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Good art, small crowds at Miromar Outlets: Estero FA Show, Nov. 16-17, 2013

I've reviewed Patty Narozny's HotWorks "Estero Fine Art Shows"at Miromar Outlets extensively in the past.  You can read the most recent review (of the January 2013) here. It contains a link to even more reviews.

I spent this past weekend at HotWorks' annual fall show at Miromar Outlet, one of the three largest malls in SW Florida, halfway between Fort Myers and Naples.  Although many of the seasonal snowbirds won't arrive until New Year's, there are many Canadian and European visitors around, and the new home sales figures in the local market are up. So I was looking forward to the strong sales I had here in 2010 and 2011, and hoping that last year's dive off the cliff was an aberration, driven by an especially early (late October) show date. 

Sadly, it wasn't. 

Part of the problem may have been the weather, which couldn't serve up the kind of comfortable clime that the newly-arrived snowbirds find to their liking.  Friday (setup day) was just right, but clouds and rain moved in overnight and lingered through early morning. The  local tv meteorologists had predicted they'd linger into the afternoon and suggested, repeatedly, that "Sunday is the better day for your outdoor weekend activities."  

Showers did, in fact, linger into the afternoon in other parts of the Fort Myers area, but the high clouds and moderate breezes we saw should have been decent show weather.  Crowds were light to very moderate on Saturday morning, then tapered off through the afternoon.

Skies cleared overnight, but it was an illusion: instead of the crisp, dry air that November is famous for in these parts, the air on Sunday was mid-June muggy, and temperatures rose quickly through the low 80s, topping out at 90 degrees in mid-afternoon.  Attendance was light; heads were down.  Through early afternoon I saw more patrons carrying stacks of slick, glossy lifestyle magazines (handed out for free at the gate by one of the show sponsors) than I did art purchases.  (This isn't a minor complaint: Hands filled with freebies aren't going to browse through print bins, touch handiwork, or try on jewelery. At least give 'em a bag so they can be carried with one hand.)

I had a south-facing booth and the sun blasted it all day, making presentations short and interest minimal.  Most customers preferred what little shade was offered by the rows of north-facing booths. When a few puffy clouds appeared mid-afternoon, it seemed to spike traffic and buying interest, but just a bit.  I wound up, though, with a very modest customer count, no gallery wraps out the door, and barely $500 gross sales--just enough to cover the $395 booth fee and pay for the cost of goods sold. 

Paradoxically, some artists with low-priced items sold well, but a few of those I spoke with who sold big-ticket items, waited for the "home run" customer, and found one were among the survivors too. Overall (based on the folks I spoke with), results were on the low range of acceptable to disappointing.

As always with a Hot Works show, the quality and mix of art is quite good. Patty's shows have a loyal following among artists from her home state of Michigan, and she recruits actively for artists from other shows. There is some loyalty among the visitors, too: I had five customers drop in to say hello and tell me how much they like the work they had bought from me at shows past (good!) but only one purchased from me (a $20 wall calendar) this year. 

Pluses for the show include friendly, helpful show staff, easily identified by their red HotWorks t-shirts (hear that, show promoters??) who dispensed fruit and water throughout the weekend, and an easy setup.  And Patty herself was around the show from beginning to end.  Minuses include a long, long walk to the artist parking lot at the far reaches of the sprawling Miromar Outlets grounds  (it took me over ten minutes to trek it on Sunday morning, and I'm a fast walker).  And, though perhaps it's a personal-taste issue, the sleep-inducing music of the French-music crooner who, as he does every year, performed the same eight-song playlist all weekend long.  (Note to the organizers: Everyone who listened to Edith Piaf music in the '40s and '50s is gone now.) 

The mall security is on hand to help pedestrians, including show-goers, cross the roads between one part of the show and the other, but the narrow two-lane routes,  a bit twisty in spots, are open to general mall traffic and the drivers aren't paying particularly close attention. 

Is there a glimmer of a big-picture trend to be gleaned from this year's show?  Maybe: I had a half-dozen  folks tell me that they had just purchased a new home--more than last year--and I missed out on several sales because I didn't have work on hand large enough to be a focal point of a bare wall above a four-cushion sofa.  So it could be that the mantra I was hearing toward the end of last year down here--"Go big, or go home!"-- is back in force.  As I write this the UPS truck just delivered three 48-inch wide canvases.  Maybe if they'd shown up on Friday, when I was expecting them, I'd be able to back up my conjecture with hard evidence in the form of hard cash.  As it is, I'll just have to take 'em to Bill Kinney's Sarasota show this coming weekend, and, as they say in the real estate business, await developments. 

Views: 729

Comment by Connie Mettler on November 18, 2013 at 3:19pm

So much helpful detail, as usual, Geoff. Thanks. 

I always hear good things about how hard Patty and her staff work, sounds like they are not slacking off on that.

Hate to say it, but doing a show like this is almost like having a job. I know you know this marketplace and what to expect and who to expect, so sorry about the disappointing outcome. That being said, hope you'll be selling those biggies in Sarasota and reporting in happier news next week.

I was talking to Nels the other day. What I was surprised to hear him say (as we haven't been to Florida for awhile now) is that the Promenade in Bonita is not so upscale anymore. The last time we did that show it was definitely a fine place with good shopping and restaurants. Did the recession hit this mall?

