Monday, October 3, 2016

I can check that one off my bucket list


Many people have asked us "have you ever done Canton?" Canton, TX is home to the huge First Monday Trade Days (and not too much else the other 26 days of every month). Hundreds upon hundreds of vendors set up to sell to thousands upon thousands of shoppers from all over the place (Wisconsin, Nebraska, Arkansas...).

There's just about anything you can imagine sold there. At least things you can legally sell. You know what? There's so much going on there, you can probably get anything there. Especially out in the antique alley tents. I never go out to that part, so...

Due in part to the fact we didn't find other good options of events to do this past weekend, we decided to give Canton a shot. It was also the biggest event of the year and supposedly when people go to shop for Christmas and Christmas decor. 

Because it is always a Thursday - Sunday event, I took two days off of work to take part. (That's kind of a big deal.)  We drove 70 miles each way for four days in a row, leaving town at 7 AM at the latest. The morning we had to set up, we were left home at 5:30 AM.

I told Dad a few days beforehand, "It's either going to be awesome or a giant waste of time." Dad said it was going to be really good. I'm sad to say that he was wrong.

So, of all these hundreds upon hundreds of vendors, all of the booths are run by two different entities -- the city of Canton has a few trade centers and a family owns the rest. I tried getting a booth through the city first, but there were none available. I was able to get a booth in another part. 

At first I was hesitant because I thought, "I don't go to that part when I'm there." When I realized it was attached to a part I actually had gone to, I was ok with the location (at least as far as I knew). When I talked to the person in charge on the phone, she may have mentioned an opening in another part, but I'm not sure. (I kind of think she may have, but after conversations with others on site, I'm thinking not.) I was glad to be in. Dad was sure as long as you were there in the buildings instead of outside, you'd be fine.

When we arrived, it was a bit of a trick to find our booths (as we actually had two). We had to wait on a woman to move her stuff out of one side because someone else had gotten her spot. After a bit of panic, we straightened out our issue. I'm not sure if the woman who had to move ever got hers because the people who took hers refused to move. There was lots of miscommunication and such. It didn't bode well for the whole situation.

The part we were in was part of the old/original grounds. Between additions to the building and cramming as many booths as possible into the area, most people really couldn't see how to even get back to us. We only had about 5% of the traffic that we would have if we were 50 feet away. 

A few people walked up and came in the "door"/loading zone next to us from the parking lot. It wasn't the most used entry for shoppers because most of the lot right there was taken up by vendors.

The ONLY reason most of the people walked by our booth is because there was a narrow walkway between two booths at the huge sign that pointed to the restrooms. There aren't a lot of restrooms on the grounds and shoppers follow the signs from anywhere in the area to try to find them. 

The big sign may have been where it was to try to lead people to our area, but by the time they saw that sign they had reached a moment of desperation. You could literally see the urgency in their eyes. Everyone zoomed by with one mission on their mind. Find the restroom. 

When they came through, they just knew the big arrow was pointing right to the restrooms. No, it pointed to us, then you really had to look for the next signs. Because of their one track minds, the question as soon as they arrived at the end of our booth, "where are the restrooms?" or "the sign said there were restrooms, but..." or "could you tell me where the restrooms are?"

It didn't matter if you were with a rare customer, if I had my head down working on lettering a project, if you were mid-bite eating lunch, or if we up to our eyeballs trying to pack up, the question came. 

"Go down to the candle sign and take a left. Go straight through two aisles."

"Left at the candle sign."

"Down there."

After a while, we just pointed. 

Between the three of us, if we answered once, we literally answered 300 times. 

The people across from us were in a little more obscure place and they saw less traffic than we did. Some of us were first time vendors, but one woman had been stuck in the same place for a while, even after being in a better spot for years. She had to take a break due to her husband's health, then when she came back, she was given a bad spot and had been told for a year and a half they were trying to get her a better booth. She had a tent set up in her booth so that she could sleep every night.

Now, I understand having to wait your turn for a prime position and the organizers wanting permanent vendors, but to stick people in this area with no shoppers and expect them to come back is ridiculous. No one is going to want to come back and stick it out every month in hopes of a better position. 

I personally do not have time to sit out there every month for nothing. If sales were spectacular, I might think about it. Otherwise, why would someone want to? There might be better spots in the summer, but it was warm enough in late-September/early-October. 

The other thing... While some booths did some personalizations on pieces, most of the stuff all looked alike and wasn't hand done like ours. For that reason, yes, our prices were higher, and, of course, people were looking for bargains. People that didn't blink at our prices were from the Dallas area. Thankfully, we're headed that way next where we do much better with the high school craft fair "circuit."

I pushed for us to go do this, so I felt guilty the whole time about wasting our time. We all know if we had just had a placement in any other building there's no telling how much better it would have been. At least we can say we gave it a shot. Check it off the list, never to return. 

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