Sunday, 30 October 2011

Day four on the market stall: the final chapter?

After the previous market back on the 15th Oct, things were looking hopeful. I had made a profit and thought that if I could just tighten up on a few things, the future looked good. However, this week it was a little more sobering. Bottom line: nothing sold.

So, where to go from here? It would be pointless and futile for me to try and say it was a great day just to 'big up' my own success. Rather, I think today's blog is a reflective one. Although it was frustrating, I'm going to take away the positives with me and decide on the direction and focus of what the market is all about. So what happened?

Firstly, it was school half-term and I feel that this had some part to play. There didn't seem to be the normal amount of shoppers in Archway.

The stall looked okay, but feel in places it was a bit bare and could be improved. I was hoping to get some wallets for loose prints but these weren't available in time to be used. I'm inclined to spread a few mounted pictures out on the table to be clearly seen. I was also without my colleague alongside me, who also sells his own prints and wasn't able to make it. This might have made our combined stock look more enticing and gave us a greater presence. Here's a picture from the day...

Market stall - 29th October 2011
I had a go at running a slideshow on the laptop, but it was difficult to see the screen in the open daylight, so I abandoned it. Might try another time if the conditions are right. I  then tried using some twine and weights to display a few prints at the back of the stall, but the wind was too strong and the pegs I used were far too small to withstand it. So I had to take them down.

During the morning I spent some time cataloging my stock, so that any sales I could easily record from a catalog number. While this is important, this may have proved to be too much of a distraction. Sometimes, interaction with passers-by at the stall can help break a potential sale, or at least add some polite engagement.

Also, the box I have, with mounted pictures in, still isn't very substantial, with only a few dozen mounted. I need to really step up and get more prints mounted quickly. I might need to change the way I mount the pictures, perhaps just sticking the prints directly onto mount board rather than the conventional window cut mount, which is quite time-consuming. I might also consider using a foam board backing. I did also find this useful guide on YouTube to cutting a mount.
I added some laminated pricing and signage, which helped a bit, but I still feel that the canvas paintings are not selling themselves well enough. One or two people took business cards and inquired about the service, and this may yet yield something. I'll have to wait and see.

There are still question marks in my mind about whether Archway Market is the right place for selling photo prints. I'm not under any obligation to stay, which is ok. But I will need to think carefully about what I want to do going into the new year. There is also talk of a more 'seasonal' upcoming market and so this might be a good opportunity, perhaps bring more 'wintry' themes to sell. For now I'm going to continue but I cannot afford to continue to take losses, unless I simply absorb it and use the stall as a spring board to do other things, notably the made-to-order canvas painting.

Elsewhere, on a positive note, this week was a great escape for us as we went to Edinburgh for a few days and I recommend anyone who hasn't been there to go and visit. Got some fantastic shots from in and around the city. I hope to push them to Flickr some time very soon and will write a post on the subject.

Monday, 17 October 2011

Day three on the market stall: things can only get better

After my disappointment on day 2, now 3 weeks ago, I was afraid that this might be my last post. I now feel a bit more revitalized and I'm happy to say that it is not. The most important thing was that I was able to make a profit, and that's what ultimately keeps me going, otherwise what's the point. Thankfully the weather was ideal - sunny, if slightly chilly. My colleague and I also ended up having separate stalls (for a small supplement on the rent) and fortunately we had enough stock with us that the stalls didn't look bare. This was the first time that I had a full stall in my right and it was the first real measure of selling my pictures in a properly organized and dedicated space.

Here's a pic from Saturday:

Anyway, things were a little slow to get going but by the afternoon I had quite a bit of interest. Lots of business cards taken. I also included a card with all my sold items - definitely a good idea.

I've found that loose, un-mounted prints are actually selling well. People seem to like rifling through the mounted prints that I had boxed too. It's akin to that feel if going through album sleeves I think. My current concern is how best to package them, though, (wallets, for example) and also my base price that I'm prepared to ask.

I still think the look of the stall needs some work. A couple  of thoughts here:
  • A backdrop banner, but I'm lacking a proper Identity at the moment, so...
  • Develop the brand
  • Pricing sheets and offers need to be laminated
  • Better use of the space and general layout, still feels a bit bare
  • Keep a check on damaged frames
  • Keep a good track of items sold and how much for
  • Have a few framed presentation pieces, but keep the main focus on the mounted and loose prints
The other important consideration I need to make is to how the prints balance with my Canvas Portaits, available to order online, but how do I market them at the stall? I still don't think it's working enough for me as a 'shop front'. It's my ambition that ultimately the canvas service will take over from the stall, but this at least gets me recognized locally.

With regard to subject matter, the popular prints I can, of course, get re-printed, but I also need to keep plotting my next shoot. I can harvest what I can from existing archives, but I will need to replenish with new images. I still think that my stock is quite light, but as I get more printed I will need to think about topics/themes and how I might classify them. Maybe: Travel; Local; Music; Abstract; Landscapes and so on. I need to explore the local area a bit more. People find that interesting. The Emirates is close by as well as other famous landmarks like Highgate Cemetery. Overt time I think I'll get a better feel for what people want.

I still think about other stall locations away from Archway, but would need to do more research or investigation on fees and rates. The top of Portobello market, perhaps? Still possibly too expensive for my turnover right now. Camden Market would be great but I think that's even further off financially.

Organization of time is also important. As this is still a weekend enterprise, I need to plan my weeks carefully - when I can do mounting or wrapping, when I can think about evening shoots, and the nights are now drawing in very quickly.

Finally, feel free to tweet/follow me @manchego_photo (I will periodically post my thoughts on all things photography) or add a comment below.

Well, the next stall is on the 29th October, and further afield there's a festival at the end of November, and I'll bet it starts getting really cold by then. Brrrrr...