How to Map Out an Art Stroll

How to Map Out an Art Stroll
by Donald Clark

Courtesy of Handmade Business

I own a shop in a downtown area where there are other stores that also sell unique and unusual items. I'd like to have some kind of downtown art fair or downtown art stroll. How do I go about organizing such an event? What do I do to get the ball rolling?
- Caitlin, via e-mail

First, let's take a look at the two events you mention with an eye to your goal of attracting people to your shop. Each could accomplish your goal, but in different ways and with vastly differing amounts of work. The downtown art stroll is no doubt the simplest to put together and perhaps will bring you the quickest and the most ongoing returns. A stroll delivers the customers to your door without unnecessary distractions. You would only be competing for their attention with other downtown merchants.

How to Map Out an Art Stroll Someone has to oversee the stroll project; and since it's your idea, I nominate you. Sit down and make a list of the other shops you'd like to include. Remember: the more participants, the richer the experience will be for the visitors. To this end, you might consider including the shoe store, the photo shop, the dress shop, and other neighbors. You can do this by requiring them to be open for the stroll and to invite local artists to show their work in their shops. Your team could offer to help them find the artists to be invited. This lets you do a bit of behind-the-scenes selecting. If the core shops involved are all selling decorative arts, consider requiring the other merchants to show 2-D work. This will still add to the mix without being in direct competition with you. Set off to get the other merchants on board: Start with the ones you think will be the easiest sell, and then you can go to the tougher ones with a list of committeds.

Once the group is formed, the first order of business is to select the date that will work best for both the participants and the visitors. Considerations should be the holiday calendar and any special events in your downtown or if there is a tourist season in your area. Then it's time to agree on the scope of the event, the ground rules, and, in turn, the budget and amount of the work involved. The group will have to divide the common work. This includes writing and sending press releases, coordinating the design of printed pieces, including mailers and any in-store graphics, getting them produced and mailed. You'll also want a piece that can be e-mailed by each participant. In addition, someone will have to coordinate any common decorations used to make the area look festive and identify the participating shops.

Of course, each shop will have its own decisions to make and stuff to get done. Perhaps a shop will have a featured artist, a demonstration, a trunk show, or a group show held together by a common theme. Will there be refreshments and how will this work?

The art show, on the other hand, will require all the above considerations, plus attracting and jurying artists who want to be in the art fair. Assuming they will be placed outdoors in the downtown, there will no doubt be permits to apply for. And in the end, these folks will no doubt be your competitors and leave little behind to enhance your downtown in the long haul. An art show/fair can potentially create too much work for too little return.

I'd go with the stroll.

Why You Should Sell Shop Exclusives

I've admired a lot of the work I've seen in The Crafts Report Crafts Scene. I would like to start selling shop exclusives--pieces that can only be bought at my store. Do you have experience with shop exclusives? Do I purchase the pieces directly from the artist, or is it on a consignment basis? Will this exclusivity make my business more promotable?
- Angelo, Los Angeles, California

The savvy shop owner wants exclusives and the smart maker wants to avoid them at all costs! There are always exceptions to the rules, so let's see if we can find ways to set your shop apart. I'm thinking of two levels of exclusives. The first would be a "line exclusive" in which a maker agrees not to sell their line to any other shop within an agreed-upon area. I believe exclusives of this type are earned. In other words, a shop has to demonstrate that they can sell a sizeable amount of merchandise to qualify by committing to purchase a certain amount of merchandise each year.

The second type of exclusive and the one I find most interesting is based on negotiating with your existing accounts to get items designed just for your shop. This is your opportunity to have items on your shelves that are not available anywhere else. Why not work to have special items from many of your accounts? Perhaps some of these items could even carry the shop's name. You could also seek makers that offer personalized items, which are always attractive gifts for babies, weddings, and birthdays.

Will exclusives make your shop more promotable? Yes, well, maybe. This depends on how you market these items. For sure, you'll want to display each exclusive item in your shop with a card that points out it was created just for your shop. You could create a series of promotional materials either online or in print spotlighting items that "are available exclusively at" your business. If possible, consider a special event that debuts the new exclusives and try to get the makers to be a part of this. Customers always enjoy meeting the maker.

However you handle this, offering your customers special items you have brought in just for them--purchases that they can only get at your shop--can only be a positive strategy.