Summer Shows 2016: The Aftermath...
This is a blog post I wrote last year then cleverly forgot to post. It may be of some interest to any small businesses considering doing some of the larger shows around the UK.
The summer of 2016 saw me selling my wares at a number of new shows around the country. In previous years I have focused on Christmas and a couple of shows throughout the year, in July I began a 6 week stretch of big shows all around the UK. This experience was full of positives but also was a huge amount of work and an even greater lack of sleep.
Being from the North East is wonderful. We have stunning countryside, a phenomenal coastline and its quiet enough for a peaceful largely congestion-free life. The downside is that the shows are down south. Harrogate was my closest for the Great Yorkshire Show and following that I travelled to Cheshire, Warwickshire, Oxford, Skipton and by the time I had to face sleeping in my car at Burghley I was so exhausted ‘slumming it’ didn’t matter to me. Although, it has to be said I longed for some of the amazing Airbnb rooms I stayed in, my dad’s caravan with steak dinners and my brother’s house in Northwich.
Despite the long drives, long days and long nights planning and restocking, the shows were largely a resounding success. It has been amazing to meet so many new customers, friends and other businesses. I also came home with some fabulous purchases myself including two gorgeous pairs of shoes, some chipotle chilli mayonnaise and a silver fox necklace. My aim for the shows was to spread awareness of my work outside of my local region and continue what I started with the summer shows last year and Country Living Spring Show. They’re also an opportunity to try out new products and this year I launched my new mini originals which were very popular. Customers are always willing to suggest which of my subjects should feature on the next notebook, silk scarf or painting and some of these have been ordered and I await my new fox notebooks and silk scarves featuring the very same as well as a buzzing new bee design.
Since the shows sales have been great on my website and most of these outside my home turf. Several customers have contacted me regarding originals they saw at the show or to commission portraits of their pets. I also fulfilled custom orders for lampshades taken at the shows and, after some logistical courier problems, delivered them as far as Devon.
For those readers considering doing larger shows financially they are a lot of money. It requires a lot of courage and some creative juggling of my credit card to be properly stocked up and pay for the events prior to taking any sales. I reminisce to a time when I worried about paying for Living North Essence of Christmas and now as I reflect on the thousands required to pay for the summer shows I don’t even think on it as a large amount of money. It is of course scary outsourcing that much money as a small business however there are numerous anecdotes and witticisms telling us that shy bairns get nowt and I am a firm believer of jumping in with both feet. Overall my shows were financially beneficial and marketing gold. Despite at one event 90% of traders were angry and out of pocket due to poor event organising, it is important to go to these shows open minded and remember its not all about sales. I like to halve the payments in my head and say that one half is for the show and sales and the other half is making myself and my stall a living advert.
My biggest downside of the shows this year wasn't monetary it was the exhaustion caused from having 7 weeks without a day off. Even after the first show I burned out and spent my only July weekend at home flu-filled and bed-bound with only Downton Abbey to cheer me up. I didn’t see a lot of my family or friends over the summer save those who lived near the shows or accompanied me on my journey. Christmas events are largely local for me so the condensed period over which they run doesn’t matter so much when you can curl up with your other half watching a film and drinking mulled wine. Summer on the other hand I think was a little too hectic. I’ve since decided to keep the number of shows the same but switch them up a bit. This means next year there are 3 I won’t be repeating but I will be adding some new ones which are spread out over the spring and summer thus meaning I will actually have a little more breathing room.
I’d like to close on a thank you to the people who made the shows worth it. My customers, both new and existing gave me the opportunity to meet them in person. I also got to meet some of my suppliers and some fabulous fellow small business people including Heather Stowell Jewellery, Lisa Watson Quilts and Brock & Morten who made Burghley Horse Trials easier with cups of tea, loo breaks and the sharing of apples and chocolate. The ladies who run the Country Living Shows are also fabulous and the free wine also helps keep you going over a very busy summer. Stephen Fry’s renditions in audiobook of Harry Potter made the lenghty, lonely drives home fun and my wonderful Rob bought me a Dumbledore wand as a ‘congratulations on doing so well and working so hard’ present. The shows were a great experience and one I shall definitely be repeating but tweaking in 2017.