exposure to loss and increase your ability to take them in stride.
What do you consider when booking shows? If we missed something, let us know by sending us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org!
ShowWiz.ca is an online resource that offers a comprehensive calendar of craft and vendor shows and a vendor directory. Currently serving Eastern Ontario and the National Capital Region, ShowWiz.ca works to connect vendors, organizers, and shoppers with opportunities that work for them.