We have been designing and making products for retail alongside our public art commissions for 6 years- selling at our own local events, through local partners and shops, and at larger county events. We have always sold products very well locally, people buy because they know us, we’re local, they’re supporting a social enterprise and they want the product in their home or to give to others. We turn over, on average, £5000 a year in retail sales, selling locally. (What I have learnt today is that, this is normal starting in retail) In 2015 we started to sell through our own online shop- and we made 3 sales! We were excited by this- although it isn’t great. (Again, what I have learnt today is that, this is normal.)
Today Elin and I have been to Top Drawer, a trade show for Home, Craft, Fashion, and Gifts. We have been inspired, learnt a lot, and we plan that Designs in Mind will be there in 2017.
Things to think about…
Where would we like to exhibit?
Home– We had booked our tickets expecting to predominantly look in this area, however our products would be lost within the big names, mass produced, big stands. Something to aspire too. It was great to chat to Ella Doran who has worked with us to design an ‘Elements’ range back in 2012.
Gifts– This area was packed with sellers, it was a real mix of handmade, independent, first timers, well established brands and mass produced. We recognised a lot of product from some local shops in Oswestry.
Stationary– A similar social enterprise to us were exhibiting in this area, with a range of stationary, gifts and home-ware. We chatted to them, and they would like to be in the Gift section another year.
Craft– Here we got to talk to many of the sellers about process, they enjoyed conversation and were predominantly doing everything themselves- making, marketing, selling- they loved it, but were exhausted. We talked to a lot of first timers and made contacts to chat more and learn from their journeys. For many exhibiting at Top Drawer was about product awareness and brand identity, and then selling some in low quantities. They all thought that the benefits of exhibiting were still to be seen, and were hoping for things to come off the back of the event. Many talked about the great support from Top Drawer, and there is an area within this section called Spotted, where some people had received extra support to attend.
What to take…
We make a variety of products using a variety of processes. It is important that we are selective in what we choose and don’t try and be everything to everyone. What was really encouraging was that Elin and I both thought our product was of equal standard and quality, and that we could really stand out. We confidently believe that we can sell purely on quality and our story is an additional attraction.
There were a lot of products featuring animals (dogs, cats, flamingos were popular), hobbies- cycling in particular, repeat patterns and nature.
We need to control what we can reasonably manage to make and produce. For our first appearance at Top Drawer we could confidently take handmade products, and aim to get small quantity orders- but we need to have the knowledge of what it would cost to produce- eg digital print, on a larger scale.
We chatted to some small independents and individual designer makers who felt like their work was too expensive for the event.
It was really useful to get examples of trade prices, retail prices and minimum orders. Some people had this information hidden and produced it when requested, others had price labels on each product with all the information- we liked the labels, it was really clear, confident and uncomplicated.
We met people selling low quantities at a high price and people selling huge quantities at a reasonable price. We need to do more research in to our making costs, our profit and recommended retail price.
Examples (unknown retail price)
Digitally printed tea towel, minimum order of 4, trade price £6.52
Digitally printed coasters, 6 in a pack, minimum order of 2, trade price £8.96
Marketing/ Print Material…
We were surprised by the variety of marketing material available from all sellers. It varied from some sheets of A4 paper to very professional brochures and order books. Business cards and postcards, that were easily accessible were useful for people to grab if they didn’t want to engage in a full on conversation.
Some stands made use of technology, and had films of their work being made, website up or photograph slideshows of a broader portfolio.
Some people seemed to be using technology to take orders, others were opting for paper order forms.
Staging/ Stand Design…
Simple, simple, simple.
ONE. More than one person on a small stand would be too cluttered.
We have a lot to do if we want to be here next year, mainly on style, brand identity, communication- but we think we can do it.