Saturday, February 23, 2008

Part 3- Cottage Industry Espionage

Cottage Industry is a fancy term for small, home-based businesses, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use a little 'recon' to ascertain what would be good for our business.

Ok, so maybe espionage is a bit strong... doing research on what to sell, where to sell it, and any tips seasoned veterans will share... you can't really call that espionage.

Once you have an idea of who shops/attends a sales venue, and what folks in your area like to buy, next look at the vendors at the various venues.

How many other vendors in the show are selling crocheted items? Don’t make my mistake: just because a show has no crochet vendor, doesn't mean that you can step in to fill that niche and make lots of money. The lack of crochet vendors could mean that crochet vendors couldn't sell at that show, so they don't return.

Approach the director/organizer of the venue- like you are a customer- and ask if they have ever had any crochet vendors, because you were looking for a baby blanket. Ask this question, and he might give you an answer that is more than a half truth.

DO NOT approach the director as a potential vendor and ask why there are no crochet vendors; he will give you an answer designed to secure your booth rent the next time they host an event.

Are there numerous vendors with the same type of merchandise? Too many vendors selling the same basic items can drop the value, by offering too much competition for a specific item.

Is there a wide variety of products offered; lots of products will draw in larger crowds, because there is something to appeal to everyone. The larger the crowds, the more potential customers for your product.

What types of crocheted items do you see vendors offering?

You must be cautious in how you approach vendors; commiserate with them how people love your crochet, but your family and friends don’t want to pay you for the work it involves. If you start with something like this, most of the time, crochet vendors are polite enough to talk to you.

They will generally talk about the current show, and their favorite shows in the area and even the types of things they sell. They probably won’t tell you what they sell the most of, because they don’t want you to become a competitor, but they will give you some valuable information.

The one thing most folks won’t talk about: what is the Dollar Amount they consider a Success. For some folks, that means covering booth rent and a few dollars extra. For some folks, leaving a show less that $5000 was a disaster.

About the only thing I could get folks to tell me was, if they covered booth rent, and what sold best: big ticket or small ticket items.

Now that I am an established vendor at the largest craft show in my area, I do go around on Sunday and openly ask vendors, "Are you doing well this year? Have you had a good show?" And I openly tell them how my sales are doing. Again, I commiserate with them, and I gain valuable information... but I also share valuable information.

It is my opinion that if you improve a venue in general, everyone can benefit. If we all understand why type of merchandise and what price range the customer base wants, we can all gain more sales if we deliver what the customers want.

Taking time to learn the customers and vendors at various sales venues, will save you money, time and effort when you do start selling your crochet. Knowing this information will allow you to better choose which events/venues will garner you better results, as well as, what merchandise to take to various events.

Tomorrow’s Post: You get what you pay for- right?

© Angela ‘ARNie’ Grabowski 2008. All rights reserved. For more crochet fun, visit
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