Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Part 7: The Nuts and Bolts of Booth Design

I have two people in my life that are ‘Retail Lifers’ and both have had extensive training on product presentation and how to ‘sell’ anything.

My husband believes that a craft show booth should have the front of the booth lined with tables, so that the products are ‘front and center’ and I sit behind the tables talking to customers... He prefers a Trade Show setup.

This is drastically limits the space you have for displaying products, but certainly allows plenty of room for you and any backstock.... just remember to leave a hole/door for you to leave the booth for restroom breaks, etc.

My Good Friend, Beverly, prefers to line the outer edges of the booth with product and allow the customer to step into the booth to shop without being jostled by the traffic in the aisle. She prefers a Country Peddler Craft Show set up.

Beverly is always telling me that folks will want to touch and closely examine all of my finished crochet items. They can’t really do that if they are being jostled by other shoppers, while they stand in the aisle.

However, you must invest in a double wide booth, if you are going to allow folks to step into your booth. Nothing kills sales quicker than claustrophobia- yours or the customers.

Either one of these- in general- is perfectly sound marketing... depending on your product.

My husband’s training has taught him that the color Red catches folks’ eyes the quickest and will sell products faster. Which explains the cover of my book, despite all other needlework publishers choosing to use pastel colors on the covers of their books.

However, it’s been my experience that lots of color will draw folks into the booth... if they are neatly displayed in rows and columns. Having lots of color that is scattered around, just makes a booth too busy to look at and see anything.

Nothing screams ‘amateur’ like a card table without a floor length skirt.
  • Amateur screams ‘shoddy construction and low quality products.’
  • Always, Always, Always, cover your tables with skirts that reach to the floor.
  • This also allows you to hide your travel trunks/boxes and back stock, ice chests for your lunch and snacks, thermoses, or travel mugs.
  • I prefer to use Black Cloth to skirt my tables, since this is a technique Artists use on paintings. Dark colors in the ‘background’ make all the lighter colors really stand out and catch attention. I have about 24 yards of fabric I bought at a thrift store. I have left the fabric in this long length, and I use packing tape to 'affix' it to my tables. I then put another cloth on top to hide the tape. This allows me to change the configuration of my tables from year to year.
  • Remember, you are selling Merchandise, not fixtures, so make the fixtures as invisible as possible.

The best display piece I’ve seen (and used myself) for displaying blankets is a free standing Room Divider. (Actually, my fixtures were designed to be towel holders in a bathroom- a Hobby Lobby find).

These can easily be used as your Booth Boundaries, instead of having to invest in special apparatus that supports a curtain, or a collapsible tent. Keeping your Costs down helps keep your profits up.

Also, by using display fixtures to create your booth boundaries, you cut down on what must be stored and carried to sales events. KISS... Keep It Simple to Store!

Room Dividers are easy to carry, set up and fold up; they collapse into an flat space, so they don’t take up a lot of storage space; they keep colorful blankets in nice neat rows/columns to make their colors easier to see... and they can be very inexpensive- compared to other traditional display fixtures.

Watch the hobby store adds for 40% off coupons and clearance sales of their furniture/ room dividers. You can also use gardening Trellises for this purpose; just connect two or three matching trellises together with strap ties or links of chain. You can get these on clearance at the end of your growing season at national home supply stores.

OH, not every room divider will work. It must have horizontal rungs that extend across the width of the piece, to make it easier to hang blankets. I have seen woven wicker room dividers, that with a lot of work to remover the wicker, would reveal the horizontal rungs for blanket display.

Now, room dividers with numerous compartments or grid-work can be ideal for scarves and towel toppers.

If grid work trellises/room dividers are all you can find, you can use clothes pins or bull dog/pinch clips (office supplies) to hang smaller blankets on them; that technique is not as professional looking, but will work in a pinch.

For space management and effective shopping, use tables that are only 18-24 inches wide. Trust me, trying to put more merchandise out on wider tables, does not sell it better. Folks can’t reach things across a wider table, and they just can’t ‘see’ everything on a 3 foot wide table.

This also frees up space inside your booth.

Every square inch has display potential. You’ve paid for that space, USE IT. This is why so many crafters are going with the ‘wire grid’ system for their walls: it allows them to display merchandise all the way up the walls.

However, so many cafters are using this system, that your booth could melt right into the booths surrounding it. You always want your booth to be unique, so it will entice folks in. Also, that grid system requires support mechanisms that require tools and do you really want that much work in just setting up display fixtures?

I have used collapsible Baker’s Racks in my booth to utilize that ‘upward’ display space. Again, they can certainly act like a boundary or wall for my booth, especially when I use clothes pins or pinch clips to attach a colorful blanket to the back of it. They are easy to fold up and store, or, set up and use them to house the craft show inventory at home.

Best of all, they have a value of their own, if your situation changes and you don’t need them, you can sell them and recoup your costs. Only professional Crafters will want to buy a grid-wall system, or a collapsible tent.

OH, I don’t recommend using a collapsible tent for indoor craft shows. The lighting is bad enough without having a canvass ‘roof’ blocking out that light. Don’t think that adding ‘lights’ under that tent will help either; they trap a lot of heat, and when combined with body heat from lots of customers... you are setting up a situation where folks will not take time to shop.

Where to put your ‘office or cashier area’ , ie, where you sit...that is your choice, and I’ve seen it two different ways that seem to work the best for my area.

Some vendors- who buy double or triple booths- will line the boundaries with display fixtures and put themselves in the middle of the both-front and center- at a table. That allows shoppers to walk in behind the vendors as they shop the walls.
The drawbacks to this set are: it can get very tight behind that table when you and customers are trying to squeeze into only 4-5 feet of space. With you sitting at the front of your booth facing out, and your product behind you, you cannot watch for shoplifters, and you cannot see if customers are needing assistance. You make more sales if you can easily and quickly offer to show a customer something you have in back stock.

The other method that works well in my area is to put you and your office- either in a back corner or down one side of the booth- always behind a table. This allows you ‘personal space’ that customers can’t get to- especially your cash box or register. Since you are facing the product and customers, it will help deter shoplifters and will allow you to easily address your customers.

I have put that table at the back of a single booth, to allow my customers to step out of the aisle to shop. I couldn't afford a double booth at this show, and putting the table and the office at the back of the booth was the best option. However, there wasn't much space for us vendors and the back stock, and the table had to be moved every time my partner or I had to leave.

Tomorrow’s Post: Bells, Whistles and Signage

1 comment:

Skyline SFL said...

Good post. The old card table with a floor length skirt is very common at a trade show, but there are so many better ways to present your brand and your products.