Category Archives: market

display – before and after

At the beginning of May at the Made in the Cape market at Cavendish, I was fortunate enough to find myself with a neighbour I hadn’t met properly before. Her name is Hanici (pronounced like Sean Hannity but with a hard k instead of a t). She and her husband run a shop in Fishhoek and also like to travel to trade fairs and markets to promote their own products. Hanici originally trained in fine art and her husband, Barend, is a chemical engineer.

Display 1

Display 2

Cavendish Square was relatively quiet during the first two days of the market, which is never encouraging for a trader. I muttered something about feeling invisible, and Hanici jumped right into the challenge of how to fix my display. She told me about lines and frames and order, what attracts peoples’ eyes, what is distracting, and how to arrange bedspreads and cushions in such a way that a person would immediately want to riffle through them. We also had to “clean” the air by sweeping and brushing with imaginary brooms and dusters. I felt a bit silly doing this but I figured it couldn’t hurt. Hanici also offered to help Wanda on the other side of her (I forgot to take pics of Wanda’s stand but I wish I had, it was beautiful after H’s magic touch). We redid everything and cleaned the air like professionals. Within 10 minutes (not lying), Wanda had made three sales, and within an hour a customer bought the bedspread that you can see in the top pic draped over the middle of my table, and in the bottom pic folded up barely visible in the neat centred pile. Crazy, huh?!

So, for any market people out there who, like me, have no clue about the theory behind display, think on these things and have a google. And a clean sweep :)

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patchwork pants, unicorns, leather straps and coffee

Quickpix from yesterday’s market at Somerset West:

Hands need to be busy if I’m not occupied with customers or friends. Crochet is still too uncomfortable with my gammy right hand but I can manage a bit of knitting. This is a long length of garter stitch which will eventually be joined to other long lengths of garter stitch and turned into a blanket for someone who needs one.

knitting

Extremely desirable cotton patchwork pants worn by someone strolling along – she told me where she bought them (Langebaan) and how much they cost (R250), and how often people commented on them. She said, You should make some, they’d sell like hot cakes. I said I wouldn’t put so much work into something that I couldn’t sell for a really decent price, so she should just take them off and let me have them immediately. Oddly, she didn’t go for that but at least I have a pic to remember them.

patchwork pants

I had a brief text chat with Martli: she’s making amigurami unicorns and sent me this pic of the little darlings lined up on her windowsill. Aren’t they divine?!

Martli unicorns

And then, my second greatest pleasure of the morning: seeing what leather straps look like on my patchwork tote. It’s a prototype, of course, I’m still working on getting the right size and how best to put the zip in at the top, but in the meantime I’d asked Faranaaz to come up with leather straps so I could keep going with the idea. Faranaaz is the “bag lady” next to me at the market, she and her aunt make beautiful simply-designed leather bags and purses that sell very well (I have a few myself, of course….)

leather straps

My biggest pleasure of the morning turned out to be a loooooong conversation with someone I’d met a couple of years ago at the same market, a lovely lady called Lisa. We talked about children and divorce and men and work and didn’t realise that time was even passing. Thanks for the coffee and the chat, Lisa, hope to see you when you’re next in the southern suburbs :)

 

sometimes my tongue bleeds when I have to bite it too hard…

Two weeks ago a woman at my regular craft market ordered two sets of pillowcases from me, with a particular placement of leaves in a particular colour. She drew the design in my notebook and also wrote down her first name and cell number.

Leaves 4

A few days later, when it was leaf-printing time, I looked at her sketch and realised she’d sketched 3 leaves on one side and 2 on the other, which didn’t correspond with what she’d said she wanted. So I sent her an sms. No reply. Two days later, another sms. Still no reply. Tried calling, left voicemail, no response. I received no failed-sms message either. She hadn’t given me her surname so I also couldn’t look up her landline in the phone directory.

I figured that, if I’d gone ahead and printed three leaves, the chances are she would only have wanted two, and vice versa. So when she arrived to collect her pillow cases, I explained. She instantly became really really angry and starting yelling about “already having confirmed the order” and clearly I made a mistake with her cell number. Well. I do not like being shouted at and never ever treat anybody that way myself, so I expect civility from others in return – or at the very least not a raised voice. I showed her the page in the notebook where she had done her stupid drawing and scribbled a cell number that bore little relation to the correct one (as it turned out), gave her a long stony look and then bit down really really hard on my tongue…  She stomped off, with my strong wish in hot pursuit that her jeans would suddenly split open at the back.

[hashtag: customer_not_always_right!]

by the skin of my teeth

How I do things. Don’t seem to be able to change. This calendar on the wall to the left of my desk freaks me out every time I look at it and yet…I’m still nowhere close to reaching the production targets I’d set for myself. And as you can see, December is about to hit me like a wrecking ball. (If I looked like Miley Cyrus, I probably wouldn’t mind so much.)

calendar

Anyway, right now I’m doing the best I can with what I’ve got – the last few weeks have brought some very unpleasant personal challenges, but the worst of them appears to be over so I can get focused again. Did you hear that, universe????? Good. Now please ignore me until the other side of December. Thank you in advance.

Sales. No sales.

