Recession Guilt

On November 30th, I participated in the second annual San Francisco Holiday Bazaar Bizarre.  I asked many of my fellow vendors how they were doing and I got the same response from all of them: “It’s going well, but not as well as last year.”  Many of them acted apologetic for having said this, abruptly adding qualifiers like, “But last year was crazy,” as if they didn’t deserve such a singular event to repeat itself.

I admit, I felt similarly.  I felt guilty for the moderate success I was having during one of the worst holiday shopping seasons on record.  I felt guilty at the Mission Bazaar the following weekend, and guilty at the Unique Los Angeles fair the weekend after that.  Even if sales were slightly down from previous years, it didn’t seem right to be turning a healthy profit when other vendors were slashing their prices to wholesale or cost.  Three-color letterpress cards were 6 for $10 at at least two different stationery booths!  You can’t even buy cards at the drugstore that cheaply.

Now this may not be p.c., or even totally true, but I’m going to say it: I think we’re feeling undeserving because we’re women.  Generally speaking, I believe that a man would be more likely to attribute his success to talent and intelligence than to good fortune.  Why?  Because as women, we can’t abide the opposite.  I don’t want to believe that my fellow Biz Misses are having trouble because they are being naive, inert, or unsavvy.  They are my sisters-in-arms, and it seems mean to imply that they are responsible for their own troubles.  It’s much easier to attribute my success to random factors like booth location.

Of course, luck has something to do with the success or failure of every business, but I guess the lesson is to make your business hardy and flexible enough to withstand unanticipated events.  Start slowly, build slowly, and have a diverse set of products, markets or sources of incoWhen sales are slow, use the extra time to focus on marketing strategies, product development and setting up infrastructure, so that when the market turns around (and it always does), you’ll be ready to take off.

The Rumors are True

The Renegade Craft Fair is happening in San Francisco July 12-13th! Unfortunately, I didn’t find out until this past weekend, which happened to be a week after the application deadline.  Luckily, there are many other craft fairs happening in the area this season with applications still open.

AltCraft: (American Craft Council) August 15-17th at Fort Mason.

  • Cost: $300 for three days, 10 ft. booth space.
  • Deadline: May 23rd (e-mail [email protected] for more info)
  • Comments: Fort Mason doesn’t really get foot traffic.  Luckily, AltCraft is well established so they get a good number of visitors.  I might consider applying for this is it weren’t happening the same weekend as my wedding!

Mission Bazaar: May 17-18th at the Armory at 14th & Mission

  • Cost: $300 for two days, 8 x 10 ft. booth space, includes table and two chairs.
  • Deadline: Today!  Payment deadline extended to May 13th.
  • Comments: This is happening the same weekend as Bay to Breakers and the public is being charged $5 admission, perhaps to cover the cost of entertainers.  I’m going to wait until the holiday Mission Bazaar at least.

Roadworks: (Center for the Book) September 20th on De Haro Street between 16th & 17th (12-5pm)

  • Cost: $80 for a full table, $40 for half
  • Deadline: June 13th (tables $100/$50 after deadline)
  • Comments: Sounds like a cool, fun event (they print linoleum carvings with a steamroller) but it’s only five hours long.  I’ve got some time to think about it.

While I fully support having outlets for crafters to sell their wares I have to wonder, are all these craft fairs saturating the market?  I mean, Baz Biz, Mission Bazaar and Capsule in May, Renegade in July, AltCraft in August and Roadworks in September gives San Francisco residents more than one event every month.  Even I don’t shop for gifts that often.  I fear that with application fees rising and more events crowding the calendar that fewer crafters will be able to afford to vend.  That means customers would start seeing the same people over and over (a complaint I’ve already started hearing) and attendance would start to drop off. It’s a vicious economic cycle, I know, but I don’t want to see it hurt the handmade “industry” by turning craft businesses into a passing fad.