The Show Must Go On.....

I received a very nice email today from a very nice gentleman who has been a reader for a while. His questions are quite timely, so I thought I'd address them here so that others with similar issues might gain some insight...

'Hi Deb,
I've been a fan of yours for a while now - I use your ideas/philosophies in my Irish Shop.

This year, I am participating in an Irish Festival . It's held Labor Day Weekend on the grounds of Hallmarks' Crown Center retail and hotel grounds. I can't tell you how many folks come out for it, it is a huge music and sales event that draws from all over. There will surely be more than 200,000 people out for the weekend.

I will have a 10 X 20 foot space to show my eclectic group of products that range from Irish perfumes, to scarves, Ruanas, hats, home and garden decor and jewelry.
Do you have any ideas/guidance regarding showing retail in a festival? I don't know if I dare to make the space I have open for the public to meander in, or hold them back by tables stacked with my wares. I need a thought or two on merchandising in an area like this.

Thanks for being there (on the net) I really think that you have it on the ball!
Chuck Denton, Doherty & Sullivan Irish Goods, Lee's Summit, MO.'

OK, well, first of all, thank you so much for reading my blogs, Chuck. I really appreciate that, and your kind comments! And the Irish thing, well, with family names like Shaughnessy and Kennedy, I'm all over that...

Now, I have to let you know that one of the reasons this is a timely issue is that I myself am preparing for show season. 'Mr. Deb' and I have started a second business, wherein we restyle & refurbish items and sell them at flea market shows. I presently have a 10 X 10 mock-up of a booth in the living room, working out the kinks and making a plan for our displays.

I've learned over the years that display of products is something that works differently in different situations. At trade shows and craft/ethnic/flea markets, the 10 X 10 space can be maximized to increase sales by utilizing a few simple marketing ideas.

One: You have five seconds to catch a customers' eye. Yep, five whole seconds! Use scale (big), color (bold), your logo & name (large scale, placed at eye-ball height across the back of your booth), and utilize everything you've learned from me about leveraging your brand image! You also need to prominently place your products within the 'strike zone' - yes sir, just like baseball: from the shoulders to the knees is prime viewing & selling location. I personally think it needs to be from waist to shoulders, just to minimize damaged goods in a crowded setting. If your products are all small, then you need to make huge models of them, or use large photo blow-ups on the back wall, or find props to lift them up and get them in the customer's line of vision. If you want them to die a slow death, lay them flat on a table where they will become invisible. (I can hear the pulse flatline now....beeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeep........)

Two: Invite them in. Don't block the front of your booth/space with tables - it's the equivalent of saying 'Don't get too close'. Not what you want when you are trying to make a sale! Allow lots of open space in the center of your booth so people can come in, turn, look around, and NOT bump into others in the booth. (This is called the 'Butt-brush factor' and people will leave without buying anything if they feel their personal space has been invaded. Really!) Put those tables against the walls - and don't let them go all the way to the aisle, either - leave some 'breathing room - a foot or so.

Three: Think vertically. On top of those tables, use some shelves, cubes, smaller tables, items to create more levels and more space for products to be at eye level. Using fixtures made from clear glass or acrylic will make the products show up better, as they won't block light or views. (You are selling the merchandise, not the fixtures!) If you have jewelry or other really small items, make SURE you provide an additional light source to make them show up - Daylight is not enough. Use clamp lights positioned over the cubes to beam light straight down onto the merchandise.

Four: Prevent theft with a few simple methods: Put valuable small items like jewelry into cases with glass doors, or trays with plexi tops on them. Have a sales person positioned at these fixtures at all times, giving them the job of attending to customers who are interested. Attention and eye contact with customers is the number one way to minimize 'shrink', or loss. It's worth paying an extra person to work your booth.

Five: Identify yourself and your business. Make SURE you have business cards handy. Put a banner with your biz name on the back wall, or on the table covers. Have your entire staff wear tshirts that are all the same color to coordinate with your logo color. You want people to recognize who it is that can assist them with a sale. Make it easy, make it memorable. Use bags that have your logo and contact info printed on them - or at least toss a biz card into a plain bag. (But really, why not have your business advertised at a show for free? People carrying your logo bags around is just that: advertising).

Chuck, you've got an eclectic selection of merchandise to deal with. I'd suggest that you arrange it in groups - put all of the accessories (jewelry, perfumes, scarves, hats, etc.) together on one side of the booth, and locate the home decor & garden items on the other side. Create a large focal point in each area so people can easily see what you've got, and make products easily accessible to them. And Chuck, please send me photos of your booth displays - I'd love to see what you do!

The photos shown here were taken on our recent shopping trip to the Rose Bowl Flea Market in Pasadena, Ca. The biggest lesson to be learned there? If you clean it up and display it thoughtfully, you can charge more for it. And people will pay it! ;0) Presentation truly makes all the difference!


  1. Deb - thanks a bunch!! I'll use this info - in fact, I've already sent an e-mail to my entire family asking for 'old props' to lift and highlight my products.

    Can't wait, and if you're ever in Kansas City, shout!! I have friends in Lee's Summit who wold love to meet you - other retailers in my community. Have a great season

  2. www.CathysWraps.com11:54 PM

    Wonderful advice Deb.
    Thank you, Cathy

  3. It's been a few days since I have checked my blogs, and boy does Deb have some good ideas!! I must say that over the past few years you have given me the best advice (both genericly on the blog, and personally when I have sent you emails) I SO wish you lived closer to me so I could just hire you to be my mentor.

    Thank you so very very much. You really helped my sales (I even won a company-wide display contest using your tips). I am now using your tips in my own garden-design business. I hope you know how valuable you are!

    Just a little funny here. One day as I was checking my blogs I thought, "I should email Deb and ask her to post about garden design." Well, low and behold I log onto the sight and there was a post about garden design! Thanks!