Setting up shop: the vendor perspective

Photo by Carol Pugsley, 2017 Annual

It’s still more than eight months before the 2018 Annual opens in Ottawa, and Martina Lesar is already drawing patterns, ordering more supplies and dyeing wool. Several more rug hooking suppliers are making similar preparations.

This is a big event in their business year.

“The Annual allows me to connect personally with customers (who) normally place orders via phone, email or website,” Martina notes. She has been a regular in the vendors’ hall for the past eight years, and says it’s a great place to launch new products and boost her business profile. [Martina Lesar Hooked Rug Studio, Caledon, ON]

Loretta Moore, who has sold goods at the past three annuals, considers the event “an amazing experience” that has benefits well beyond sales and visibility. She counts creative inspiration, renewing connections with rug hooking friends/customers from afar and the chance to see “all the amazing rugs” among personal highlights. [Hooked On The Lake, Godfrey, ON]

What makes a vendor happy?

Vendors – and attendees! – say a great Annual includes a healthy mix of suppliers, all offering a grand array of attractive wares. Imagine numerous tables overflowing with woollen fabrics in eye-popping colours and blends, neat tools and accessories, and tempting yarns, ribbons and novelty fabrics.

The Ottawa gathering is expected to feature more than a dozen vendors. If they feel appreciated, they are most likely to delight the discerning rug hooking crowd. So I wondered what vendors need to make their participation truly rewarding. The survey of past vendors (conducted last spring by the 2018 Annual planning group) provided interesting insights.

Respondents told us the top five factors when deciding to participate are:

  • early notification of acceptance to sell at the event, and a list of participating vendors, to assist with planning (six months’ notice preferred, minimum two months)
  • big, bright sales area, ideally in the same space as the hooked items display
  • help from volunteers with loading/unloading and booth set-up, and to provide short-term coverage for food breaks, etc.
  • free WiFi to facilitate online transactions
  • reasonable fees for booth space and table rentals, to offset vendor costs for travel, accommodation, any hired help

Changes introduced for the upcoming registration process are generally being well received, states Nora Lee, 2018 vendor coordinator. “Vendors can now bring their own tables… and vendor fees based on booth size now replace the Annual registration fee requirement. We are also working to arrange a lower price from an outside supplier, for those who need to rent tables.”

Challenges

Vendors say ensuring they have adequate supplies to meet customer demand is essential. Customers can place orders for later delivery, but it’s far better to satisfy whims and desires on the spot. It’s also a spatial challenge: can you squeeze all you want to offer into the size of booth you’ve reserved?

Finding new products to keep customers interested and to set you apart is also important. “I think people are becoming more experimental and looking outside the box, so I have been offering alternative fibres and options,” Loretta notes in an email. Silk ribbon, roving and other natural texture yarns, as well as new/unique varieties of dyed wool, are among current trends.

What’s on your wish list? For me, the sari silk beckons.

See you in the loop,

Marla, Content creator

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About ottawarughooking

Olde Forge Rug Hooking Branch in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada will, together with other branches in Area 1, co-host the 2018 Annual of the Ontario Hooking Craft Guild.
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