Holiday open houses are popular with both vendors and customers alike. Customers love being able to physically experience vendor products, interact with the vendor and snatch up deals. Vendors love customers coming to them for interaction and selling some of their extra inventory. For an even more successful event, invite a few other vendors, provide some snacks, give away some door prizes and promote the event relentlessly.
Each spring and fall, I host a vendor open house. We completed our third fall event, the Sip, Shop and Be Merry Open House (“SSBMOH”), the Saturday before Thanksgiving. There’s a whole lot of preparation involved but, when it’s go time, it’s all fun!
Choose an interesting mix of vendors so customers will have lots of options. Customers often attend to visit only one of the vendors, but often browse and buy from others as well. At my last open house, there were reps from three other direct sales companies, two indie crafters and me. Each vendor takes over one entire room in the house.
Advertise for free everywhere you can: social media profiles/pages/groups/events, Craigslist, your local paper in the bazaar/event section, Nextdoor, online event listings (Evensi, FestivalNet, etc.), email, text message, phone calls and good old fashioned word of mouth. Make sure to ask friends, family and customers to share the event and invite others…and ask more than once!
Stay budget conscious and lay out money where it packs the best punch. I like printing flyers (I own a laminating machine to weatherproof flyers posted outdoors and put paper flyers in my customer orders/brochures), having yard signs made (add balloons for visual effect/interest), and pay a pittance for targeted ads on social media.
I previously posted about what items you should think about having for sale at your event, so I’ll skip that part of the discussion and move right into the setup. If you are hosting the event, you’ll have the luxury of taking as much time as you want to get your set up exactly as you want it to be. If you are not hosting the event, I strongly suggest doing a mock set up at home the night before and taking tons of photos (both overall and close up) so set up is a cinch! A few tips:
- Keep like items together to make it easier for customers to locate what they want/need.
- Use risers, boxes, etc. to create multiple levels on the table – it makes it easier to see everything and get to what you want/need.
- Open packaging when it’s hiding the product (e.g., jewelry, fashion accessories, home goods, etc.). Customers generally won’t take the time to open packaging to see what’s inside.
- Put choke points in the back of the room. Traffic flow suffers when there’s a crowd blocking the entrance to the room. Whatever your choke points are (i.e., clearance), move them away from the door.
- Label your items with prices. Most customers are not interested in asking what the price is for an item and you may very well lose out on a sale. Yes, it takes more time and effort to price your items, but it’s worth it in the long run.
- Lighting! Use stringed lights, pop on accent lights and other lighting set ups to make sure your guests can see everything!
For the vendor events I host, each vendor donates one door prize worth up to $20. Additionally, guests receive one ticket each for attending, one ticket if they donate any canned goods, and one ticket if they complete their vendor passport and turn it in. The vendor passport is a postcard with a space for each vendor to stamp when the guest visits their booth. This was the first event we tested it out and it was a rousing success – nearly every guest completed their passport (with gusto and excitement!) to receive another ticket into the door prize drawings.
Throughout the event, there are drawings for the door prizes – the first winner has their choice from all of them, while each subsequent winner has their choice from the remaining prizes. Winners are not required to be present to win.
In addition to the door prizes, I hand out goody bags to the first 20-25 customers to visit my booth. Included are a brochure, several samples, a couple of pieces of candy, my business card, some additional literature (as appropriate) and sometimes a small item like lip balm or a mini hand lotion. These have always proven popular with several attendees making a beeline to my booth first so they make sure to get one before they are gone!
The finishing touches are what brings the entire thing together.
Consider creating/laminating signage to label bathrooms, check in points and any other helpful information you want your guests to know such as social media hashtags, wifi passwords, etc.
Make sure each vendor (and any greeters or helpers) has a name tag. I always provide some to write on in case a vendor has forgotten theirs.
A floral arrangement is a lovely touch to the check in table and I try to choose flowers that aren’t heavily scented and are appropriately themed for the show.
Lay out the food and beverages with labels, serving pieces and paper/plastic products.
Consider enlisting a greeter at the check-in table. I’ve stuck my mom with this job from my very first event and everyone loves her! I would venture to guess that some folks come just to hang out with her for a bit! She passes out tickets, handles the drawings and answers questions for the guests. She has been crucial to every single one of my events and I can’t imagine doing one without her…or without a greeter. She literally sets the stage for each attendee’s experience – and she does a beautiful job at it!
Make sure the wine is popped open, the tunes are turned on and the door is unlocked – it’s finally go time!
The most important tip of all is to HAVE FUN! Customers feed off of the energy of the attendees and the vendors, so show your excitement and don’t be shy to talk up your fellow vendors!