Hey, Vendors - What's Your Sign?

I have a pet peeve when it comes to the vintage world...
It affects me when I am photographing a show.
It affects me when I am looking for a particular booth.
I see it affecting customers as they shop, and I wonder how many vendors / curators DON'T see it.

But then.... my pet peeve is something that ISN'T seen:
It's missing signage.

Sadly, the lack of a sign in a booth is a very common mistake.
At every show I attend (and that's a LOT), I see several booths without signage.
In photos shared on social media - by shows and even the vendors themselves! - I see it every day.
There have been times I'd love to have contacted the vendor who created such a lovely display, 
but I have no idea who it IS  - because they didn't make a sign with their name on it for their booth.

To quote Nancy Kerrigan, WHYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY???
Why on Earth would anyone go to all of the trouble of having a booth in a show
and then NOT put their name on a sign in that booth?!
It defies logic. 

Especially when there are more easy ways to create a sign than I can count.
There are difficult ways, too, and that's fine... just make one, for heavens' sake!
Put that baby on your booth wall, hang it from your pop up, stick it on the front of your cash stand!

Here are some incredibly amazing signs that I saw on my recent trip to 
where some of the best vendors / curators in the vintage biz show off their stuff.
Yes, there are still people there who didn't have signs....
but THIS is how the PROs do it: 
Though all of the signs above are neutral in color, they have incredible visual impact.
From scale and lighting, to unique materials and simple construction,
you NOTICE the name of the vendor/curator in the booth as soon as you look at it.

Lisa Souers gathered up all kinds of letters and mounted them to old boards.
Junk Hunks revived marquee letters and lit them with patio lights.
Farm Salvation and FOUND painted on old glass windows.
Storehouse Goods painted on a rusty old windmill part.
Home Sweet Home painted on simple chalkboard panels.
Atelier de Campagne had a scrap of metal laser-cut.
The signs in this image all have color in common, running the gamut of the rainbow
while also presenting the brand of the business in visual form. 
As individual as the people who made them, they speak before customers are even IN the booth.

The Urban Gardener simply painted her biz name over a thrifted framed painting.
American Country Charm ironed letters onto children's denim overalls.
Marigold Vintage used a children's chalkboard.
Apron Strings used a cabinet door. Unexpected Necessities used a headboard.
This Old House painted on old wood planks.
Tailfeathers used blocks painted with letters, topped with birds.

This is basic marketing, folks... just like biz cards and social media accounts,
you need signage in your booth at a show, and in a store. 
Help customers find & remember you!
Help show hosts, photographers, writers promote you through sharing!

So.... to recap, you can use these items to make a sign:
framed paintings . chalkboards . children's clothing items . cutout wood letters . old wood boards
headboards . cabinet doors . old windows . old window screens . an old windmill tail
laser-cut metal scraps . salvaged sign lettering . salvaged marquee letters . salvaged ANYTHING
fabric . paper . posterboard . cardboard . paint . stickers . felt pens . pencils . crayons

here's some of the signage I created for my past vintage business:
 small signs on the cash counter and on the register    .   a flag flying over the booth
 a headboard made into a sign, attached to the fence outside my barn where my shows were held
decals applied to canvas panels that created sides of the booth
a painted kitchen cabinet door that hung from the tent frame
It wasn't hard to make those signs, and I used them for years!

Do YOU have a clever, creative sign for your vintage business?
Share a photo of it on my facebook page!

Coming up next, more great ideas for vendors who have booths... 


Farm Chicks, a Dollhouse, and Branding

In another chapter of my life story, I was a vendor at vintage shows.
The largest and most well-known show that I participated in was the Farm Chicks
a show with hundreds of vendors held every June in Spokane, Washington...
and a fanatical customer base of thousands of people who'd come across country to shop the show!

I was a Farm Chicks show vendor from 2007 to 2011
and I filmed my six-episode video series there in 2007. 
But I've never been to the show as a SHOPPER... until this year!
It was amazing... it's always amazing! 
There are many reasons why it's called 'The Happiest Show on Earth'!
I loved seeing my friends who are still vendors/curators.
I found a few special things to bring home, and snapped a LOT of photos.

But before I share the beauty of it all,
I wanna' share the BIZNEZ of it all.

Because founder and proprietor Serena Thompson is a branding WHIZ
and I know you can learn a lot from her... 

Every year, Serena selects a theme for the show. This year, it was 'Home Sweet Home'.
The centerpiece of her theme was the imagery of a dollhouse... 
and you can read what it was that inspired her here on the Farm Chicks blog
Serena also selects a color palette - and it's repeated in all of the elements she uses.

For example - the logo and all marketing collateral:
From the postcards to the vendor & guest badges to the show map
and even a photo frame for guests to use on social media, it ALL coordinates.

At every show, the main entrance features a HUGE display that reflects the theme...
I'm gonna' be honest here and say that I expected some big boxes,
assembled and decorated to bring that dollhouse artwork to life.
But nooooooooo, Serena surprised me with her eyepopping creation of BAKERY BOXES!
Read this post on her Farm Chicks blog to find out what inspired her
On the bottom right, you can see the Farm Chicks booth in the entry atrium.
The backdrop of that booth echoes the 'cross stitch sampler' lettering,
and the tables are draped in pastel quilts as they await final merchandise placement.
All of this reflects the qualities of a 'Home Sweet Home' and a dollhouse.

