January is the start of winter trade show season. As a maker, you should plan to walk at least one show. Whether you sell directly to the public or you’re considering selling to retail shops and galleries. If you can only attend one, I recommend you make it a general gift show rather than craft show. I know that sounds like a contradiction since you are in the business of crafts but you need to know what’s going on in the general gift wholesale trade for a number of reasons.
What should you be looking for as you walk the aisles?
- Trends: Even if you do vintage crafts or very traditional work, it’s still important to keep up with the trends.
- Notice themes. Are particular patterns, symbols or icons showing up across many lines? Sometimes a certain flower or animal print is popular. Remember when everything from clothing to home decor featured palm trees, owls or sunflowers? Last year, vintage trailers were the trend on fabrics like sheets and pajamas.
- Colors and fabrics. You should be aware of the current color palette so that your work will coorinate and compliment. Who knew chenille would ever make a comeback?
- Copy Cats: You also need to know if someone is knocking off your work, having it produced overseas and selling it for a fraction of what you sell it for. The likelihood of of getting the copycat to cease making it is questionable and you obviously aren’t going to lower your prices to compete but you should know that customers are seeing similar work at import prices. You may be able to tweak your line just enough to make it more apparent that it is handmade and you definitely will want to have other additional lines that aren’t being seen in mainstream shops.
If you’re considering wholesaling your work, try to visit several different trade shows. As you walk the aisles, notice which booths are busy. Who is writing orders? What do the artists who are writing the most orders have in common? Continue reading