Huge thanks to all of the vendors who took the time to reply to our request for feedback regarding a summer evening market series.
We have scheduled dates for these events and plan to go ahead as an experiment, tweaking details as needed. The planned dates are:
Thursday, July 17th
Thursday, August 21st
Thursday, September 18th
We have also added a holiday evening market on Thursday, November 27th, in addition to our daytime holiday market on November 15th.
A full schedule for the remainder of 2014, along with pertinent dates such as vendor calls and payment deadlines can be found on the Vendor Schedule page.
We will be using only the Ballroom for these evening events, so we will be limited to roughly 20 – 30 vendors. Because we are booking only one room, we will not be charging an admission for the evening markets. Vendor tables fees will reflect this, with prices at $45 for a 3ft spot (half of a shared 6ft table), or $90 for a 6ft spot. There will also be a couple of 4ft tables available for $60. All fees will include tax and Paypal fees.
A number of vendors brought up specific issues/questions and we’ve decided to address those here, both to save time and because it helps if everyone knows the parameters that we’re working within.
Friday versus Thursday
A few vendors suggested running the markets on Fridays, when foot traffic in the area is higher. Unfortunately, the pricing structure for Fridays (a coveted day on most venue calendars) is double what we’re paying for a Thursday night. (Which is, in turn, almost double what we’re paying for a daytime event, thus the higher table prices.) So unless vendors want to pay in the range of $150 – $200 for a table, Fridays are out.
Run the event starting earlier/run the event later
Our scheduled time in the space starts at 5pm, so suggestions to start the event earlier – to catch people on their way home – would not work unless we were willing to also rent the space for the full day. Obviously, this is not an option financially. We also want to ensure that vendors who work full-time jobs have a chance to take part – starting earlier would prevent them from doing so.
While we are aware that traditional “night markets” tend to run later into the evening, we want to ensure that vendors who have to work the next day, have kids to worry about, or who have to drive a fair distance to get home are not overly inconvenienced.
What we’ve come up with is official hours of 7pm – 11pm, but vendors who wish to stay until midnight, especially if the event is still busy, will have the option of doing so. We know this potentially means some people will be packing up while others are still selling, but this seems like the fairest way to accommodate everyone.
Set up vendors on the sidewalk outside the hotel
I’ve looked into this and while it’s oddly a possibility (assuming the sidewalks are wide enough), the paperwork to have vendors on the sidewalk is mind-boggling. And completing it is no guarantee a permit will be issued. In addition, the fee for sidewalk vendors is $250 each. So, while it’s a nice idea – no sidewalk vendors.
Put big signs on the sidewalk to attract walk-by traffic
Back into Toronto’s byzantine bylaws again – it is actually illegal for me to put a sign – of any size – on the sidewalk. The Gladstone’s sandwich board sign is legal because they are the main business at that address. We have a small sign that we put out, decorated with balloons, usually on the Gladstone steps, but I’d prefer not to risk the fines that come with an illegal A-frame. Or to try and transport the thing without a car. (For the curious – ALL of those condo signs you see littering downtown street corners are placed illegally. I encourage you to deface them or at least kick them over.)
Not the right demographic for my stuff
To tell you the truth, I’ve been running TIAM for a year now, and I still don’t know what our demographic actually is. In fact, it’s different from market to market, and the people who show up regularly are not the people we marketed to/expected when we started this thing.
Our event listings get reposted on many sites throughout the city and attract many people besides the “cool, hip, artsy” folks we market to. (We finally figured out that a large number of older Chinese customers were showing up because someone at Sing Tao newspaper was translating and publishing our event listings in the paper and online.) So, honestly, while we can take a wild guess at what the customer demographic will be for each event, it’s always a surprise.
Vendors, of course, must make their own decisions as to whether they feel this is the right event for them, based on price, schedule, travel time, etc. But if you have some magic insight into what type of customers will be coming and why, and what they’re interested in buying, I will buy you dinner and you can enlighten me.
For this series, we will be reverting to our original mandate of not booking the same vendors two months in a row. For instance, vendors accepted for July may apply for August, but will go to the bottom of the list for selection. This will not apply to niche markets, so fashion vendors (jewellery, clothing, accessories) who take part in September may apply to vend at the October fashion market with no restrictions.
Various suggestions/concerns about marketing and promotion
We do as much promotion of our events as we are physically/financially able. Print advertising is not within our budget (I was recently quoted a price of $2650 for 1/8 of a page in a local entertainment weekly), and while we send press releases to a variety of media outlets (print, TV, web) for our niche markets, there is usually little interest. Sorry folks, but craft fairs of this scale, even if you paint it up with keywords such as art, shopping local, and supporting the community, aren’t really newsworthy to mainstream media. I wish it wasn’t so, but unless we grow to the scope of OOAK, there will likely never be much media interest.
Which is why it’s so important for vendors to help promote the event to their social media circles. This will continue to be a contractual obligation on the part of vendors for all events that we do.
Did you know that other than one night at OOAK, one tiny market at the Beaver Cafe, and a couple of nights at the Vendor Queens pop-up, there were no evening markets last holiday season? We think this is a niche that could be filled because weekends in the month or so leading up to Christmas are crazy busy. Back in olden times when I was a crafter, there was an annual evening holiday market that was always packed. So let’s try it.
In addition to our full-size early holiday market on November 15th, we’ll be offering a Ballroom-only evening market on November 27th.
Yeah, we’re not calling it a night market, and we’re not in love with “evening market” because that sounds kind of snooty, so we’re still batting around names. We’ll come up with something catchy. Holler if you think you’ve got a cool name for the series – that fits on a postcard.
If I’ve missed anything, please leave a comment below and I will address it here so there’s a record everyone can reference.