Vendors like the girls at Marigold Vintage and Unexpected Necessities
get into the spirit of the theme, too,
 by incorporating it into their wardrobes, booth displays and products:

The logo merchandise is thoughtfully coordinated with the color scheme, 
and displayed on the quilt-topped tables in groupings prettied up with simple props:
a few pieces of pastel-painted furniture, bright pastel tissue paper, and more
bring the small-scale coffee mug, flat fabric tees and canvas tote bags to life.
The attention to detail here brings the logo to life in living color,
and tells exactly the story that Serena wanted to.
She does this EVERY show! (see more Farm Chicks Show photos here).

There's a huge staff of Farm Chicks and Farm Hunks that help out at the show, too...
hauling purchases out to customer's cars and straightening displays... all.day.long.
(and how hunky do those guys have to be to be okay with wearing PINK tees, huh?!)
I've always been impressed with the way Serena brands her show...
I even filmed one segment of my video series in the Farm Chicks booth in 2007,
and discussed branding with her and Teri Edwards, her biz partner at the time:

Like Serena says in the video, she views the show as one big product
that needs packaging to sell it... branding is IMPORTANT!
Whatever you do, Tell Your Own Story* - 
and tell it with everything visual that you use!
*I've been using this tagline since 2002. And I really mean it!

In my next post, 
I'll share photos of some of the details of successfully merchandised booths that I saw at the show,
and you can see how truly PRO vendors / curators do it!
Until then... 

Summer Switch-Up!

I'd like to revisit an archived post, to show you how making a fast, simple but large-scale change
can make an incredible impact in your retail displays for the summer season...
Come with me on a lil' trip into the past!

 I created displays for Columbia Winery in Washington state for six years. Here's the 'logo' wall made of faux tumbled marble tiles in the front entry of the shop, filled with spring merchandise.When it came time to install the new summer displays one year, we had a bit of a dilemma: The summer merchandise is very contemporary, and in colors of white, silver, and blues. With that warm-tone, old-world style tile mural, we had some serious clashing going on that did nothing at all for the product.

I needed a solution.

Enter two very large mirrors that I had on hand, purchased for decor at a previous Auction of Washington Wines Winemaker Dinner. I decided to use those mirrors to cover up the tile. (IKEA, $135. each). I had my design assistant Karen help me heft them up onto the table, then I wired them to the sidewalls. There was still some tile showing, so I hung a white drapery panel on the side. In front of that went one of the two driftwood trellises that I purchased last year as summer props. On the top, to camouflage about six inches of tile, I hung white shutters at an angle - very 'Tommy Bahama'. Other shutters went beneath the table to lighten up the shadowed area a bit.

The result?

It was shockingly different from the previous look, and got a LOT of positive comments!
The mirror not only reflected the natural light coming in the windowed front doors straight across from it,
but it also bounced light from the overhead trac fixtures right down onto the glass merchandise.

Here's a shot of the entire main display, including the forward area with wine feature.
The tables are made from driftwood, and are for sale. Those driftwood trellises weren't for sale. The white chair was mine, and also was not for sale, just a prop. (That I fished out of a dumpster - really!)

It took maybe half an hour to install the mirrors, curtain, shutters, and props for that front display.
  Well worth it, wouldn't you say?

Now, think about what you might be able to do in your retail space....
with some old doors, or a section of cedar fencing, or maybe even salvaged rusty corrugated tin roofing.
The possibilities are endless, 
and the impact of a big change could be just what you need for the summer season.

Now.....where are my sunglasses? I'm heading for the beach......

this content originally appeared here on DWK visual merchandising blog in 2007. photos mine, copyright reserved. 

Containing Community & Commerce

I love watching the changing face of retail...
over my 45 years of involvement with the industry, 
I've seen many 're-inventions' and new concepts rolled out.
Some fail, some succeed.
But I am always wondering 'What's NEXT?' for retail.

I recently had the chance to see a concept that has every reason
to become a successful way to create shopping experiences all over the globe...
is probably one of the most unique retail spaces I've seen.
Located on Fremont Street, just a few blocks away from a neon-lit tourist mecca of casinos,
 it's an open-air shopping center and entertainment venue  
that was built in 2013 from 43 re-purposed shipping containers
and 41 locally manufactured Xtreme cubes to create individual retail spaces. 

Situated on three levels,
the center offers wide open spaces along with retail and food service space:

The shops range from boutiques offering a variety of apparel, jewelry and accessories 
to art galleries, home d├ęcor and fixtures, 
and a barbershop housed in a retired boxcar and caboose. 

The park also includes restaurants and bars with indoor and outdoor seating, 
a park and raised stage for entertainment, and spots for a quick treat - 
including cupcakes, an old-fashioned candy shop, a gourmet popcorn store, and more.
In all, there are 39 retailers located within the complex.
At first glance, it's a cool industrial vibe.
On second thought, it's a brilliant way to re-purpose shipping containers - 
which too often simply rust away to nothing in salvage yards.

I wonder how many of these centers of commerce and community
could be created in areas around the globe, in virtually any economic setting,
to offer cost-effective venues for merchants, artisans, growers and makers? 
Include service providers - hair, nails, tanning, massage, urgent care, pet grooming - 
and you've another group of small businesses to serve.

We're in the midst of National Small Business Week
and I can imagine that this creative and economical kind of structure
could have a far-reaching effect on small businesses in communities everywhere.
What are your thoughts?
Would YOU embrace this in your community? Would YOU rent space like this?

information for this post was gathered from this source