Our First Home Show

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On Saturday and Sunday past (April 30 / May 1, 2011) B.Howe & Family was represented at the Binbrook Craft and Home Show. It was our first foray into the world of Craft Shows and from our point of view it was a success.

Most venders enter into a show with the hope of making enough sales to cover their costs plus a little extra.  Unfortunately, the attendance at this show was very low and most of the venders were unable to break even.  We did get to hear many theories as to why attendance was so bad, which gave us an interesting look into the minds of the veterans. There was also plenty of time to wander through the other displays and see the different ways people show their products, and to be able to talk to them as a peer rather than a customer.  We picked up many hints and tips about how the shows work and change, and which shows can be good or bad.

Our focus for this show was to gather reactions and opinions with regards to our own products.  We wanted to show them to people who were not concerned with sparing our feelings, and had different tastes than ours.  This show was to be a sort of product testing ground for us.  Of course we already had our own opinions about what people would think, which items they would be drawn to, and which items they would barely notice.  We couldn’t have been more wrong.

As you can see from the photos our display consisted of the cedar chess set, framed by the birdhouses on either side, and the whirlwinds hanging above.  We placed a couple of the camp chairs behind and a table beyond that where we had our sign, brochures, album, etc.  A last minute addition was the rug tiles, which paid for themselves the first day by sparing our backs and legs from standing on concrete for 6 hours.

So here are some of the conclusions we were able to draw from the weekend:

  • The chess table stole the show.  So much so that a few people walked away without seeing the other items at all.  It generated the most comments and discussions, and we are extremely pleased with the response to it.
  • The birdhouses drew some attention. People seemed to like the utilitarian style, commenting equally on the fact that they will fit into almost any yard and that they are a blank palette for kids to decorate.
  • We thought the whirlwinds would grab a lot of attention, however only a few people commented on them. The comments were all positive, however we feel that there weren’t enough to lend a confident impression.
  • The camp chairs went largely unnoticed, and we believe this is our own fault.  We did not have them tagged or labelled so visitors to the booth may have simply thought they were there for us to sit on.  We will be addressing this if we do another show.

So with that we have to label this show a success.  We learned a lot about the show process, and about our own products.  We have some ideas to further or better the existing line of products,and ideas for new items in new directions.  Thanks to everyone at the show who had the time to answer our questions and offer advice, and a special thanks to all the shows visitors for offering your comments and opinions.

Craft Fairs – a Beginners Look

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If you have been following our posts, then you’ll be aware that we looked into showing our products at a large trade show a little while ago.  That didn’t pan out, simply because we weren’t ready to take that kind of a leap yet.  Well, if good things come to those who wait, then perhaps we will do well with this new plan.  Last week the opportunity arose to rent some floorspace at the Binbrook Home and Garden Show put on by the Binbrook Agricultural Society each year.

We decided that we should try again, at least give it a chance, and a few emails and phone calls later we had enough information for us to make an educated decision.  We booked the booth.  Compared to the previous attempt, this was easy, low risk, inexpensive, and just an all around friendly option.  Here is what we found made up our minds for us:

Easy to Understand Application Process

  • We only had to deal with one email address,  and one phone number.  We weren’t required to contact one person about electrical, another about signage, another about tables, yet another about carpets.
  • The application form was simple.  A one page application consisting of contact information, product type,  and display requirements.  There was a spot to request electricity, and table rental was part of the final cost calculation.
  • Only one payment to make.  After we figured out the space cost, and table rental fees, we only had to write one cheque.


  • Where the large trade show was going to costs us several hundred dollars for the cheapest booth in the worst location, this show is giving us a central booth in a good traffic area with a table for less than $100.
  • It’s closer to home than the larger show, so we don’t have to factor in the costs of a hotel room for a weekend.
  • The shows insurance covers the vendors, so we did not have to get our own.
  • We won’t be surrounded by $10,000 displays, so we can keep our own display simple and within our means.


  • Leading up to our signing for the booth, we only had to deal with two people.  One very nice woman who we had email and phone conversations with, and her daughter.  That was it.
  • It is a long running show, in a small town, and from what we can tell it attempts to maintain the neighbourly feel that you don’t find in the more corporate shows.
  • Binbrook is a satelite town of Hamilton, and there is a good chance that it will draw a customer group out of the city.
  • This venue showcases local craftsmen and businesses in the fields of home and garden design and decor.  A good chance for us to discover how we fit into the scheme of things.