It happens. You can be right out there with your fabulous product that usually sells pretty damn well at the same/and other markets you’ve been attending regularly, that attracts new customers via facebook and word-of-mouth, and that gets some customers coming back for more – and you can still have a trading day with NO SALES.

It happened to me on Sunday, the last of four days in a busy up-market shopping centre in Claremont, with a nice steady amount of foot traffic. My hair was straight, I had the make-up on, I did the market dance, and all the signs were good. But – whaddaya know, my palm remained uncrossed with silver.

sad

A few years ago, this would have been disheartening enough to make me rethink my purpose in life. Or at least to crack open a bottle of cheap wine and knock myself out for the night. Okay, no, not wine – chocolate. I would have crawled into bed with a slab of chocolate and felt pathetic. And then, after the chocolate, pathetic and sick.

A friend asked me how the day had gone. I told him, No sales. His reply: I’m so sorry, that must be horribly demotivating. And that comment annoyed the hell out of me. I know he meant well, and was caring enough to ask in the first place, but you know what? Sometimes a trading day isn’t about direct sales. It’s about networking with other traders, forging working relationships, meeting potential new customers, showcasing your products and ideas, listening to the kinds of things people say they are looking for so you can think about tweaking a few things if necessary. It’s invaluable time and energy spent on improving your business.

Over the four days, I actually had very good sales, five new orders, advice about how to improve a design for something I’ve been stuck with for months, and access to amazing hand-made food stalls! I didn’t feel demotivated at all. I’m not saying cash in hand isn’t very cool (everyone dreams of going home with a bag full of bucks), but if you’re in this for the long-term, you have to accept that it isn’t always going to happen that way. And look for the silver linings. And try and turn them into gold.

Dear foreign tourists

Welcome to South Africa. Welkom. Wamkelekile. I’m getting to meet so many of you at the craft markets lately, and some of you have travelled really far to visit us – from Portugal, Spain, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, France, the UK, the US, Belgium, Sweden, Japan…  Thank you very much for coming, for liking what you see, and of course for spending your money here (not all of it goes towards firepools for the president’s personal estate or new Porsche Cayennes for all the top government officials)!

And, let’s be honest, you’re getting great value for your money, aren’t you? Our rand is a poor little sausage compared to your meaty euros and your hearty dollars – so then why why WHY would some of you treat some of us with disrespect?

lion

Why would a tourist from Portugal try to buy something from me at less than the marked price? He wanted a pair of rhino-printed pillow cases, which cost R195 (don’t bother trying to convert that into your currency – believe me, it’s a very reasonable price for a top-quality, handmade, original item). He said, I only have R130 on me – here you go. As it happened, I’d gone to the loo and Rob was holding the fort at the time. He said, It’s R195. If you haven’t got the money, you can’t have it. “But it’s for my wife, she really wants it.” Then your wife must come and buy it. “Okay, okay, what’s your best price?” For you – R250.  Now please leave.  [He did, but came back sheepishly 30 minutes later with the right amount].

Why would an Asian tourist at the Kirstenbosch market pick up a hat that was already on sale and scream Cheaper??? Cheaper??? in my face?  Any cheaper and I’d have to pay him to buy it.

A German couple recently wanted me to make them a huge bedspread with screenprinted designs and very specific colours, in just three days (they were going home for Christmas), and also to deliver it to them at their (second) house in the countryside. I worked out that I could manage it, at a real push, and quoted R1,700 (that’s 115 euros). Apparently it was much too much, and they huffed off. Rob suggested I should maybe have considered doing it for less – since, you know, income is useful for buying food and petrol – so he got this answer: No f**king way. If people don’t want to pay a fair price for something special, then they can’t have it. Or not from me, anyway. I would have resented every second I spent making that bedspread – so totally not worth it!

proudly-sa

Is this common behaviour? Do some people think that haggling is the way things are done at craft markets in Africa? Or that, because they’re not in a fancy shop in a fancy mall, they can get something very special very cheaply? Because it’s not, and they can’t. I know many traders (who also make their stock by hand), and they have similar stories to tell – but the bottom line is that it’s insulting.

Not one single South African customer has EVER asked me for a discount. I do give discounts to fellow crafters, and if I really like someone and they buy more than one item from me, I am happy to reduce the price, unasked. I once offered a discount to a young woman at a market in Tulbagh who bought a hat for herself and one for her friend, and she turned it down – she said she knew how long it takes to crochet, and she wanted to pay the full price. Now that’s classy.

Right. Let me get back to work. I have three markets on this weekend (tomorrow is a public holiday here), and a four-day gift fair next week to prepare for. I’m looking forward to selling to LOVELY new and returning customers, wherever in the world they are from :)

 

Day 11

Last day of Festival today.

This was my view of dawn breaking over Grahamstown this morning from the veranda with my first cup of coffee.

dawn 1

I was approached by a sweet young man called Brent earlier in the week; he’d seen my fish hats and wondered if I could make a seal beanie for a good friend of his in Cape Town. I said I’d have a bash, and we were both quite pleased with the result:

The Village Green closed at 3pm and we were packed up and home by 4.30pm, rather tired and achy but overall very chuffed with sales up by almost 50% from last year :-)

A short holiday may be on the cards….