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| Article Specs|
Article ID: 2813
Age Group: Adult
Posted: June 4th. 2000
Merchanting at Gatherings, Events & Festivals
by Patricia Telesco
For those of us in the community who need to pay bills, and who have a pagan-friendly business, merchanting is a great opportunity to cover a festival's costs and offer a service to the community. Nonetheless, many of us don't know where to begin to be successful at merchanting. This list should help:
Contact the event coordinator EARLY to get a merchant space. Don't just show up and expect that space will be made for you. During this initial contact, find out what details the coordinator needs from you and if there is a space fee for selling. Some events are free, others only ask for a donation to an auction or a percentage of sales while others have a set fee for space. Note that the fees for merchant space are usually very reasonable. Remember that merchanting is a service and a valuable asset to an event. Many folks enjoy shopping at a gathering as much as the lectures! With this in mind, don't overlook the opportunity this presents for meeting new people, for giving advice to those in need, for coordinating with other merchants, and just visiting those in your "tribe" that you don't see very often. In this respect, even if you don't sell a lot the merchanting experience can be very fulfilling and fun.
If possible, find out what types of merchants will be there. Why? So you can vary your goods (if that's possible with your business). See, the more variety an event offers in goods, the better all merchants tend to do. You are also not stepping on another merchant's established territory. While we can't always do this (I mean if you make soap, and someone else makes soap, soap is soap!) but when we can it's a great service to other merchants and the community
Find out if you have to provide your own table, table covering, tarps (if an outdoor event), chair etc. Make a list of what you need and come prepared.
Ask about what kinds of spaces are available. Some events offer varying sized spaces, pre-selected locations, etc. In sales, location is important. If you can constantly get the same location at an event, you begin to establish a clientelle who will know where to find you!
Carefully price all your goods before you go and label them if they have ingredients to which some people might be allergic. This serves various purposes, not the least of which is helping anyone who's nice enough to spell you for a bathroom break!
Find out if you will need a temporary sales license. Some states require this along with sales reporting and tax collection. The fee is usually minor.
Work cooperatively with other merchants. If there is a problem with the merchanting location at an event, have several merchants talk to the coordinators about it so he or she can use that information in planning future events. If there is a security issue, let other merchants and the coordinators know about it.
Take care of your table and goods with due diligence. It's not someone else's job to make sure your items are (a) out of the rain, (b) put away at the pre-appointed time, (c) safe from thievery and so forth. If something goes wrong when you're away from your table, and you haven't left suitable back-up help, there is no one to blame but you.
If an event has a designated break down time, please follow it. If a hall has to be kept open longer because you didn't follow this guideline, it can cost extra money.
Learn how to sell. Not everyone is a great sales person, but don't expect people to buy anything if you don't talk to them! Get excited about your goods so others will too, and know your product like the back of your hand!
Remember that sales are totally unpredictable. I've been to events where I expected one item to fly, and my worst selling item sold out... and to other events where sales should have been strong, and were dead. What does this mean? It means being prepared to take a loss, and some risks, when you merchant at any event.
What's "affordable?" -- Ok, now we get to some interesting points. A person says they can't afford your reasonably priced stuff, but then drops several hundred dollars on a dagger at another booth. What to do? This is a judgement call every merchant must make. You can certainly offer reduced prices and barter when you feel there's a real need, just remember that your idea of need and that of the customer is often quite different. And even among Pagans there will always be those who take advantage of big-hearted people.
Checks: Taking checks is risky. Get a phone number if you're going to do this. I have had two people in 8 years default on bounced checks, which is really pretty good, so I'd say the risk is minimal, but that doesn't mean you can't take precautions.
Credit Cards: If you happen to have access to a modem at an event, you could process payments via Paypal or another similar credit exchange system. This eliminates the need to carry a lot of extra credit-related machinery and paperwork with you.
Business Cards & Order Forms: Always have these handy. Some people will carefully store them away for the holidays or other special events, and send you an order later. They may also pass such items along to other potential customers, and in our community networking and word-of-mouth advertising is a very powerful tool.
Mailing Lists: Have a sign up sheet at your table for people who would like to get information on new goods or sales when you have them. Again, this is a networking tool. Just respect people's privacy and never sell your mailing lists.
On Line Presence: If you can, have a home page that also promotes your goods and let's people know what events you will be attending. The neo-pagan/magickal community uses the internet extensively, and this will help you improve your sales and overall public exposure.
Pricing Ethics: Again a difficult point. I have a friend who makes small beaded power pouches. They take hundreds of hours to create, and she sells them for about $75.00. People look at this price and go -- geez, that's high, not realizing the time involved. Merchants do need to make a profit, and we need to feed our families -- there is no shame in that. The only time problems arise is when some merchants gouge the community because the item they're selling is popular, and therefore can be sold at higher prices. This happens in the New Age sector more than the magickal community, thankfully, but is something to monitor in our own hearts and spirits.
The Witches' Voice
June 4th., 2000
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Location: Amherst, New York
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