Welcome to the blog for Ali's Craft Studio by Alison Lloyd. I am a crafter of peelable stained glass designs & handpainted keyrings and I look forward to sharing with you my news direct from Kent (the Garden of England)

Make sure you visit the shop at www.studiocrafts.net to purchase your own handmade decorations to bring fun and colour into every corner of your home

Monday, 16 May 2011

Making the most of a bad job...

Morning everyone.   Today, being Monday, is of course Handmade Monday over at Wendy's blog.   You might want to visit the lovely blogs taking part to view some nice pretty things after what follows here....

I'm mad as hellI would love to be here today writing a really glowing review of this weekend's event and start the week on a positive note but unfortunately that is not going to happen!  Be warned, this blog is what can only be described as a long rant and moan so read on at your peril!
The concept of the show was in theory a good one and what could and should have been a great event was badly executed and compounded by very low footfall and definitely by the illogical layout and grouping of the stalls.  The 'themed' areas were simply ignored by the organisers and their sales staff who were obviously just desperate to get anyone to buy a stall and would locate them anywhere they wanted rather than in the section relevant to their style/product.  As an exhibition organiser for close to 20 years in my previous job, the mistakes were infuriating, obvious and astounding to me as many were real 'no brainers' and would have cost the organisers nothing, zero, nada, zilch to put right had they been done correctly in the first place! (so forget using the 'it costs money to do that and we would have had to cut the budget in our advertising to do that' excuse!)

Now advertising is always a contentious issue, particularly when the visitors just don't come and I can't and won't give any opinion as to whether this was done right and whether adverts appeared in the right places - after all, I know that the best advertising campaign in the world won't guarantee footfall - you just cannot force people to come if they don't want to.

OK, so just to give a brief idea of some of the many many problems with this show.... Split between two halls, there was no signage to direct visitors into the second hall (which could easily be missed as the small doorway was between two very colourful stands).    I found it so frustrating that despite being shattered after a very long and tiring day (how come you are more tired when you aren't doing anything all day??) I actually made up my own signage late in the evening when I got home on Saturday and put it up on the Sunday morning.   It wasn't rocket science and consisted of two things - the words MORE STANDS THIS WAY and a large arrow!!  Doesn't really take a genius - its not exactly difficult is it?!
Right from the time of booking (should've listened to my inner voice then telling me it wasn't going to be a good wekend!), I pointed out the major mistakes being made in the layout - the food stalls had been put at the front of the second hall with other smaller stands behind.   Food should ALWAYS be located at the back - visitors will keep walking to find  food and a cuppa, sit down and rest their feet before setting off to visit more stalls.   A coffee cart or similar in a second location is fine in large fairs so that there is an extra 'pit stop' for weary visitors to encourage them to stay longer and make a full day of it.    To add to the horror of the planning, there were NO tables or chairs for people to sit and eat their bought food, other than a couple (and I mean two) placed by a couple of vendors in front of their coffee/food stalls.    Many of the food stalls had actually been put outside the entrance to the venue - anyone who went outside at lunchtime to get a bite then just went home!   At least if they had to walk through all the stalls again to get out, they may have made a few last minute purchases on the way.  The area where I would have located them had in the area access to water, high power outlets and a large shuttered door for easy access and to let any excess steam/smoke leave the building without getting uncomfortable for everyone around.    The area in front just cried out for small bistro-style tables and chairs (a few hundred quid to hire about 100 sets).  I will tell you about what was actually in this area shortly...

Lightbulb IdeaI should have sold indigestion tablets for 50p a pop - I could have made my pitch fee back in no time!   People were either sitting on the very grubby floor (what a great look that gives to a show!) or walking around whilst shovelling food into their mouths as quickly as possible from plastic trays.  I saw people starting to look very uncomfortable indeed.  Oh and when you have finished - there were no bins for your empty containers, plastic forks and general rubbish.

A walk through the whole show just after opening revealed a good 20 or so empty stalls where the traders hadn't turned up yet the stalls were left with the large name tag on the wall added to help you locate your space during set up.  Even the stupiest of stupid people would know that this space should have someone on it. I am guessing these people were being allowed to pay on arrival - a real no-no for all but the simplest of events.  Perhaps someone should have at least taken the name signs down and encouraged the surrounding stallholders to spread into the spaces (after all, we all like extra space to display on) or slung a couple of colourful posters up there.   Stallholders from hall 2 moved into some of the spaces leaving even more gaps around our already very sparse area.   

Now, remember that space I mentioned earlier where I would have placed the food/seating area?   It was used for.... nothing!   It meant that an empty space of at least 25-30 metres deep and full width of the hall was all visitors had to look forward to after our stall.  Still, there we were - located at the back in 'no mans land' which had been advertised on the floor plan as the 'Craft Section' even though in reality all the craft stalls were intermixed with everything from furniture to paintballing, pole dancing - yes you did read that right - and loft ladders!