We will be spending the next couple of weeks getting ready for the show.  The brochures are ready, business cards are on their way, and soon the signs will be made and the products packed. We’ve worked out a tentative display floor plan, and lists of the things we still need to acquire.  It’s fun. It’s exciting. It’s even a little scary.

If you find yourself in the the Binbrook area on April 30th, or May 1st, please stop by the Binbrook Fairgrounds and see us at our booth.  We’d love to hear what you think.

Large Trade Shows – a beginners view

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A tradeshow overviewWe recently had a chance to put a display in a large, professional trade show.  The booth price was excellent and we thought it was a great opportunity so we decided to try it out.  We have never displayed our products this way before and were quite excited about it.  The show was only two weeks away, so we would have to move fast if everything was to be ready in time. 

Before we go too far, let’s look at how a large trade show is created (as I understand it).  Let’s say the City of Hamilton is going to put on a Home & Garden Show.  They will hire a company which specializes in managing these types of shows.  The managing company will then arrange other contracted services – eg. electrical, lighting, plumbing, decorating, audio/visual. The managing company will also arrange for the insurance, permits, licenses, and whatever else is required.  Finally, we get to the the Exhibitors (vendors).  Those are the people who are renting booths in the show to ply their wares on the visitors.

Since we were applying to be vendors in the show, we were dealing directly with the managing company.  The process is pretty simple.  We inquired about availability, they responded with a floor plan marking the available booths in our price range.  We picked one.  A couple forms were filled out and sent to us to fill in credit card information and things like that.  Along with the forms came the Exhibitors Information Package.  This is where we suddenly bogged down. 

One of the duties of the managing company is to ‘unify’ the show, to ensure that the entire show presents itself in a clean, pleasing, professional manner. This is to ensure that visitors are in a comfortable, friendly state-of-mind, so that they will be more likely to purchase, or at least inquire, about the vendors products, which makes the vendors happy.  Good sales and happy vendors, means that the show will grow from year to year and the managing company will get more work. 

There are a lot of things about these trade show booths that we needed to know.  For starters, the size.  10’x10′ seems to be the standard, if you want a bigger space then you Empty Display Boothrent the adjacent booths.  What about the cost for that 100 square feet?  You can expect to pay anywhere from $100 – $1500+.  It all depends on the show and where the booth is in the floor plan. What you get when you rent the booth is a piece of floor, with a tube-framed curtained divider seperating you from your neighbour.  This is your little piece of the world and you can do with it as you please assuming that you meet the rules and regulations posted by the managing company.

That was okay, we weren’t paying a lot for our 10 ft.sq. booth hidden near the back corner adjacent to the child drop-off area. It was just for the experience. So we started working out the logisitics, and reading the Exhibitors InfoPak.  We have a small display – a couple of posts to display the birdhouses, a cross bar for the whirlwinds, a 6′ table for brochures and taking orders, and the chess set which is it’s own table.  We wouldn’t need much, we thought.

Here is what we ran into:

  • Insurance – the shows insurance covers anyone in the aisles, not in the booths.  So we would have to get vendors liability insurance. This costs somewhere around $85-$100 for the weekend.
  • Lighting – The general show lighting was going to be on the dim side, which meant we would have to rent lights and have them installed in the booth. We would have to arranged this with the decor company.  And what good is a light without …
  • Electricity – of course, for a significant fee the show electricians would run power to the booth as long as we arranged it with them before hand.
  • Carpet – this is mandatory at many shows to protect the facilities floors, and to reduce the noise level.  You can supply your own suitable flooring, or rent it from the decor company.
  • Internet Access – had to be set up with the shows telecom provider prior to the show.

So, what started out being around $200 to rent a booth turned out to be closer to $750 if we actually wanted to use it.  There are a lot of people with their hand in the cookie jar at these large shows, and each comes with a fee.  I can’t imagine the bills the truly large displays have to pay – you know, the ones with ponds, and walkthrough gardens and such.  I’ve seen display systems and designs running into the tens of thousands of dollars, before the show fees.  You have to move a lot of product to cover those kinds of costs.

At the end of the day $750 (+ travel expenses)  is not a bad price for a spot at a large show where you may get a lot of exposure – if you can be sure that you’ll generate enough sales to cover your costs.  However, we’re a young, garage-based business, and we couldn’t validate spending that much money on a whim. For the time being, we’ll be sticking with the smaller shows.  The local fairs still require insurance, but they usually don’t demand that you rent things like carpet and lights.  We’ll start small.  Get a handle on the basics and work our way up to the big leagues.