Monday, November 26, 2012

'Tis the season (almost)...

I've decided that as window washers go, I'm a really good jewellery maker.  We spent a large part of the afternoon cleaning the windows of the ex-restaurant which is to be the venue for our annual vintage and handmade market. My friend and fellow stall-holder Sam came with me to pick up the keys and let the sunshine in, which we did - eventually. I have new and enormous respect for those people you see effortlessly squeegeeing in curvy shapes and leaving nary a smear or streak.  Scratch 'window cleaner' from my list of alternate professions and George Formby from my playlist.

While we scrubbed the urban cocktail of oil, grease, salt and dust (baked in the afternoon sun for 3 months till crispy) we chatted about the joy of 'curating' an art market. We talked about the dreaded 'stall creep' (where you get crowded by the person next to you, who wants to expand into your space - especially if you are 10 minutes late); market etiquette generally; and the gazillion little things that make a market happen.

Events like this don't randomly spring into being: there are 1000 jobs to be done and decisions to be made before the doors open, expenses to be incurred (and underwritten).  Posters and ads have to be designed and produced; ads written and booked (and paid for); venues found and organised; local councils appeased (even though the zoning is correct); stall holders invited, encouraged, vetted and sometimes rejected; furniture moved; finances and credit card facilities maintained and organised; cleaning (before and after) to be organised or in this case, done; the many different needs of participants juggled (working hours, space, times, allergies and alliances); and so on and so on and so on.

To provide a successful event, none of the above is cheap, yet everyone wants to pay the absolute minimum for their space.  The big places where costs can be reduced are, of course, venue and advertising.  If you want a few hours in all weather in a park, on the off chance someone will come by (and buy), then invest your $5 and take your chances.  If you want a good venue, in a CBD location, then you advertise - as does any business. Run of paper advertising (that's the ads NOT in the classifieds) isn't cheap but good ads will yield serious traffic.  Some radio advertising is really good, provided the right people are listening and I use a small, truly local outfit with a large listener base in the right demographic. Like anything else, you basically get out of it what you put in: invest correctly and reap the rewards.

You can't guarantee that people will buy.  That's up to the sellers and their stock. But provide a quality product at a reasonable price, and people will buy, provided you sell it to them.  It means hours of standing on your feet, engaging the customer, smiling till your face aches....working hard. And don't even talk about display, merchandising, promotion.  Or who will pay for the toilet paper and hand towels (and for that matter, the lightglobe in the loo).

So here's a big thank you to Sam, for giving up her Sunday afternoon and getting her hands dirty (literally). I suspect she's not considering a career in semi-professional squeegee-based services, either.

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