I spent today with Rondo, one of my needlepoint sales reps. I first met Ron Needle Nicely's first winter in Vero Beach. It was also his first year as a needlework rep so we have lots to chat about. Spent from 9am to 3pm looking at photos of needlepoint canvases, deciding which ones to order. I time-date the delivery so the canvases arrive the end of Jan-beginning of February when "they're here"--the snowbirds, that is. I usually meet with Ron in September, but this year I waited because the pain of what a terrible season last winter was lingered. And lingered. However, with painted canvases, you can't order them today and expect them to arrive tomorrow. The designers need time to do the painting or have the painting done. In these tough economic times, designers can no longer afford to stock much inventory so you have to allow for that when placing an order.
I met with Priscilla, my other sales rep, the week before Thanksgiving for an afternoon. This time allows us to catch up on information about mutual friends and in general what's going on in the industry. Like, what do we think is going on at JCA (Ron was their rep for 30 years, until last year), what shops have closed, where are there new shops, etc.
One might ask, if there are markets, why are there sales reps? Markets contain so many designers and companies that it is impossible to spend quality time at each booth. When I go to market, my first day is spent collecting price lists, looking at displayed canvases and saying hello to people. I've been in this industry for over 35 years, so I know a lot of people and I'm chatty!! I cover the entire show, but only take price lists from companies I want to order from, either at the market or in the future. My philosophy is that I don't want to carry paper I never intend to look at. And, why take someone's paper they paid good money for if you're just going to toss it?
The second day I start placing orders. And taking the time to chat with the designers who have reps. They have new designs that the rep didn't have, so now is the time to order them, knowing they will need to be painted and will arrive later than previous orders.
Markets are wonderful in that they allow you to get the mood of an industry. But they are expensive. I doubt that I will be going to the Phoenix market in January because of its cost. My plane ticket is free because of frequent flier miles, but my food and lodging aren't. It's the season in Phoenix so the hotel rooms are $150 to $250 a night. Yeow! Sometimes I take the redeye home so I don't have to pay for that last night's room. I look on the meals as a treat since Vero is such a small town. At market I look for Chinese and other cuisines I can't find in Vero. And I refuse to go cheap because I can do that at home (and too often do). I want to experience the market, whether it's lunch at Coronado or dinner on the Queen Mary in Long Beach. And usually a group of us will get together for some quality time with some good catching up along with the food.
But you can never forget that you're committing money. One year I took a class with Shay Pendray that used Splendor. At 10am after the class, I went directly to Rainbow Gallery and ordered the entire line of Splendor, I was so taken with it. That night I didn't sleep a wink. I had committed to over $2200 for the Splendor. Would I be able to pay for it? Scary thought.
So as a shopowner you always are looking for a Splendor moment. Maybe that happened today with Ron.
We'll see in February when the canvases start arriving.