Thursday, July 22, 2010

Trying to Find a Real Craft Show

It is harder and harder to find a craft show that makes sure that all that is being offered for sale is actually handmade by the artist who is selling in the booth. We no longer will do a craft show that we have not seen in advance. We attend many shows - walk through the entire show and count how many people selling are selling commercial imports and the numbers are staggering.

We have stop doing most shows that we have done over the years. The few that we do have remained with a majority of real craft being sold but those shows have their growing share of commercial import vendors. One has to question why even call these craft shows at all. Some shows that had wonderful reputations for many years have now started to call themselves craft and gift show because the majority of vendors are selling commercially made items - known in the retail industry as "buy and sell".

Are there fewer craftspeople? Certainly not. What there are - are more people who are out of work who have decided that it is easy to wholesale purchase imports and sell them at craft shows. Some will be very open about what they are selling - offering them in their commercial packaging with the Made in China stickers in place on the items themselves. Some think they are pulling something on the public and when asked if they have made something say yes - and that something is what was seen on the infomercial the night before being sold for $19.99 and you get two plus all of these extras. Really - one guy insisted he made the pocketbooks with the insides that move from bag to bag - just ignore those packing cartons with the commercial name of the product on them under the table. These people think they are pulling something on the craft-buying public and I guess they are because they are there at the craft show selling and people are buying.

I have been asked why can't the two - real craft and buy and sell items go together at a show. The reason is very simple - there is no way to compete. I can purchase from a catalog at wholesale very attractive jewelery that I could sell and make a good profit for at two for ten dollars. And I have seen vendors at craft shows selling exactly this. Now, if it takes me an hour to make a handmade necklace and it costs me ten dollars in materials, how could I sell that necklace at two for $10 to compete with the import seller? There is no way.

I have been at craft shows - very prestigious craft shows - where a customer will come up and ask if I make what they are looking at in my booth. I have to say "of course" which is the truth - but just that someone is asking me and the rest of the real crafts people selling is an indication that something is really wrong. I have seen other legitimate crafts people put signs up that say, "We make everything that we sell." How sad to have to do that at a craft show.

There had been a problem in some states around what could be called a "flea market" and what should not be and some states passed laws about the use of the name "flea market". When the same has been proposed by the craft community about the name "craft show" it has been ignored.

I wish I had an answer. The best that you can do is let the promoters at a craft show know that the people who are selling are not selling crafts - but you know what has happened when I have done that - the response is " So?"

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