But hey, if the people came flocking in in their thousands ready to spend the day to get great advice and buy some fun, practical and unique items, our stall location and the poor layout would have quickly be forgotten and (maybe) forgiven...

Day one was bad (an understatement) but somehow we actually managed to sell some items - infact we sold to four, yes FOUR whole customers.   I nearly kissed the last one who at 4.31 (half an hour before the purgatory show ended) actually doubled my days takings in one sale - thank God I take credit cards as she had no cash left at all at that point.   We were one of the lucky ones and there were many others who would have loved to have sold to anyone.

Day two started off with us arriving to find ourself now almost completely alone in the back half of the hall - everyone had moved or left in frustration - except for us, the Scampi food van and Simon with his large bamboo gazebo.  Was it something we said??  Basically, you would walk in through the food section, past at least four now empty spaces to the beautiful garden/conservatory furniture.   Some 30 or so metres later (after nothing but empty grey walls were stands once stood) was our stall and the gazebo - two little Billy no Mates at the back!!   I would post a photo but don't want the miserable sight that greeted us to be out there in the ether where I might see it again!!

Different layout but same set up...
Our stall is complicated to set up and moving to a different location did not seem like a viable option at all - it would have taken hours and if I were to pack it all up to move, the only place it would be relocated to would be in the back of the car! 

However, a plea from the lovely Debbie at the Demelza charity stall to please, please, please move to the large empty stall next to her was made possible by her recruiting the help of three or four other lovely exhibitors who were literally picking up fully loaded tables and carrying them through from one hall to the other (which was some distance I can tell you!).  It took some time to get set up again and we were knackered at the end of it but at least there was a bit of atmosphere there.

Was it worth it??   Well, by 3pm we still hadn't broken into double figures of sales!!   A couple of customers just after made the day more reasonable and we did actually finish on a slightly better figure than the day before but still didn't make back the pitch money.   Well, you win some, you lose some but it did validate staying for the second day as I have three or four people who I am now contacting to discuss bespoke designs and once this is sorted out, I am sure they are strong possibilities for further sales which may just rescue the losses.   I also met some wonderful people both in front of and behind their stalls and have some more shows which hopefully I can attend that they are organising themselves.

I could go on and on and on about what could and should have been done differently but it won't get any of us anywhere so I think you have suffered enough!!

You will see that I haven't mentioned names of the organisers or the show here.  This isn't an error - I have done this deliberately.   Followers of my blog will probably already know what  show it was from previous posts but I am not going to give the organisers a namecheck on my blog.   I do other events with them in where the footfall is more guaranteed because of the type and location so I don't have a gripe with them (or their staff) per se.   But, I know I won't be attending one of their 'stand alone' events again any time soon - I think this opinion will be shared with all the people who paid money to take a stall this weekend.   That is a lot of lost revenue and they will lose much more than any single stallholder has so I suppose that is small comfort to all us small businesses struggling to get by in hard times.

Still, you never know until you try and if it had been a well organised and well attended event, I would have been raving about it and the organisers here.  I have been to shows before where I have made a loss or very little profit and I am sure there are more to come in the future years but this one was different as it would have been so easy to have made it great had things been done properly from the start.

But this is another week so lets all just take a deep breath and relax...
Noah's Ark - saviour for the animals
and for me this weekend!
You see we're all calm again now...  

Regular visitors may not be surprised that the most popular item this weekend was, as suspected, the Noah's Ark.   Perfect for nurseries and children's rooms as well as for those who are simply young at heart, it is colourful and fun (with a bit of sparkle thrown in for good measure!)

Of course, this and all my designs are available on my website at http://www.studiocrafts.net/ so if you fancy helping out a struggling crafter, please head over to my online shop.

There, I've had my rant and stopped being negative and all 'woe is me' now - I am a positive person and believe that everything happens for a reason (although what that is can be a little confusing at the time!)

So thank you to all the lovely crafters and stallholders who made this weekend fun instead of completely negative.  I think that sometimes we all need to find ways of making the best of a bad job and who knows, my future best customer ever could have found me at this event!

Hope you have all had a great weekend - I'm off now to make lots of nice goodies and get started on two orders taken at the show.   At least I won't be tearing my hair out trying to restock for the busier shows which are hopefully on the horizon....  (see, you should look for the silver lining - its always in there somewhere...)

Oh, and for those of you who have actually made it to the end of this long diatribe...
Clapping Hands
Give yourself a round of applause - you deserve a medal!!


  1. Ali....I always love reading your blogs!! Sorry your show wasn't a good one and it does seem that it was not well thought out at all...But well done for ending with the positive vibes!!! x

  2. LOL, what can I say? the title attracted me as gloom and doom was my weekend too.

    Thanks for the opportunity for a round of applause, I needed that.

