The POOL tradeshow in Vegas is a part of MAGIC which takes over Las Vegas twice a year. This was my first time doing it as well as my first foray into wholesale. Previously, I have personally sold all my jewelry at indie craft shows and markets, trunkshows and online. My main reason for going wholesale is coming to terms with how difficult it is to do everything myself. I’m a one-woman show from designing, making, marketing, photographing, web, booth design, and retailing. I also have a demanding four year old. Or maybe just a four year old since demanding seems to be par for the course. I wanted a way to take my business to the next level but relieve myself from working and traveling every single weekend from April to December.
I chose POOL because it is for emerging brands. They also had an option to do cash and carry which is substantially less of an investment than getting a full booth. Cash and carry allows customers to actually purchase something which is not possible anywhere else in MAGIC. In cash and carry you get a 6 foot table. I choose this option.
To say that I learned a lot doesn’t even come close. In no way could I have gotten all this information from a class. Here are some of the things I took from my experience:
1. POOL is for emerging brands but that also meant an overall lower product price point. My jewelry is made mostly from precious metals and was a higher price point than the average POOL boutique owner was looking for.
2. Emerging also translated to edgier. A lot of the other jewelry designers I saw had an edgier more urban style. My style is more refined and classic, again not what trend boutiques were looking for.
3. I spend an enormous amount of time on my retail side nailing my booth and its aesthetic. One of the reasons I get customers into my booth is due to my booth looking like you stepped into a boutique. This was not necessary at POOL. In fact, it seemed to me that the more display I had on my table the less people came to look at my product. I shifted my display the third day and saw more people looking when it had less display. The take away from this would be less is more. Something simple and modern and let your product shine. Don’t worry about setting your aesthetic through your display.
4. Lighting seemed important. My lovely friend Michelle Keller of Union Studio Metals was smart enough to run to Walmart and snag some overhead lighting on her jewelry. I think it made a difference. The lighting was bland and fluorescent everywhere else and it seemed to wash out the jewelry and it didn’t help on the shiny metallic reflection so many pieces had. Lighting is key for jewelry, so next time I’ll be getting some small lights.
5. Stay close. We stayed at MGM Grand which is “close” in Vegas speak but since one Vegas block is like 20 regular city blocks lugging my carry-on from Mandalay to MGM Grand was about 20 minutes in a blow dryer, aka Vegas in August. Mandalay is nice albeit a bit more expensive and the Luxor is cheaper albeit a little shabbier. Also, when you’re farther away you spend a fortune on cab rides. MGM also weirded me out because I saw a lot of children. And when I say children I mean babies. We saw a two month old being carried through the casino. There’s something there that just doesn’t sit right with me, maybe it’s the drunken bachelor parties, or the bikini clad teenyboppers or the smoke-filled dazed gamblers. Either way I just can’t stomach small children in a behemoth casino. MGM’s vibe was all-around a lot younger and not too classy.
6. Walk the other shows. Since I had no one working with me I wasn’t able to walk Capsule, Agenda, MAGIC, The Collection etc. I did get a brief minute to sprint through Project Womens which I thought looked like a better fit for me price-wise, although those brands are far more established. I think you can set up tours where you go just so you can see what it’s like, I probably should have done that.
7. China. Everything is made in China, and India. In POOL it didn’t seem that anyone even cared that I made every single piece of jewelry. In fact, I’d say they probably looked at me like I was cray cray. I even had a sign that said “Handcrafted in America”. To me that is important, but perhaps to buyers in POOL it wasn’t so important. Maybe that goes back to price point, you can’t sell $7 jewelry if you made it. I’m not sure, still wrapping my head around this one, but I definitely need to be in a tradeshow where boutiques are looking for that and believe it’s important.
8. Recycled materials. This goes with the above China issue. No one cared. It wasn’t important to the buyers that swung by my boutique. Again my hunch is that goes back to the right buyers with the right boutiques.
In all it was an eye-opening experience. The above isn’t across the board, I did get some orders and I’m excited to see how it turns out in their boutiques, but aside from those that I got orders from the majority of buyers seemed to fit in with trend boutiques of a lower retail price-point than what I offer. I’m not sure what I’m doing about February, we shall see how it turns out in the next few months from handing out over 500 business cards.