So we've just got back from 5 days of trading at Clothes Show Live 2014, we had no idea what to expect from the show as a trader and weren't able to find any good sources that could tell us what was in store. So I thought I'd do a blog post on the 5 things I wish I'd known before I traded at Clothes Show!
1. The Price.
The price to trade at Clothes Show is probably more than you will ever pay for a stand for 5 days unless big events is your speciality in which case you wouldn't be reading this blog! When you first sign up they tell you that it is a set price and non-negotiable, the same for all of the traders. However once we arrived and started talking to our neighbours it seemed that this was not the case. Whether they would have budged it you had said that you could not afford it when first approached I don't know as I didn't try it. We paid 1800 before VAT for a 4 metres squared space which was about 2300 after VAT. We got moved to 2 x 6 metres as a free upgrade as they had accidentally put us next to a another stall selling handbags. Other people that had paid for a stall in the bigger size were paying up to 3000. You also want to make sure you are in the right area for what you are selling, we were in the boutique area which was behind all the big beauty stands and at the very bottom of the hall, this was definitely the worst place to be as people did not realise it was there and it was a jumble of all the other areas. If you are selling vintage you should be in the the retro lounge, beauty is in the pamper lounge. There is the British Pavilion for anything made in the UK, although if this covers you, you may also be in the Offbeat Boutique which is a different area on the other side of the hall. The Notting Hill Market is for cheaper market priced goods.
2. Setting Up.
You get 2 days to set up between certain times depending on which stand number you have (so that there is not as much traffic). We knew we wouldn't need all that time as it does not take us long to set up so we just went on the second day. However we didn't realise that depending on the size of the van you only get between 1 hour (for a car) and 3 hours (for a large van) we only had 2 hours (for a medium size van) which was never mentioned to us. You are also able to go in every morning for an hour or so to drop off extra stock. When you turn up on the first day you will be directed to a car park where you pay a deposit and collect a pass that is like a parking ticket and if you go over the alloted time then you don't get your deposit back. If you are taking stock in in the morning then you need to go to the same carpark for a pass but won't be asked to pay a deposit, you will then park in a different car park. On the last day it is recommended (by fellow traders) that you park in the car park where you collect your pass so that you are first in the queue to be able to reload your vehicle.
We had hired a van for the whole 5 days thinking that we would be taking our stock home with us every night however as you can see from the picture below everyone left their stock in there and just covered it with sheets, you can get some industrial clips or string and then you just need to be there before the punters turn up.
3. Space Layout.
As we had not been to a big show like that before, neither had we ever been to Clothes Show as customers we didn't know what the space would look like. We drew up a general plan and then set it up in the living room. I know most people won't have the space to do this but do it if you can, inside or in the garden! Once we got there and got set up it was pretty much how we wanted it to look which was good. There are few ways you could go though, people selling clothes had rails inside the space and around it so you could walk between them, beauty and jewellery mainly stood inside the space behind tables or you can set it up like we did and have the space open to walk into with shelving or tables. Whatever you choose, space optimization is key! Two tier clothing rails seemed to be a popular way of utilizing space.
When heading to the Clothes Show your space will also depend on what you want the outcome of the event to be. There were people who just had the stalls packed to the brim trying to make the biggest profit they could, there were others where there was hardly any stock and they were mainly marketing with selfie competitions, visits from celebrities to their stall and a male model enticing people into the space. Our aim was both so we took lots of stock but also lots of catalogues, fliers and business cards. This will decide on whether you pay for any of the extras that are offered at an extra cost from Clothes Show such as an advert in their show programme and promotion across social networks. We did not opt for any of these but if you are mainly going for marketing purposes then you might want to consider it although it will of course cost you more.
5. The Days.
Bring plenty of food, water and possibly a seat as the days are long and can be busy, if you are the only one working on the stall (which I don't recommend!) make sure you get acquainted with your neighbours so they can watch your stall when you go to the loo etc. The days also vary a lot on how busy they are. Friday and Monday were the quietest. Saturday was the busiest, on the Tuesday people are mostly there to grab a bargain so you might want to save a sale or offer for the last day, although it is obviously not compulsory.
Overall it was an experience and definite learning curve as we are still a young business and although we made a small profit I don't know whether we would do it again. Maybe we were unprepared, maybe there wasn't enough people that fitted into our target audience. I just wish that I had had someone elses blog to get all the answers to my questions! So if there is anything else you want to know please comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I'm always happy to help! :)