Sunday, July 10, 2005

Downtown Sidewalk Sale

This weekend, instead of the Gardeners' Market, I went to the annual Sidewalk Sale in downtown Logan. A friend had offered me a space by his booth for free, and I decided to take it.

As it turned out, the space was perfect. I was out in front of the Coppermill Restaurant, so I had a building with a colonnade right behind me where the kids could sit. The Coppermill is centrally located in downtown, making it an ideal location. I was facing east, so while I bore the brunt of the sun for half the day, at least it was the first half when it wasn't so hot. At Summerfest my booth faced west, so I got the setting sun right in my eyes during prime business hours. Note to self: when possible, for outdoor shows with evening hours, select an east-facing booth over a west-facing booth.

I had bought a garment rack for this show, because I'd invested in some T-shirts to dye and I wanted to display them. However, the very first thing my garment rack did upon being set up was break. I used a little duct tape and good ol' American ingenuity, but it persisted in falling apart until finally, on Saturday afternoon, it just broke to the point where I didn't want to try to put Humpty Dumpty back together again. I disassembled what was left and put it back in the original box, and I'll be taking it back to Wal-Mart for a refund on Monday. It actually turned out to be a good thing, though, because after the rack was gone, I had to lay the T-shirts out on top of the plastic bins of tote bags and scarves, and I sold more T-shirts after the rack broke than I had before. One lady even bought one for each of her many grandchildren.

I marked down the scarves to $5 for the silk and $10 for the velvet, but still sold hardly any of them even at that price. I guess my scarves just aren't as cool as I thought they would be. But I sold tons of onesies and bibs. The very first bib that sold was a bright yellow bib that I had dyed with a happy face design on it. But all the bibs were cool, and there are only a couple of them left now. In the onesies, the pink didn't sell as well as it did at Summerfest, where I could scarcely keep pinks in stock. I sold a decent number of pinks this time, but what sold fastest was the darker shade of cobalt blue. I did some onesies in that shade with a stripe of soybean rings across the chest. They are all gone. I got a lot of comments on the green ones I did by low-water immersion; in the technique I used, some of the cobalt blue separates out and makes regions of pale blue instead of white where the folds resist. Loads of people said they were cool, but for most they ended up being the second choice. The other color that sold well was the strong shade of golden yellow. I think I've got one T-shirt left in the golden yellow; everything else I made in that color has sold out. Note to self: more dark cobalt, more strong golden yellow. I think I'd also like to try a bluer green.

I very nearly sold out of dish scrubbers. They're easy to make in bulk so I may continue making them. However, after this year I don't think I'll be making the mitts any more, except possibly by special order. They take too much time, and I can't get contractors to make them. I'll make a few more as I have time, to make complete sets out of the odds and ends I've already got completed. Maybe I'll make a few for gifts for the inevitable rush of weddings that is Utah in the summer. But once they're sold out, they're gone.

On the back end, I need to start tracking my inventory of T-shirts and onesies by size. I didn't do that because I figured the onesies would be a one-time thing I'd make while my friends were having babies. However, they are selling so well that I want to make them one of my primary products. I'm discovering that the sizes don't sell in equal quantities. Small (3-6 months) and Medium (6-12 months) sell much better than Large (18-24 months).

All in all, it was a great show. I had set a goal to bring in $500 in revenue, which is more or less what I brought in at Summerfest. When I totaled it all up, the revenue came to $625. $500 was the remaining amount we needed to complete our down payment fund, after the gifts from relatives and my entire salary from this summer's calculus class. I was going to just take the $500 out of the business altogether and put it toward the down payment on our new house. It would have kneecapped my business quite a bit; I'd have had to do tiny boutiques and farmers' markets for the rest of the year until I got up enough money to do a large show again. But now once I take out the $500, I'll still have some money to put toward replacing at least some of the inventory I sold, especially the bibs and the onesies, and to spend on booth fees for my next shows, and we're still going to be able to make our down payment!

This same friend has invited me to share his booth (again for free!) at Raspberry Days in early August. It's a tempting offer-- the more I sell, the less I'll have to move to the new house and the more money I'll have for floor coverings that aren't bright emerald green-- but it's only a week before our moving date, and I just don't know if I'll be able to take it on, with everything that's going on at that time. I will just have to wait and see. If it's really really nutty around here, I might have to say no. On the other hand... laminate flooring... mmm...