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Hi everyone.  I am a crystalline glaze potter in North Carolina and am in my 6th year of doing still a newby. 

My question/inquiry deals seeks to get advice on what to do about shows that have been good up until this year and so far sales are down sharply.  Three larger shows that I've done for several years and sales have been increasing every year, this year are about half of last year.  I did raise my prices very slightly this year (1/4%), but I wouldn't think that would account for the disparity.  I have introduced new product, and new glazes but have kept the better performers in the line.  My pricing structure goes from around $30 to $500 with the median about $90.

Two of the shows are close to each other geographically, the third is around 100 miles from the other two.  All are in generally affluent areas.

Should I lay off of those shows for a year or two, or doggedly stay with them?  I'm very open to any suggestions from the veteran's here.



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No suggestions. There are marketing people in big corporations being paid a $500,000 a year to try to figure out why and how people buy. I never could. Shows seem to go hot or cold as the years go by for no apparent reason

I hear ya, Barry.  For us... it's just a crapshoot.  Research as best you can, sign up, go, keep your fingers crossed.

If you've generally had good sales, maybe you have a few factors that in combination have impacted the sales decline.  But that you've already had good sales is a great starting point:  you know people like and buy your work.


1.  Market saturation:  too long doing the same shows in your region?  Your work has been in front of the same people for quite a few years now.  100 miles away doesn't seem to be all that much of a spread in your region.  Go south, go west, go national.  Do it at your comfort level, but try new shows and places.

2.  Apologies in advance, but I'm unclear about your price increase  -- do you mean you increased 25%?  If so, perhaps that's perceived as too large a jump for your clientele?  Raising prices is fair and necessary, but unless your raw materials are commodities that are subject to big ups and downs, a jump like 25% might be hard to take.  Perhaps a slower or strategic increase on select items is a better approach.

3.  Introducing new work is a good move, for sure.  I guess you should think about if it's enough new items/glazes that people would notice as they walk by your booth.

If it were me -- and it HAS been me, at times -- try new shows.  You're diversifying your income source. Get your work in front of new buyers.  

Beth, thank you for the response. 

As for the price increase...  For most of my pieces I use a formula of diameter x height x (a factor).  My price last year used a factor of 2.25.  The price increase went to a factor of 2.5.  That's where the 1/4% is.  On a $100 dollar piece the price went up about 8-9$.

I'm also this year going farther afield.  Did a Sugarloaf in Chantilly last December.  Repeating that this year and adding Edison, NJ and Gaithersburg, MD.  Those are my only two new shows this year, other than a small local show where I sold 1 piece...pretty much as expected there. 

I suspect my show lineup next year is going to be quite a bit different than this year.  

Math nerd here.....if your price went up $8-9 per $100 that's a 8-9 percent (%) increase- not 1/4 % ...and I do not think that such a small increase would decrease your sales. After doing a dozen shows this year (both big and small) I have noticed a drop-off of previous years. I have pulled in some new shows to test the saturated market theory and have mixed results. I do another 15 or shows in the Fall and I am curious if the downward trend continues. Best advice? Shows are a crap shoot at best!

I think that it's very hard to tell by just 1 year's experience.  I usually try for 2 years to see if this year is just a fluke.

Thank you, Kathleen.  I typically give a show 2 years unless it is obviously a complete dud.  Those shows I talked about I have done for 4 years and both had gotten better every year.  One of them was the best show I've ever done anywhere.  This year was about half of last year.  A little leery about signing up again next year.  Still might because of the track record.  Maybe it was a fluke, or my location, or the heat...who knows.  We'll see how I feel in a few months.

Are there newsworthy economic factors in play- like large layoff announcement of a leading employer in the area? The news media can whip up a sense of financial insecurity that will kill any show.

On a different thought, how about your marketing- send out emails? Social media blitz? Every invitation whether online or on paper keeps your products in front of them.

But like you we have had a few surprising disappointments

"Every invitation whether online or on paper keeps your products in front of them." I might tend to be cautious with this approach. Morgan, you have already stated concerns about being stale and possibility of needing change. When people are deluged with marketing contacts, they become numb to them and they are no longer effective. It can have an adverse affect. They become blind to it and avoid it. Perhaps some people are passing your booth and thinking "I've seen that booth or been there / done that". I had someone at a show who likes my work. I saw them at a gallery I was exhibiting in. They were impressed and loved some of my new pieces. I mentioned they were only exhibited one other time, at a recent show I did, in their area. They stated they had been there but not stop in my booth. I asked why they did not stop in my booth. They stated "I passed by your booth but didn't stop because I know your work." That tells me they were not expecting anything new or different. Instead the idea of doing something different. Shake it up. Change things.  First rule of sales ATTRACT ATTENTION. When people see something, the same as what they have seen before it does not attract attention.

Having done consulting for a long time keep in mind the five factors in selling (anything).

1 - the right product

2 - in the right place

3 - at the right time

4 - at the right price

5 - communicated effectively (and probably the most important)

When I taught sales there was a different approach.

Three things a a salesperson needs to be able to make that sale.

1) A belief in your product.

2) Knowledge of your product.

3) Reasonable way of presenting it.

It does not have to be the right product. that is a matter of the ability of the salesperson.

My father could sell a person a ticket to hell.

One way of course but he would sell them that ticket.

So 1 is a matter for the salesperson. Are they doing a "needs based" approach? is it the right product --- there is more unneeded bad product sold than there is the opposite.

2 - the place is wherever I can get in front of the customer. Selling balloons and clown makeup at a funeral might not be the right place but that just makes it more of a challenge.

3 - They can meet tonight at 7:00 or tomorrow at 8:00... which is better for you?

4 - Price is immaterial. That is why we have credit. How important is that artwork? Seek the hidden objection - price is just that.

People get fat and people get skinny. As long as Walmart keeps selling laminated belts that crack on the adjustment holes after a couple months, I will sell belts. I raised prices of $40-$50 belts by 20%-25% last year or year before and there has been no decline in sales. Just more money.


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