    Onwards and upwards then
    Lynda x

  3. Oh Ali, it sounds absolutely awful. I'm a great believer in silver linings too and sometimes something like this kickstarts a slight change of direction or thinking. For you, for the organiser, who knows?

    Well done on putting together such a painfully honest post! And thanks for taking part in HM x

  4. Sorry, also meant to say I'm not surprised Noah's Ark did well. It is superb!

  5. Sorry the weekend was not what any of us want Ali but I'm glad you are still being positive, sounds like there was fun amongst the frustration.

    Jan x

    There are no rainbows without the rain x

  6. So sorry to hear about the terrible event, your artwork is gorgeous, so chin up, and stay positive.
    Hugs Sue x

  7. Ballderdash & Bunting16 May 2011 at 15:39

    Oh crikey, what a nightmare! The mistakes are often so obvious aren't they?!

  8. Thanks everyone - sounds like there were a few bum shows around this weekend. Perhaps all those long weekends and short weeks finally caught up with everyone and their wallets!

    I can't help but be positive - there are much worse things happening in the world than a badly run show!!

    Ali x

  9. Sorry about the show - I've had a table in a few disasters - don't do shows now... Love the "Breathe,Just Breathe!!" Nancy

  10. As someone who has yet to brave a craft fair I read your post with great interest and a certain amount of trepidation. Do you think it's the climate? Perhaps I'll give it a miss. Your post was very entertaining though, had elements of 'sitcom' running through it. Better luck for the next one

  11. So sorry the weekend turned out so bad. I couldn't respond on the forum as it was Paulines thread but I do feel for you.

  12. I'm sorry your weekend didn't go well. I suppose it's easy to understand if people just aren't buying but it must be hard when it's down to bad organization.
    Glad to hear you are feeling positive again sometimes writing it all down can really help get it out of your system.

  13. Don't panic Caroline - this is not normal in my experience!!

    I have e-mailed you xx

  14. Although we didn't make enough money to cover our pitch it was really lovely to meet lots of new traders and the help and advice I've had from other's luckily hasn't put me off of attending other events (by other organisers of course lol).

  15. Sounded quite stressful,but looking on the bright side: I'm pleased Noah's Ark was popular - I thought it might be, its so bright and cheerful looking.

  16. It was great to meet you there Sarah. Welcome to my blog family!

    I am glad to hear this hasn't put you off as it certainly wasn't a great start to your foray into fairs - at least I have three years of doing 100s of fairs to know that it wasn't the way it usually goes!

  17. How frustrating. I show dogs,and sometimes the venues are nuts, nothing makes sense, so I know what you mean. Some people have zero common sense.

  18. Sounds very frustrating,especially after the time and effort you must have spent putting your stall together.At least you made some contacts and who knows what will grow from that!

  19. Ali - I am so sorry that you had a rotten weekend. I think your blog should be required reading for all event organisers. As you say not rocket science but so much is lost by not thinking things through.

  20. sorry to hear about your show my dear just checking out your fairs and Fort Purbrook was on there thats close to me and usually popular I used to live in Bromley too about 11 years ago Is this a popular market for you at all as its always a busy high street good luck with your future events xxx

  21. Oh my, what a weekend you've had. It's really annoying when organisers can't organise! I hope your next event is much more successful!

    HT x

  22. A long long post but I got to the end. Shame that the event was so disorganized but full marks for staying with it for the two days.I thnk I would have given up and gone home. Hugs Mrs A.

  23. Thanks everyone.

    Mrs A - you think my blog post was long - you should see the e-mail I have just sent to the organisers!!

  24. I am so sorry your event did not work, we did everything we could for ours but turned out the Hindhead tunnel was opened on Saturday for a walk through, 1000's did the walk perhaps we should have had relocated the craft fair to there, lol. Now having been both sides of the fence directions are a must and as an organiser you owe it to your stallholders to do the most you can.

  25. Well done Ali - we were the book stall just down from where you moved to (and the silly lady who thought you would find it funny to be told your tablecloth wasn't straight - as if!) and it was much better looking at your lovely products than an empty space.
    Yes I think something of a wartime spirit kicked in on Day Two for those of us who endured a second painful day. I thoroughly enjoyed talking to other traders, something we would not have been able to do and thanks to the wonderful ladies on my stand I have phone calls to make today.
    Onward and upwards!

  26. Sorry it didn't go well :( Hope you get some orders from it though - I'm glad you are able to take some positives from it. Your Noah's Ark looks beautiful xx

  27. So sorry you had a waste of a weekend, great post tho!!
    Think we can all understand your frustrations as most of us have had similar experiences. Onwards and upwards and fingers crossed for a better next event.


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