help a convention newbie out.
March 24, 2012 10:29 AM   Subscribe

I'm setting up at my first comic book show, as a dealer selling toys. What do l need to know?

I'm not a professional dealer but ive been given the opportunity to have a table at a major con. I'm going to sell extra toys for me and some friends. How much money do i bring for change? Whats the best shelving for behind the booth? It's two days, so do i just leave the stuff there and cover it with a sheet? Is it worth getting one of those attachments for your phone to take credit cards?
posted by quibx to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
-the phone attachments run from $10 to free, so...yes.
-you are mainly going to need singles and fives (dont price in smaller amounts than dollar increments...if it gets busy, coins will only slow you down)
-def, def bring a will need to pee eventually and two sets of eyes are better than one for security.
-display racks can be expensive...look into rentals unless you plan on doing this a lot...peg boards/grid racks (the kind you put those long posts on for hanging items) are can usually clip or even duct tape them together and fold them into a zigzag (when viewed from above) so that they are free-standing without the need for additional (often heavy) supports. also the 'hanging posts' can do double duty...use one for hanging toys and two or more to make a 'shelf' for bigger boxed items. bring a big folding table with fabric/a big sign completely surrounding the front three sides all the way to the floor(!) (you can store multiples/back stock underneath) and folding chairs so you can sit.
-as for leaving stuff there, call the organizers first and see what security provisions they have (a locked 'cage' is another order of magnitude in display cost) will prob just be easier to bring everything back to the hotel room least for your first trip...don't invest more at any stage of a business than you are likely to make in that same stage!
posted by sexyrobot at 10:51 AM on March 24, 2012

also...def compare rates on the credit card readers...theres a lot of variation.
and maybe bring some sandbags to keep your grid racks from being knocked over (mainly to keep them from 'folding up' and becoming easier to knock over) (you can rent the canvas ones with handles from camera ahead and get them locally so you're not lugging them with you/back home)..
posted by sexyrobot at 10:56 AM on March 24, 2012

I use Square for a credit card reader (no monthly fee, low transaction fees) and it is AWESOME. I am so thankful I have it every time I do a fair. Paypal also has a phone cc reader now, I haven't used it though I am very active with paypal. I may get it for the future. I think you definitely want a cc reader. Just in the last year my percentage of cc sales have risen significantly.

What are your prices like? Don't price things at $11 or $16, etc. Because that means four $1 bills for every transaction if people pay cash. Price things in $5 increments if you can. Or $20 increments if your stuff is more expensive. Then think about change in numbers, not monetary value. 20 items at $15 dollars means you might need up to 20 $5 bills. I usually bring enough change to cover about 50-75% of my items (I've never needed that much but I like to think optimistic and assume I'm going to sell out).

Binder clips will be your new best friend, hit Office Depot or something and buy a bag of at least 50. You might also want to think about one of those $20 dollies. I got mine at Lowe's and it is a lifesaver. Especially if you think about taking stuff with you at night.

All the two-day shows I've done, I just leave everything up over-night. Obviously I take the cash box with me but I've never seen anyone tear down in the evening. Not even a sheet over their stuff.

Bring snacks. Small stuff, easy to eat a little at a time. You don't want your mouth full of sandwich or burrito when a customer walks up. Bring water, not sugary drinks, water.

I don't know about selling toys specifically but I've done a lot of shows if you have any other questions.
posted by magnetsphere at 11:40 AM on March 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

Be aware of the booths next to you, and try not to have your stock look like it's part of your neighbor's area. A situation like this tripped me up as a customer at one of DragonCon's dealer's rooms last year -- took down a sonic screwdriver to purchase, showed it to the guy who was not more than 2 feet away from it, and asked how much. He said he couldn't sell it to me but was sorely tempted to just take my money anyway, because apparently he had been getting questions like that about the next booth's stuff all day long.

sexyrobot's advice about bringing a friend can offset magnetsphere's suggestion to subsist on bite-sized snack food. Even if the friend isn't as knowledgeable about your inventory as you are, they can easily field sales for you while you're chowing down on your burrito. Be aware though, the food is one of the major vectors for the spread of the dreaded con cruds. You may think that the free pizza from the hospitality room might be a good deal, but how long has that pizza been sitting out at room temperature? If the con has local restaurants set up food carts, that may be a safer bet, but is likely to be pricey. Sending someone out of the con on a food run is usually the best bet.

That's what I can think of off the top of my head, so I asked my girlfriend who has more con experience than I do, and here's what she had to add:

Clear signage with simple information. If you can't fit it on a 4x6 card and have it clearly readable, it doesn't belong on your 8x10 signs. Make sure your merch and signs stay together. Don't discount anything till Sunday or Monday [depending on how long you stay] unless you intend to discount for cosplayers related to your merch [ie if an Ezio or Altair comes to your table and wants assassin's creed stuff, you may wanna discount the guy.

Take a buddy so you can make pee runs. Make absolute certain your buddy knows pricing and information. Take your own water, fountains are few and far between and while you can find water stations, they're almost as far spread as the fountains, I'd recommend taking more than you think you can drink.

Try to keep everything as simple as possible. Use whole numbers for pricing, and unless you're required to charge tax, don't. Keep a calculator. Take a ton of change, because guaranteed you will get some nut showing up at con opening time with a $100 bill and wanting to buy a $15 action figure. Make sure you have a receipt book. In keeping down con crud exposure even further, keep hand santizer with you. Especially since you're dealing with money. Be wary of people who want to invade your personal space. If you can keep your space to you on one side of a table and them on the other, it's better.

Take vitamin C starting the week before the con and the week after to boost immunity. If you want while you're there, Halls makes Vitamin C drops you can have as well. This will also cut down on developing con crud.

And make sure you get lots of sleep. As much as you might want to hang out till 2am, remember when you have to get up in the morning to set up again. Make sure you get at least six hours.

Write down everything you sell if you don't take a receipt book.
posted by radwolf76 at 1:45 PM on March 24, 2012 [1 favorite]

As a customer I say:
Bring business cards, or even little cards with your website info or some way that I can remember your booth and reach you later. I always look people up after shows to bookmark their sites, and if you don't have an easy thing I can grab to remember your name/booth, I won't remember to look you up.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:23 PM on March 24, 2012 [2 favorites]

nthing the water, the small snax (power/cliff/granola bars), fruit like apples or grapes that aren't too messy and are easy to take bites of, vitamin C (I like Emergen-C or Airborne). Convention center food is almost invariably gross and/or hideously expensive. Wide tape (like duct or packing) is super handy. Sharpies, paper, binder clips also.

Yes, take a buddy. If you can't, befriend your neighbors and trade table-watching duties.

I'd also recommend bringing layers to wear. T-shirt, something long-sleeved, hoodie or sweater/sweatshirt. I find that the temperature varies enormously over the course of a day. Mornings can be freezing as most convention/hotels crank up the AC in prep for a lot of bodies. It's miserable to be freezing or sweltering and to be stuck behind the table.

Have fun! Try to get out from behind the table and walk around and enjoy the con.
posted by mon-ma-tron at 8:54 PM on March 24, 2012

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