Monday, August 16, 2010

Mission: Impossible!

The Challenge

Last weekend, we attempted what my husband called “Mission: Impossible!”—selling warm, wool products on a 90+ degree summer day. We knew it would be a hard sell; after all, we’ve been doing outdoor festival sales for over 10 years, now, so we have a bit of experience. But we were willing to give it a try, since we got into the Tualatin Crawfish Festival at the very last minute, and it was an event we’ve never done before.

We had set up the canopy in our space the evening before, to save a little time in the morning. My husband had made some new wooden racks for the booth, so we spent a little extra time deciding how to configure the booth (to be accurate, I spent a little extra time worrying about how to configure the booth; my husband already had it planned out in his head). We hurried to get racks and tables set up, then started placing the product out on them. This is always a challenge, since we have more product than display space. But we managed to get everything in place before 10:00 AM, our deadline.

We had opted not to use any “walls” on our awning, since there was no likelihood of rain in the forecast, but the booths to either side of us had walls up, so effectively we had walls on the two sides of the structure. This theoretically could have shielded us a bit from the sun, but since the sun was at our backs most of the day, it didn’t have much effect. It did, probably, shield us some from the breeze, which was intermittent throughout the day. This was a Good Thing in that it kept things from blowing off the racks and tables, but it was a Bad Thing in terms of our comfort, as the breeze would have afforded some cooling as we sweated out the day.

There was no booth behind us, so we were not shielded from the sun at all from that direction. Did I mention that the sun was behind us?? We kept trying to move farther into the booth to get into the shade, but that meant that we were blocking some of the product from public view. Oh, well…when you do a crafts booth at an outdoor event, you learn to be flexible.

The Cacophony
It is always interesting to watch people’s reactions when they walk by our booth. Some are so focused on their goal (undoubtedly something on the other end of the festival grounds) that they don’t even give our booth a glance. Others glance in, see the cacophony of colors, shapes and textures, and hurry on by. Some dismiss the booth with an “Oh…just knitting” kind of look. Some smile apologetically or say hello, then continue on past. Every so often, some brave soul ventures into the booth. Again, there are quite a variety of reactions:

The Quick, Disinterested Tourist: After a quick once-around, the visitor’s eyes glaze over, and he departs rapidly.

The Fiber Addict: This person is quite interested in how the items are made, but is not at all interested in buying; after all, he could always make it himself.

The Poverty-Stricken Admirer: This would-be customer is very gratifying, if a bit disappointing. If he had remembered his checkbook today, he really would have bought something. Everything is very beautiful, though.

• The Obtuse/Ignorant/Unobservant NonCustomer: “I have one just like this at home!” [Grrrr….!  Do you realize that this is a handmade product from an original design?  The one you bought at WalMart is probably not quite the same, if you look at it more carefully.]

• The Distracted Shopper With Small Children and/or Pets**:
          This category merits subpoints. Several favorites:

        • The Touchy-Feely Child: A small child who wants to touch everything (probably a Future Fiber Artist), whose mother is so involved in the shopping experience that she does not enforce the Don’t Touch! Rule she had stated upon entering the booth. This child often repeats the phrase, “Look, Mommy!” while holding each and every item precariously over the dusty ground.
       • The Cheeto-Fingered Girl: This one placed her bright orange forefinger firmly on the tip of the nose of our white head form…it was scarred (or rather, stained) for life! And her father pulled her away just as she was about to touch the white scood that was on it.
       • The Little Big Spender: This child, usually 7 or under, wants to buy everything in the shop, but only has a dollar. He has to ask how much every item costs, so he can decide if he can buy it, since he seems to have left his parents behind at the last booth.

       • The Visiting Dog: We once did several shows at a farm market, which was inhabited by a very sweet dog, named Sally. Sally loved to eat ears of corn, and her favorite place to do this was inside our booth. If we were lucky, she would repose under a table. (Come to think of it, we were the visitors!)  We periodically had to remove a half-chewed ear of corn from the middle of our booth, or shoo Sally out so that a customer could get close to our display.
       • The Inquisitive Dog: This dog, whose distracted owner is very interested in our shop, wants to explore everything it can reach, and touch it with its wet, inquisitive nose. Sometimes the dog will get its leash entangled around one of our table legs.
       • The Runaway Stroller: One time, our table was actually run down by a runaway stroller, which was thankfully empty at the time. Personally, I think the toddler pushed the stroller downhill to see what would happen.

**Please note that I am very fond of small children and pets.

The Perfectionist: This shopper could potentially be a customer, if I had any products that were exactly the right color, shape, or size. Unfortunately, they are all just a little bit off.

The Tease: Sometimes it seems that a shopper tries on everything in the booth, without ever having any intention of buying. This often seems to happen when there are two shoppers together. They seem to be really interested in several items, but end up nonchalantly sallying out of the booth, after having messed up the entire display.

The BUYER (Woohoo!)!!: This shopper actually finds something they, or someone else they know, would like or use, and they have the ability to pay for it. This is our FAVORITE RESPONSE of all, though probably the least frequent.

It is almost painful to watch people as they look at warm hats and scarves on a stiflingly hot day. People will almost recoil as they imagine trying those items on, and they don’t even seem able to process the fact that we have airy, lacy items like doilies and cool, lace-covered glass paperweights. Such is the state of the Fiber Booth on a hot summer’s day.

I should bring this post to a close. Perhaps I should change the title to “Mission Improbable”, as we did manage to sell a few items, after all.


Sharon said...

You are so resilient to sell knitwear in this heat! I'm glad you got some sales!

(I had to laugh because I recognize some of the people you describe from the few craft shows I've done.)

Rebecca said...

I'm glad it made you laugh, Sharon! I had a lot of fun (and a little help from my family) brainstorming the different types of shoppers.

BabyNest said...

this is so true....:) thanks for the memories:)