After only doing one full one in the summer, I decided to sign up for a ton of holiday markets and try to get my business out there even more. The holidays are one of the best times for art markets, and I wanted to take advantage of that while I was growing.
In my previous blog, I outlined a strategy for my future markets to help increase my average sale price and discussed adding new products.
I want to share what I learned while doing this because I personally love it when small businesses are transparent about their experiences as they’re growing, so I simply want to use this space to share my experiences.
And boy, was October a humbling experience.
I would just like to put out a disclaimer here that these are my sole experiences as a vendor and this doesn’t reflect on the market itself or the people organizing the market. Sometimes the day is off, the weather isn’t great, or the items I sell don’t do as well at certain markets as compared to another vendor.
Barrie Artisan Market - October 7
The Barrie Artisan Market was my first market coming into the holiday season of 2023. We live an hour away from Barrie, but I thought it would be a good strategy to go to markets outside of our area and expand our customer base.
However, this market was on the Thanksgiving weekend and was also the organizer’s first event. It was in a community centre, and there wasn’t the best signage for people to know where the market was, as it wasn’t right at the front.
There were a lot of vendors with minimal foot traffic, and quite a few barely sold anything (including me). From this art market, I think I learned that it’s better to stay more local than make such a big trip for a market that was just starting out.
I should ask questions before, like, “How long have you been planning markets,” and “What’s your average foot traffic per market?”
As well, if I’m just starting out, I should stick to more local markets and more affordable ones.
Ultimately I only made back half of the vendor fee (I also paid to rent a table), and it was not a great kickoff to the holiday markets.
Spooktacular Community Market - October 21, 2023
Skepticism was high for me considering my last market as well as the fact that this market took place in a church; I wasn’t sure how that would translate in regards to the foot traffic coming in.
Well, my skepticism was correct for this one. There were 20 swag bags to hand out to customers, and by 11:30, I still saw people coming in with them (the event started at 10 am)!
Now, I did hear from other vendors that this market typically has a lot of traffic, and the organizer did outline a whole advertising plan for the event that included both social media and in-person marketing.
However, I guess this was just an off day? There was very little foot traffic, and I noticed a lot of vendors also made little to no sales (besides the one food vendor that all the vendors got their lunch at).
It can be really disheartening to spend so much time and energy on a market just to barely make any sales, but we pushed on to our last market in October at the Toronto Made Market.
Toronto Made Market - October 28, 2023
This was my first market in Toronto and also my most expensive by far. I had really high hopes for this market, as it was located downtown, was in its fourth year of being run, and had very good marketing across socials and in the local news blogs.
However, this ended up just not being good at all. The event was organized well, but there was just no foot traffic. In fact, more than a few vendors I saw didn’t even make a single sale.
This ended up being my worst market overall, and it was definitely a learning experience that expensive doesn't equal a good market (for my niche).
Final Thoughts on My October Markets
So overall, I would say October was not the best for markets for me. It’s hard to figure out what will work for your specific type of products and what won’t, and the only way to know is to try.
It’s pretty disheartening to say the least, but I’m excited to keep going and see how the rest of the year goes!
Strategy for My Future Art Markets
For future art markets that I do, I need to create proper strategies as this is a business that I want to scale.
I do debate about needing to raise my prices, but I’m also still trying to figure out what’s competitive and will keep people buying. I might start charging tax on my goods, or at least when people pay with their card so I don’t pay it out of pocket myself.
My November and December markets are already booked in advance, and I’ll see how they play out (and keep you guys updated!), but I need to be a lot more choosy with the markets I participate in.
I’ve gotten feedback that I could do well at events like Fan Expo or Comic Con, so I might look into artist alleys there and will focus more on art markets in the future.
What I Would Have Done Better
I think if I’m just starting out this year and am small, maybe I should have just tried for more affordable local markets. However, every market allows me to grow, improve my display, and network with fellow vendors!
For next year, I think I’ll try to avoid October as it’s not quite the holiday season and doesn’t seem to have a lot of traffic for events. I’ll focus my efforts on events in November and December for the holidays, especially ones more focused on selling art.
Upcoming Art Markets
Speaking of markets, because I was so behind with publishing this blog, I only have one more in December I’m doing!
December 10, 2023: Breakfast with Santa at the Old Mill Inn & Spa
And if you can’t make it to that but want another way to shop my products in person, I’m also now at the Maker’s Market in Toronto!Follow me on Instagram or Facebook to stay up to date on any new markets I add and to see more behind-the-scenes action!