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Ok, well I really have not had 6,000 versions of my show set up, but some days, it feels it!

If you do craft shows, trade shows or art exhibits, and you agonize over your display (as I often do), please saunter over to Bruce Baker’s web site. Bruce is a Vermont-based artisan-cum-booth merchandising guru, and he offers great tips and advice to help exhibitors improve their booth design and sales.

I stumbled on Bruce last year, and I spent all of last show season trying to improve my booth’s layout, as I was convinced that getting the most amount of merchandise in the “magic zone” (30″ off the ground and no higher than 65″ or so) would help increase my sales.

I keep a composition book with me at all times when I do shows to put anything from client requests to (rather poorly drawn) sketches for ideas I have relative to new products or display fixtures. I scribbled down my observations about my line, what people were drawn to, and then I presented a pile of torn out pages to (coincidentally-named) Bruce, my uber-talented contractor of choice and asked him to help me get my idea off paper and into reality.

I outlined some of the challenges for my new display idea:

1. It had to be collapsible and portable

2. It had to be reasonably light, since I would be lugging it in and out of shows

3. It had to be sturdy, since pipe and drape do not equal load-bearing surfaces

4. It had to be able to fit in the back of my car AND leave enough room for me to also get in my merchandise

5. It had to be adaptable….both from per-unit configuration stance (e.g. sell out of something? need to be able to re-merchandise it mid-show, possibly with a different shaped item) + from a booth configuration perspective (most booths = 10×10, but you just never know where you’ll end up if you’re doing  a show at someone’s house or if you’re in an abandoned retail space…you could have more or less room!)

Bruce built a prototype……and I “lived” with it for a week with assorted merchandise on it, made my tweaks and then got him to build me several units of my improved version.

This past weekend, I got to “test drive” the new set up. Funnily enough, another exhibitor next to me was trying out a new set up for her line. We both stared at our piles of stuff for awhile before we got going. For those of you on the show circuit, you know what I’m talking about. It’s all a big “puzzle,” whether that pertains to how your display is arranged or how your car gets loaded and unloaded (which is why offered “help” is seldom helpful….I have to get it all in and out in a certain way or order, or my world is ROCKED). The fact that Jana and I were both starting from fresh points meant it took a little more time to get going and get the puzzle pieces together.

At any rate, it got up effortlessly….and once I got it merchandise and we opened for business, it out-performed my greatest expectations. I had amazing sales yesterday.

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Things I love the most about my new set up:

1. Really easy to get in and out of the car

2. Since the car was packed “right,” I was able to unload my tables…then get them draped…and then get the displays on them right away. This freed up a ton of floor space, which is critical to me during set up (again, fellow exhibitors, you know of what I speak. That time when it looks worse before it gets better? When your stuff is not only cast all about your 10×10 space, but it’s spilling out into the aisles and other exhibitors are giving you death glares?!)

3. LOVED being able to hide my empties right under my tables. We’ve all worked those shows where there’s some storage space behind the booth….and then there are the rest of the shows where that space simply does NOT exist. I don’t HAVE to count on it now!

4. Love being grid-wall free. Not that the grid-wall wasn’t good to me in the beginning. Don’t get me wrong. It was. But, my car meant I was restricted to only being able to load 5′ panels in it. I always felt like my booth display was too short; I didn’t have a lot of vertical room to get everything out there…and that stuff is heavy.

5. This display held a TON of cards. I brought a back-up card rack (like I usually do) for card overflow, and you know what? I threw it back in the car. Didn’t need it. Cross THAT off the next packing list. I actually have room to pack more merchandise. Woo hoo!

6. Mid-way through the show, I sold out of some things, so I had to do a little re-merchandising. My movable shelves made that a snap. Got the booth all gussied-up again and sold some more. Good times!

So, that’s my story. I’m really happy with this version of my display. Hope this post was helpful for anyone looking for new display ideas.