What I Learned at the Holiday Bazaar

Mr. T and I made our first foray into attempting to sell his art by signing up for a holiday bazaar downtown Anchorage the Saturday before Christmas. We hated it. But it did get us creating, we sold a few cards and ornaments, and we learned a lot from the experience. Here are a few of the things we learned:

  • Alaska is Weird – We knew this already, but this holiday bazaar had a booth for Costco, a booth for tasers, and several booths for knives.
  • Bazaars are not Markets – Mr. T and I love the Anchorage downtown market in the summertime. It’s like a big party of farmers, crafters, and artists. This bazaar, even though it was hosted by the same people, had a very different vibe, a very different clientele, and very different vendors. We are definitely more market people than bazaar and I might be interested in selling at the downtown market at some point to see if it is a better experience as a vendor.
  • Holiday Bazaar does not mean Holiday Merchandise – We sold some nativity art created by Mr.T as well as Christmas ornaments and cards. But we were literally the only vendors at “Christmas Village” with actual Christmas stuff.
  • People Hate Christmas the week before Christmas – Our timing was probably the thing that was most against us. The Saturday before Christmas, everyone was very angry and sick of Christmas. One guy came in our booth and said “So, your whole business expires in a week?” – Merry Christmas to you, too! Everyone at the bazaar was looking to get last minute $20 gifts for last minute fill-ins and no one seemed to be enjoying themselves. It was really sad. The vendor next to us sold quite a bit of her jewelry made from cut up CDs (who knew?). She had sold at several bazaars and said that this one was the least fun and everyone was much more angry and stingy than the ones she had sold at previously. She only made a few dollars profit.
  • Getting Out is Scary but Worth it – The whole event wasn’t a total flop. We did manage to sell a few things and we took that first leap of fear making the first attempt at selling our own creations. We got a great deal of positive feedback, which was helpful. Lots of people loved the art. The biggest benefit of selling at the bazaar was meeting one lady that loved it so much and used to own a retail store. She gave us a few tips on where we should be selling and wished us luck. About 30 minutes later, she came back, asked for a paper and pen, and wrote out a marketing plan for us complete with stores we should pitch to, when to do it, and how to do it. That feedback and advice was super helpful and worth the entire experience.

Now it’s a new year (I love those!) and we have some Christmas inventory and a tentative marketing plan. Pitching to stores will be part of our one-thing-a-month for self-employment goal, so we’ll keep you posted on how that goes later in the year (it sounds very scary to me and even scarier to Mr.T, the introvert). And I don’t think we’ll participate in the bazaar again next year (though we may try some friendlier, earlier bazaars… we’ll see how we feel about those in a few months).

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  1. Wow I would not have guessed that the Christmas spirit was gone a week before. Seems kinda strange. Sounds like a one around the end of November early December might be a sweet spot for you merchandise. Sounds like that woman’s advice will be super helpful going forward and you would have never got it unless you put yourself out there. 🙂

    • MaggieBanks

      I was surprised as well! I was totally in the Christmas spirit and then met a bunch of Scrooges! Oh well. I am grateful for the advice we got.

  2. You should probably look into different venues for next year. I am planning on doing a table of chrocheted items at a craft fair next fall. The daycare also mentioned to me (after noticing our cool hats) that I could set up a table for free with them next November.

    • MaggieBanks

      Yeah, I’ve heard of people having great experiences. I think we’re going to look into some smaller bazaars this year at local churches and such… maybe we’ll like that better!

  3. You had me laughing a couple times with this one (particularly with “We hated it.”) What a bummer of an experience! I’ve never been a vendor, but I’ve gone to a handful of holiday markets and events like this, and the vibe can definitely vary enormously from event to event. Good for you for getting out there. I hope the next one is more fun!

    • MaggieBanks

      I love going to the downtown market and assumed holiday bazaars would be similar. Learned my lesson. 🙂 We’ll see if it burned us out for even trying a small one next year… those might have a better vibe.

  4. Des

    I am THE MOST excited for you guys to be pitching to stores! That, to me, sounds way more intimidating than putting my work up online on Etsy, so I am super impressed. And to echo Matt, this was a truly hilarious post!

    • MaggieBanks

      It sounds really intimidating to me too. That’s why one pitch counts as a whole month worth of self-employment goals! Maybe that will motivate us. I’m scared… but it’s a few months off… we’ll see how it goes.

  5. We ran into similar things in LA at their Farmer’s markets. One in Covington was what we considered a farmer’s market, with a lot of fresh, local produce, meats, etc… The other was like an art fair with less than 10% selling any food related items, most of which I’d put in the “state fair” category for style of food. It definitely helps to know what the style of the “market” or bazaar is before you make the leap.
    Good for you guys getting out there and testing the waters though, and at least you got some great advice from someone as well.
    As far as the pitches go, just remember, the worst they can do is say no, but they won’t yell at you, or berate you, or at least they shouldn’t, lol. Then you can make the second one more polished than the first. 🙂

    • MaggieBanks

      Thanks for the advice. That’s what I figure: they can just say NO. Might as well try! Still sounds super scary!

  6. I’m glad this was a learning experience, and a marketing plan?! That sounds great & very beneficial for the self-employment front. That is so incredibly helpful of that lady to pass on information like that! I cannot say I’ve ever worked at a bazaar/market/fair, but it’s always been incredibly intriguing (I just have no idea what I would even sell, I need to start experimenting)!

    • MaggieBanks

      Yes, the marketing plan was definitely the win for the afternoon. We’ll see how well it works:) It’s still super scary taking action on the marketing plan. Pitching your own stuff is scary!

  7. Congrats on getting started! I have been doing that on a very (very) low level for the last fifteen years, at a once a year, juried art show with my aunt. It is very casual, in a park, but better quality items for sale. (We sell quilted wall hangings and table runners). Our success varies greatly each year. A few years ago, I finally bit the bullet and opened an Etsy store. Since I’m not a huge promoter, I have only sold a few things. In fact now, I only sell what I have left from the art fair, versus making things specifically for selling online. I’ve found that works just right for me because having to create to sell online, versus creating because I feel like it, wasn’t my thing. Etsy gives you a good taste of the whole “selling online” thing without too big of a cost. I would give that a try too 🙂

    • MaggieBanks

      Thanks for the tips, Lisa. Mr. T does have an Etsy presence, but framed art is tough to ship, so we haven’t really promoted anything. I think he’s going to add the ornaments and cards to Etsy to see if that does better. We certainly don’t want to upscale to have it be demanding. We just like to create (small scale!). Thanks for sharing your experience!

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