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RAGS is a wearable art show that benefits the YWCA of Pierce County WA in support of the Domestic Violence and Intervention programs.  It is NOT by any stretch of the imagination a “normal” art show.  Participants are only those who make wearable art, jewelry and fiber artists being almost 100% majority at this show.  It’s a boutique style show, no 10x10 booths, space is very limited.  We had a 9 foot long by 3.5 foot deep space to set up our 2 foot wide shelves with limited room to stand behind our display.  The show is held at a Mercedes Benz dealership and attracts many of the upscale women buyers in the Tacoma WA area.  The RAGS Guild has been holding this show for 18 years and has the jurying, layout, setup and execution of this show down to a science.  The show has a centralized checkout process, sales are all run through the organization’s books and checks are sent to the artists fairly quickly after the show.  There is NO BOOTH FEE, for this show, but there is a 33% COMMISSION, so it’s up to the artists to decide the risk/reward of this show.  For us, it’s 10 miles from home, no parking fees, no high gas fees, no camping/hotel fees, easy show to do, if I were traveling very far, I would think about the commission very seriously before committing to this show.  For us, it’s a “no brainer” any time we’re accepted while living this close, honestly, it’s our one “home show” where we can be home within 15 minutes of pulling out of their parking lot into our driveway.  There is no other show in our area with this potential in sales that we can commute to within a short distance.  We do like the fact that the commission benefits our local community and while we’ve never used the Pierce County YWCA’s programs, we do have friends and other artists who benefit from their programs.  There are several artists that we know who easily pull 5 figures out of this show.


This show is run by volunteers and Guild members.  Plenty of volunteers for booth sitting or any other help that was needed.   The volunteers also brought snacks around, granola bars in the morning, cheese and crackers around lunch and cookies or brownies for an afternoon sugar high.  Volunteers were on hand offering assistance during load in and load out and although we didn’t need much help, it was nice that they offered.  


Set up is very easy on the Wednesday before the show, with times arranged by request.  Thursday evening from 6-9 is the GALA event where attendees pay $70/person to attend.  Food and beverages are available to the artists at 5:30 so we can eat prior to the start of the show and I must say they are very delectable goodies with a nice Chardonnay to enjoy.  And the chocolate dessert table was magnificent!!!  Sales actually started with the Guild members shopping during set up and we had quite a few “lookers” before the event began at 6 PM.  Sales for the Gala night were a little slow for us, but lots of interest.  Friday sales started somewhat slowly followed by a mid-day rush between 11:30 and 2:00, then a last minute rush between 5 and 6.  Usually Saturday is a very strong day for us with slow sales on Sunday.  2012 proved to be the opposite with Saturday being almost dead, except for one lovely customer who bought 5 pieces from us, she stated that she appreciated the fact that we had “affordable” items and kept pulling different pendants and earrings from our display and after trying on 15 different pieces decided she would purchase 5.   Sunday started slow due to Daylight Savings time, but ended up being a great sales day for us which was a little unusual for this show, but after adding up the numbers Saturday evening we were more than happy to feel like we pulled it out on Sunday. 


The other unusual sales pattern at this show for us were the sales of my pieces compared to my husband’s.  Most shows he’s 60-70% of the sales while I pull in the other small amounts, years past in this show I’ve been only 10% of total sales, lower than our average show statistics.  Well, this year my pieces were a solid 50% of sales and until Sunday afternoon, I was 65-70% of our total sales and had the single largest piece purchased of any of our items which was really fun for me in our “friendly rivalry” until I totally ran out of stock on 2 designs and had to start taking custom orders.  The ladies running the checkout area came through our spot on Sunday all commenting on one particular style of earring that I make and buying until I was totally out of stock.  Looking through our records, I think I sold more of those particular earrings in this past weekend than I sold in all of our 2011 shows combined.  WOW!! Great for me, my husband was just chuckling through each transaction, thinking restocking wasn’t going to be a problem for him! 


A reasonable start to our 2012 season, not the best, but certainly much better than other first of the year shows.  This was our 3rd time participating, the 2009 edition of this show still ranks as our number 1 best sales EVER, so we go into this show with high expectations. 2010 we were down 40% from 2009, 2011 we weren’t even accepted into the show, so we were happy to be back in 2012.  Even though this turned out to be our lowest year in sales for RAGS, it still ranks above our normal show average which isn’t too bad of a way to start the year for us, especially since we have almost 0 travel expenses.  Most of the artists I talked to were down this year from last year, but most were still saying they were having a reasonable show. 


So, yet another topsy turvy start to 2012 for us, totally unexpected sales of my designs compared to the pieces my husband makes and yet at the same time  it was so nice to see the customers who had bought from us in 2009-2010 that were happy to see us back in 2012.


Load out was about as simple as it could be for us, the show ended at 4 PM, we were on the road by 4:40 PM and home before 5 PM.  What a nice way to end the weekend, home while it was still daylight!!   Now we’re just hoping to get called off the Waitlist for the Spring Best of the Northwest, if not, we have lots of time to restock before we head to Oregon and a 3 show road trip in late April.


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Comment by Ruth Finkenbiner on March 19, 2012 at 11:51am

Kathleen - we have several commission shows, this one has the largest percentage, we have several that take 10%, a few that are 15-20%, approximately 50% of the shows we'll be participating in this year are commission shows. And no, we don't raise our prices for commission shows, keep in mind, there was no booth fee for the RAGS show, usually the shows with commission have a lower booth fee. 

Regarding your question about raising our price, no we do not.  Why?  Reason #1, I for one do not want to have to reprice everything from one show to the next, sheer laziness on my part.  Reason #2, some of the attendees see us at multiple shows a year, trying to explain why a particular pair of earrings is $50 today and $39 at the next show down the road is not a conversation I want to have with potential customers.   I have enough trouble keeping up with adjusting prices as the price of metal changes, not going to start trying to change it for all my commission shows.

Comment by Kathleen J. Clausen on March 19, 2012 at 8:14am

Ruth,  I love reading about the NW!  I've never done a show where the sponsors take a percentage.  Do you raise your prices for these events?  Best of luck on your "tour."  Annette, sounds like a good problem, to have people fighting over your work! :)         

Comment by Jacki Bilsborrow on March 17, 2012 at 9:35pm

Great to hear about a west coast show, Ruth.   I am happy you had a good show, too.  The RAGS show sounds like a good idea.   Maybe there should be a few more of those.

Comment by Ruth Finkenbiner on March 12, 2012 at 7:40pm

Congrats on the orders Annette.  I agree with you, I'd rather have a smaller booth fee plus 10% of sales, but since it's local (10 miles from the house) we still feel it's worth it. 

Comment by Annette Piper on March 12, 2012 at 5:53pm

Congrats on a good show - its good to hear that they still happen every so often!    I've done a couple of commission shows at that 30% rate and it does make you think.   I've done more at a small booth fee plus 10% of sales and that always seems more palatable.  When the organisers are on commission they certainly work harder to get people in the door and sales happening!

Talking about one particular item being popular - I had a trunk show this past weekend and one bracelet I made was fought over.  I ended up taking orders for it, explaining that each one will be a bit different, but basically the same 'look' and they were happy.   That's my job for today - starting to make them.   Even though I don't like repeating what I do, I came to the conclusion this time round that sales are sales!

Comment by Lisa Foster on March 12, 2012 at 2:04pm

Ruth, glad to hear you had a good show. I hope that bodes well for NW shows in general this year.

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