Pros and Cons of Cons

On my very first sale at my very first Convention, the customer paid with a 50 (he did want change).  But I thought it was a great harbinger for the sales for the rest of the con – I was wrong.  I only ended up making $60 gross for the whole event. After food, gas etc (I did stay at a friends’ place, so at least I wasn’t out lodging) it was definitely a loss.  It certainly wasn’t the fault of the convention – from my perspective it was well run and attended – just not a big retail audience that was looking for my product.  At least I got the intangible benefit of “spreading the word” – whatever that’s worth.

In this post I’ll recap the costs of the cons/fairs I’ve attended or are planning on going to.

  • GASPCON15 – this is the Gaming Association of SW Pennsylvania’s big gaming convention.  Mainly a game-playing event, they did have a dedicated vendor and game-testing room.  It was only $50 for a typical 10×10 foot space, so that was not a big deal.  But, it seemed most of the attendees were there for gaming, not shopping.  It was well run, so I can’t fault the con planners – it was just not the right venue for me.  I may go back next year, though, if I have my 2x and 3x deckers available for sale. People seemed really interested in the larger versions.
  • Chicago Toy and Fair Week – this was actually two events.  You can read my recap of them here, here and here. We made so many connections and learned so much that it’s difficult to quantify this on a profit and loss basis.  But, just to lay out the numbers, it was $2,250 for two conference registrations (could have probably done just one in retrospect), $500 registration for the public fair, $600 for hotel, $400 in gas, meals and incidentals.  We grossed about $250 in sales and I gave away another $100 worth of product in samples.  So, another monetary loss, but hopefully a win in terms on connections and marketing (boy I’m starting to get depressed writing this!)
  • Local holiday gift market – We’ll be attending the Grant’s Mercantile Holiday Market around our area Dec 4-5. The registration is again $50 – I live locally and gas is negligible, so we only have to sell 10 Card Caddies to make it worth it – hope it pans out!
  • New York Toy Fair – February 13-16 in NYC.  In the “Launch Pad” area,  registration is $1,950 for non-members of the Toy Industry of America (I can join TIA for I think  another $1,000, then the registration is only $1,350). It’s not clear where the Launch Pad is, but I can’t find it on the main map they have online now.  You can also do a first-year combo of $3,400 which gets you a standard 10×10 booth in the main space and your first year membership in TIA.   Seems like the extra grand might be worth it in order to be with the other “real” businesses – just like real estate, it’s location, location, location.  Anyway, its four days in NYC, so that’s at least another $2k in lodging, food (and booze). So, we’ll see if we make it there.  Got to decide by Dec 4th, though.

In any event, there’s no substitute for showing your product live and in person to either customers or others higher up the product chain – it’s just a matter of how much time and money you have to do it.

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