I don't do a lot of shows but each year, especially this time of year, I participate in what we call 'Vendor Shows'.
I'm sure you've heard this term. As opposed to a 'craft' show, a vendor show usually consists of a mix of direct sales (Pampered Chef, Tastefully Simple, etc), independent business people, and independent artists or craftspeople (like myself).
I recently was responsible for recruiting the vendors for an annual show we have at our church each year. Here are some tips for organizing a successful show.
1.) Start recruiting vendors early. Our show was in mid-October and I started contacting vendors in early August.
2.) If you had the show previously always last years vendors first shot at a table. This allows you to build a relationship with vendors you enjoy working with. Also - your customers will come to know who will be there and over time attendance will grow.
3.) VARIETY, VARIETY, VARIETY. This is so important. Not only to the customers, but to the vendors. I recently attended a vendor show for the first time. There were 21 tables and 6 of us sold jewelry. That's 28% of the vendors selling jewelry. Not a good show for me.
This was my approach: First I opened it up to vendors from the previous year. Luckily, of those responding I didn't have any more than 2 vendors that sold similar products. That was my limit. No more than two.
Even then - try to keep them as different as possible. Most people who organize shows understand that you don't want two tables selling the exact same item (say two Creative Memories tables) - but you need as much variety as possible. So of the tables I did have here was my mix:
Two jewelry (1 handmade, 1 direct sales)
Two food (Homemade Gourment, Tastefully simple - one more entrees, one more snacks, spices etc)
Two books (Usborne - books for kids, 1 Independent author selling her own books)
One Scrap booking
One handmade bows for little girls
Two purse/bag companies (they were similar and at the same time very different)
Scentsy (I also tried to get a handmade candle person - but was unsuccessful)
Two House/Kitchen wares (Pampered Chef and Tupperware)
One handmade knitting items
I held firm to not allowing any more of each type of vendor.
4.) Make sure your table fees are reasonable. We charged $25 per table with a limit of two tables per vendor. $5 for electricity. Unless you can guarantee at least 200 people will attend your show, I don't think you can charge more than this.
5.) Decide where and how you're going to advertise. We put ads in some local newspapers, created fliers and did as much word of mouth as we could. Also - we required each vendor to personally invite at least 25 people. Tell your vendors where you advertised. If attendance if poor they may blame you if you can't prove that you worked to get the word out.
6.) Communicate with your vendors. Let them know exactly what you will provide and what they need to provide. For example, we provided tables, but not table coverings. Coverings were required so the vendors needed to know they should bring their own.
7.) Give the vendors plenty of time to set up. We had setup times the night before and early the morning of the show.
8.) Don't overdo the hours of the show. All day for a smaller show is often way too long and your vendors will get bored and want to pack up early. Our show was a Saturday from 8:00 am to 2:00. In retrospect 9:00am to 2:30 may have been better.
9.) Provide at least coffee free of charge for your vendors.
10.) Make sure someone is there the entire time to answer questions and make decisions if necessary.
11.) Put some thought into you table organization and traffic flow. Never put two similar vendors next to each other. This makes the vendors uncomfortable and the customers too!
12.) Have fun and talk with your vendors. Follow up with a survey and ask them what was good and what could be improved. Ask them if they want to be contacted for the show next year.
There is a lot more I could ad - but I'll save that for later. I hope this helps. Vendor shows of 10 tables or more are difficult to do without help and coordination - but with some planning and a little bit of work - they can be a GREAT event for the vendors AND the customers.