In 2011, there were (or will be) eleven renaissance faires and two large SCA events in New England. (That I know of. For all I know, there were even more.) That is a LOT of potential vending opportunities, and I know there are some vendors who made it to every one of them.
I am not one of those vendors. Instead, I did three faires, and one SCA event.
So, how did I decide which events to do? It’s not always an easy thing — there are a lot of things to factor into these kinds of decisions. At first glance, it seems like doing as many shows as possible can only be good for business — in theory, I sell more at a faire than I do online in a month when I do one. So how could it not be to my benefit to go to as many as possible?
I think about a lot of things when I contemplate a show.
Is it an established show? These tend to be more reliable — you have a sense of how many people to expect, and the more people walk through the gates, the more likely you are to sell stuff. First- and even second-year shows can’t tell with any accuracy how many people to expect. I don’t always pass on first-year shows, but they do have to be able to sell themselves to me harder than established shows do.
Does it overlap with any other shows? With so many cropping up lately, and a limited number of months when outdoor events are feasible in New England, it’s inevitable that some will — and then you have to choose one over another.
Is it CLOSE in dates to another show? Even without overlapping, this can sometimes nix a show from my schedule. If I’ve just come off of a large show, I probably won’t have the stock to do another right away — time to work in the studio is just as important as getting my face out there.
Have I vended there before? If I have, how was my experience? Let me tell you, nothing beats first hand experience. Not only in terms of sales and attendance, but your interactions with faire staff and owners, and for getting a general feel of an event. If I haven’t vended a show before, I like to try to at least attend as a patron before committing.
If I can’t get to a show myself, I like to talk to other vendors who’ve done it, and get a second-hand feel for whether a show is a good match for me. Other vendors often have a perspective that other people can’t give me, and building this network has been really important.
How much are the vendor fees? It always costs money to vend a show, and I need to know if my potential earnings will be greater than my expenses. The fee can be a big part of that — a first-year faire that is charging the same amount to vend as a 10-year-old show with proven attendance just isn’t going to get my money.
How far do I have to travel? This also factors into the expenses. The farther I drive, the more mileage that is. And it probably means a hotel room, and certainly meals out.
There is no set formula for how I choose to do (or not to do) a show. And I don’t always make the right call — sometimes I find myself at a show that is a dud, and sometimes I pass on a first-year show that turns out remarkably successful. But these are all questions I ask myself every time I hear about a new show. But these are all questions that I ask myself when I’m thinking about vending at a show or an event. And hopefully, if I make good decisions, I can afford to add more shows to my calendar in future years.