Who can lay out this section of Florida for me. Is Estero considered Fort Myers? do the Naples/Bonita buyers come to Estero? Is Coconut Point in this mix?

Comment by bonny hawley on November 18, 2013 at 4:05pm

I live in Naples and walked the show on Sunday early afternoon.   It was a beautiful show with a nice feel, good music, great art.  I do large scale paintings and talked to several artist friends who were doing the show, they all had 0 sales and were dissapointed of course.  It was hot, hot hot and Geoff I have to tell you I stopped in your booth to say hello and waited while you were talking to a customer, your booth was smoking hot and not in a good way.  You should have opened up your back or a side to get some air going thru there. Several artists had portable fans going.   I waited as long as I could, sweat was pouring down my back so I took off- who would think it would be so hot down here in the middle of Nov.?  I have never done this show, the idea of showing in a Outlet Mall parking lot is questionable.   As for the Bonita National Shows they are no longer going to be at the Promenade as far as I know.   They are going to be in old Bonita.  The Promenade was sold after years of suffering thru the recession, the free artist spaces are no more and I guess the art shows too.

Comment by Geoff Coe on November 18, 2013 at 4:09pm

Yes, the Promenade is a well-chronicled victim of the economic downturn in SW Florida.  It has been purchased by a developer who is going to refurbish it.  Really sad; when I was a visitor here (before I moved to FL in 2004) it was quite the showpiece.  Recently it was home to the Bonita Art League and not much else.  I can't find the articles that discussed this  but if I can put my hands on them, I'll post a link.

To answer your last questions:  Estero is within the same county (Lee) as Fort Myers, but lies about 15 miles to the south. It lies just north of Bonita Springs (where The Promenade is located).  The two communities spar for real estate along their common boundaries. Coconut Point mall, where Howard Alan does two shows (Jan/Feb), and Miromar Outlets, where Patty Narozny does her shows in Nov and Jan, are close by each other.  Of the two malls, Coconut Point is the more prestigious, but Miromar Outlets is no  shabby outlet mall by any stretch.  Many well-heeled buyers go there, and it's worth noting that the uber-exclusive Miromar Lakes development, home to the most expensive real estate west of Palm Beach, is adjacent, or nearly so, to the mall.

Naples is another 10 miles or so south of Bonita Springs. 
Here's a map!
Between New Year's weekend and the end of March (13 weeks), there are 12 major shows I can think of (probably a couple more that escape me at the moment):

Fort Myers: 1 major show
Miromar: 1 show
Coconut Point: 2 shows
Bonita Springs: 3 shows
Mercato: 1 show
downtown Naples: 4 major shows
(Naples New Years, Naples National, Edenfest, the March 5th Ave. show).

Direct date conflict only in February, when Alan's Valentines Weekend show butts heads with the February Bonita Springs show.  But it is still easy to see why there are concerns about oversaturation here and in the Sarasota area. 

Naples customers will come to their downtown shows.  Some will go to Mercato, but they are more likely to go to Coconut Point, which is a larger, more prestigous show situated at a high-end regional mall (and of course, very well promoted by Howard Alan).  Historically they have also gone to Bonita Springs National.  However, with the shift of venue from the Promenade (which certainly benefited from its history as an upscale venue) to Riverside Park (which is on the less-lofty side of US41, demographically, and which lacks retail), there is some concern that what Nels Johnson endearingly calls the "good shoes people" will not support the show.  (I don't wish to get into all that now.  I'm doing the February and March Bonita shows and will be happy to report on it when I have facts.)

Comment by Geoff Coe on November 18, 2013 at 4:17pm

Incidentally, I should have mentioned that the big news in Lee County is that Hertz, the rental car giant, is in the process of moving its corporate headquarters from northern New Jersey to Estero.  Announced this past summer, the move promises to bring 800 high-paying jobs to the area.  Some execs have already moved here and are working in temporary HQs in Naples, but the company is building a new headquarters right across from Coconut Point mall, and the architectural plans are being ballyhooed later today.  Completion date is 2015, I believe. 

Comment by Christina L. Towell on November 19, 2013 at 8:44am

Wonderful, detailed and informative account of the Estero FA Show, Geoff...too bad about the weather and lack of sales though, hopefully your next show will be better all around.  Oh, btw, big Edith Piaf fan...just sayin'.

Comment by Kim Colvard Oberholtzer on November 19, 2013 at 10:51am

Patty and her team did an AWESOME job this weekend.  The advertisement and promotions for this Art show were over the top.  I personally saw many advertisements on TV, Radio and heard from many other people that they knew about the show from Patty’s efforts in advertisement and promotions. 

I felt the crowds were a little slow because of weather on Saturday, however the target market of Patty’s efforts truly paid off.  My booth had a lot of traffic both days and I obtained two very large commissioned jobs which I have already set appointments with this week.  I also sold several at a lower price point and that works well at any show.  After all, we are business owners, not just Artists..

At other show in the pasts I have seen the “Museum Walk”, however this show brought out the buyers.  If I had had many other Large pieces, I would have sold them.  So shame on me.   

In any business promotion/ sponsorship is the key to success and I feel that Patty’s  focus and her efforts in marketing and promotions to the Art buying community brought out serious buyers  instead of serious lookers.


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