My family and I spent last weekend hocking our wares at the famous First Monday Trade Days in the tee-niney town of Canton, Tx. We didn’t sell much, but we sure had fun. Our booth included the following small enterprises:
- Red Feather Canes- During his brief retirement, my father sought a hobby and found one in making canes. He drove out to New Mexico (which is the armpit of America, in my opinion) and collected sotol (see picture below (PS- the man in the picture is NOT my father, but he easily could be- they have the same hat)). Then he dried it, cut it, and made it into lightweight but strong canes. He also made some “walking companions” which got alot of laughs. They were short sticks with a leather handle that you carry with you on your morning walk to beat off dogs or thugs, but mostly dogs. Dad was our best seller by far. It was interesting to watch how many young boys wanted a “stick”. One boy begged and begged his mom and when his mom asked why he wanted it, he said, “To whack Marcus. Duh.” Interestingly enough, we also had grown, Harley Davidson, men do/say basically the same thing. Oy, they never grow up.
- New Mercy Designs– Cards and headbands. I have albums on facebook if you’d like to look and I’ll list them on etsy this weekend, hopefully. My problem at Canton was that many of my interested customers were girls younger than 10 who weren’t schooled in persuasive speech. Saying to your mom, “Please, please” over again and hanging on her arm isn’t gonna cut it. I wanted to pull them aside and discuss the various methods of persuasion available to them- “Pull it together, little girl. Give her a dose of bandwagon with a shot of ad hominem.”
- Burp Rags and Onsies- My mother-in-law Debbie customized onsies and burp rags. They were really cute!
- Jewelry ala Leah- My sister’s liquidating her jewelry business and we had it all laid out nicely in bags. Silly people just didn’t know the kind of quality they were missing!
- Sarah Rose– My dear friend gave me an incredibly detailed description of how she wanted her table, full of art, jewelry, and handmade purses, set up. Her table put all of ours to shame.
Despite all this fabulous merchandise, the experience was lucratively unsucessful. Listed in our receipt book is:
-“walking companion”- a short stick that you carry with you when you go walking to fend off the dogs
-bedazzled burp rag
-Oh, and a $4 necklace to Alex’s 7 year old cousin. But that doesn’t count because I would have given it to her for free, but Alex’s uncle insisted .
Yep. We sat out at Canton for two days and sold approximately $68 in merchandise (plus a nickel that I found on our booth site that I’m counting as profit). At least it covered the rent for the booth!
You might say, “Why, Beth, was your family so fabulously unsuccessful at selling things?” And to you, I present the following reasons:
- Perhaps it was my father standing in the entrance to our tent sanding down one of his “beat down” sticks, silently threatening anyone who dared enter our tent, while my mom and I sit behind him covered in saw dust.
- Perhaps it was our ever-shifting marketing strategies to try and entice people into our booth. On Saturday, one of these was “Ignore the customer”. Seriously. We thought that maybe if we didn’t look at them or talk to them, they would feel like they were shopping in secret and they would just leave the money on the table.
- Perhaps it was miscommunication about the purpose of our wares. My dad had his “walking companions” sitting next to his canes. A man came and picked one up. He said, “Who’s this for?” My mom just answered, “Dogs” to which he replied, “Dogs?!?” As I looked at his confused/disgusted face, I saw in his mind the picture of a decrepit old dog using one of my father’s walking companions to help him get to his food bowl. That man probably thought we were crazy.
- Perhaps it is that I spent a good portion of Sunday morning wrapped in a sleeping bag up to my neck because it was cold and it just wasn’t a skinny jeans kind of day. It wasn’t until my mother-in-law asked me if I was wearing clothes that I realized that I wouldn’t patronize the booth of a possibly naked lady wrapped in a sleeping bag either. BUT aren’t there some crowds where that would be a good marketing strategy?
It could be a combination of all those things but I think I know the real reason. One grandma who stopped to look at my headbands was carrying this:
Except that instead of “Welcome”, it said “Who Dat Nation.” At that point, I came to the realization that the things we were selling were too useful. People come to Canton to buy things that will end up in a closet or at a thrift store a year later. Things that their kids won’t want when it’s time to pass things along. A ridiculously cute headband is just too functional. You can’t shove beautiful artwork or adorable onsies or a good sturdy cane into a closet. You just can’t.
Maybe next time I’ll sell Sponge Bob wrist watches with matching socks and purses made out of Dallas Cowboy footballs and rugs with tigers on them. We might just be the most popular booth there.