Chatsworth: Success or Failure?

I am not going to beat around the bush here: commercially this was a failure. If I add up all the sales and deduct the money I owe to Phil Stevenson, then add up all the direct expenses (stall fee, van hire, fuel, accommodation), I am about £250 short. This could have been less had we decided to camp on site, but I would still be short. And that doesn’t even take into account indirect expenses (building the stall, and buying all the stuff that goes with it, such as paper bags and tissue, card payment device, business cards, leaflets, banner, etc.). Even further removed would be to take into consideration things such as money paid for any of the wood I used or the metal cups that go into the candlesticks, stains and dyes, lacquer, wax and what not else to actually make any of the stuff we sold. And let’s not even think about amortisation of my workshop and all the tools.

The only saving grace on that account is the fact that everybody else around us had exactly the same problem. Out of about 20 traders in the tent there were maybe 4 or 5 who covered their expenses and maybe made a bit of profit. This doesn’t bode well for future RCA presence at horse events. At least not this one. Why would anybody come back for more?

Having said all this, there are other perspectives to be had.

We always considered this event first and foremost a tester. A toe in the water. A small event to figure out whether the stall actually works. Whether I can actually get the money I want for my work. And on these levels, it worked beautifully.

The stand was erected in little time. Yes, there are a few small improvements, but overall this was easy peasy. It looked good, too, and we had loads of compliments from the other traders around us, and from (prospective) customers as well. The lights worked well, although I think I need to more lights behind the banner beaming backwards to add more sparkle.

The product selection worked. There was something there for everybody. The layout worked. The pieces in the centre did the attention grabbing they were meant to do. The prices worked: nobody tried to haggle, not even once. If anything, I think they should be higher. In reality I should sell at retail prices, i.e. cost plus 100% markup at least. We’ll try that out at the next event.

The banner worked beautifully. It really stood out and was visible from all the entrances into the tent. The whole stall said: Come and look at me, I am beautiful and you will like me.

The teamwork with Helen and Michael also worked well. If push comes to shove, I can probably do a show on my own, but it is definitely easier with two people on the stall.

And then there was the “mini holiday” effect. Whole family together for a whole weekend, nice weather, not much hard work, everybody had a bit of fun. Doesn’t happen too often nowadays, with Michael basically having moved out, Helen spending a lot of her weekends riding and me spending most weekends in the workshop.

So I reckon, overall it was a success. Not financially, but then, you can’t buy happiness. It’s priceless.

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