Friday, August 30, 2013

Designing A New Booth Setup

I think I may have finally cracked the nut of getting into high end craft shows. I just did my second "best of the best" show. Art in the High Desert ranks among the top 25 outdoor craft shows in the country.

Unlike Bellevue last year, though, I was not so completely overwhelmed that I couldn't take in much new information. And here's what I noticed: at this level of shows there are only three kinds of booths that people use. Two of them are durable, beautiful, and expensive. The third kind is what I have - a white pyramid-topped popup. The expensive ones don't have all of the clunky interior supports to help it fold up instantly. Instead, they have bright, airy headroom and an extremely durable structure.

Well, once I noticed this, I started talking to other vendors about their booths. And guess what? Most of the people who use a popup like mine are new to the craft world. It was one of their first high-end shows and they don't do many shows each year. A-ha! I think I see why the shows ask for an image of the booth. They can tell whether you're serious because serious folks will have invested in a higher quality booth.

So then I started talking to owners of the other two booth types: Light Dome and Trimline. And the answers I got were very enlightening. Light Dome owners were frustrated at the lack of after-sales support and available upgrades. If you might eventually want taller walls or an awning it seems that you need to buy that configuration up front. Trimline owners told me over and over again how well everything had been thought out and went on to tell me how great they were treated by the company when they had to deal with them. Many of the Trimline booths that I saw have been modified to add extra features after using the base model for a while. It was clear that I would have way more flexibility if I bought a Trimline.

I need to shoot next year's jury photos in September so there's really no time to lose. I ordered one as soon as I got home.

I've decided that, as long as I'm upgrading the booth, I might as well give some thought to my other pet peeves with the current setup. My racks look like they came from a thrift store (because they did) and they clutter up the doorway. Also, the podium that I use is a heavy, uncollapsing affair that I made myself from 3/4" plywood. It's difficult to pack in the van and carry to my booth space at shows.

Oh, yeah, and established artists have large photos of their work in their booths. These would take the place of the floorspace-consuming dress form that I currently use to convey the styling of the garment.

I spent the day today designing my new booth setup so I can buy the parts that I need to make it happen. Here's the result:

The banner has moved to the back wall so that it draws people into the space instead of telling them the story from the aisle. (This can change with the addition of a banner frame to the front of the booth.) You can't really see them, but there are four waterfall arms on the back wall, giving me exactly as much display space as my current racks but with TONS more floor space. Customers can crowd around the mirror while I convince more customers to try on garments behind them.

The parts list isn't really all that bad. I need to buy the lightweight, collapsing trade-show podium, two new rack arms for the white grid wall that's hidden behind the drapes, new opaque drapes to hide the grid wall, and four waterproof pictures of my work, probably mounted on foam core so that they behave in the wind.

Yes, it's another couple thousand dollars of investment in the business, but if this setup gets me into one high-end show next year, it will completely pay for itself and then some.

I don't need it immediately, but before next year I'll have to figure out a better lighting system. I've been using cheap clip lights and attaching them to the interior roof struts on the popup. It's so cluttered up there that nobody can really notice the fixtures. This booth has no interior framework to attach lights. Since they'll be so exposed, I think that clip lights might look especially cheap in the new booth. So between now and Spring I'll be on the lookout for an affordable, flexible, and attractive booth lighting solution... It never ends, does it?

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