Alternative Holiday Sales

Alternative Holiday Sales

There are many retail shows based around the holiday season that artists can enter to sell their work. I have noticed some ideas lately for trying out different types of venues or making your own venue to sell during the holiday season. These ideas may take more work on your part but could provide good alternatives for more sales.

marketplace mondays


One idea is to gather a group of artists and rent a venue such as a grange hall or even a church basement to set up a small artist run show. Running a retail show takes a lot of preparation and you will need all of the artist participants to help run and promote the show. Start early on your planning and logistical details to avoid “rushing around with your head cut off” just before the show. Invite artists whose work is all compatible but those who are not selling the same products. Think about innovative ways to advertise without spending too much money. The cost for the show will be split up between the artists and those guidelines should be set up in advance so there are no surprises. Once you get this type of show up and running, it is much simpler to continue it at the same time each year.

Another way to sell your work is to have a “pop up gallery show”. This will work for an artist that has enough work to fill an entire gallery space. Since the slow down in the economy, there are numerous empty retail spaces available for lease or rent. Many have been on the market for a long time and landlords might be more likely to do a short-term rental for 4-6 weeks. This will take a lot of research to make sure that the location is appropriate. The old adage for retail “Location, location, location” is true. Look for an open spot in a shopping area that is busy with customers already. Talk to the neighboring store owners to find out about special events that are held around the holiday season. Take advantage of those type of events to promote your “pop up gallery”. Make sure to read the lease/rental agreement thoroughly and check that you are following all city regulations in regards to licensing, taxes and any specific business rules. You would also need to staff the gallery and depending on your intended selling hours, you might need to hire assistants.

If the “pop up gallery” idea seems a bit too scary, consider asking a restaurant about using their window or wall space to hang your work. These types of arrangements are usually done on a consignment basis and you should have a written agreement before hanging your work. You could also consider just putting a display of your work in an empty store window with your contact information so that customers could call you directly.

Other possibilities are joining with a group of artists to have a studio tour before the holidays, having a “private show” for invited customers only or doing a “trunk show” at a gallery or store. Again, advance planning is a must. I hope that some of these ideas will get you started thinking about alternative ways to sell your work. They don’t necessarily need to be around the holidays but taking advantage of the “buying season” will improve your overall sales.

I will be taking a short break from Marketplace Mondays until after the new year. I would love to hear if you have any specific questions about your art business so that I can address these issues in future posts. Please leave a comment with your requests and thanks for reading!


10 thoughts on “Alternative Holiday Sales

  1. I think that, after consulting with other artists, there is no sales to speak of anymore. I have put my prices higher because I find that low prices mean nothing. They can pick wall hangings up at Wal Mart for almost nothing, and they don’t know the difference. Maybe that is just my town, but it is a fact. A lot of artists have quit working.

    1. Judy – the Walmart mentality is rampant everywhere. I just keep trying to educate people and there are a set of people that specifically look for handcrafted in the US. You just have to find them 🙂

  2. It’s a shame, but many craftspeople in the UK are saying that sales are too low. I think Judy has a good point – some shops do sell cheap “handmade” goods (usually imported from countries that pay workers poorly) and many customers base their price expectation on the low shop price.

    1. It is really hard to compete against imported items but education is the main factor I think. Educating your customers about how a product is made and it’s “story” helps. It’s a hard time to be selling hand made but it’s never been easy.

  3. It doesn’t help that even the online places like etsy are the same, Lyn, full of Chinese mass produced stuff passed off as ‘handmade’.
    I don’t know what the regulations are like in other places, but in the UK you need all kinds of licences and public liability insurance for selling/dealing with the public, it would make anything temporary not worthwhile. It’s such a shame because they sound like great ideas and could kick start a business.

    1. I agree Zed. The so called hand made market needs a bit more policing online. But I’m sure that won’t happen. Different cities have different regulations here too. So it does make it difficult to use some of these ideas in some places. But hopefully it will help people to start thinking of different ways to sell their work instead of relying on the same shows every year.

  4. I just keep telling myself that I am not competing with Wal Mart. I can’t so I don’t try.
    It is sad that hand made by the artist sites let mas made in a third world county get in . Unfortunately some of these Co ops seem to be just fronts for poorly paid and treated groups of people. They have learned to call them co ops and such to make them sound like you are helping when you are just contributing to more exploitation.

  5. Hi! Ruth! Can definitely attest to the workability of your suggestions, because I tried them all over the years, with the exception of Etsy. Even from the beginning, I did not feel Etsy as a good fit for my work. But, this is my personal choice and opinion. What works best is education, quality, uniqueness, meaning and commitment for the long haul. In the area where I live, there is currently a revival for handcrafted and locally made work and products. Maybe not enough to beat Walmart yet, but with time and knowledge of local taste, we can keep chipping away at their homogenising throw away consumerism influence. We are the medium and the message!

    1. Thanks – I’m glad to hear that my suggestions would work. I do think education of the consumer is the key. Glad your area is having a good resurgence of hand made. Must be all that education you’re doing 🙂

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