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  #1  
Old 11-11-2021, 09:47 AM
Keysguy Keysguy is online now
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Good day all.

I'm in charge of soliciting and contracting vendors for the New Hampshire OS annual show and sale which is typically the largest in New England. Historically we've had 8-10 plant vendors of which as many as 4 have been International. Pretty good for the dead of a New England winter when we were doing our show in mid February.

The weather has caused us a fair amount of grief over the years between blizzards and negative degree F days so the Society is moving to new dates on the last weekend of March. This is no guaranty we won't get buried in snow but with the shifting climate the probability is certainly lessened and temperatures will definitely be more temperate and agreeable even if it does snow.

We have a great venue at the Marriott Courtyard in Nashua, the second largest city in the state and right off the highway 5 miles from the Massachusetts border and an hour from Boston. We have almost 10,000 square feet of floor space at our disposal. We do a reasonable job at promoting the show and have even been featured on the state's nightly news magazine TV show in past years just prior to the show.

I have recently released the vendor invitations for the March 2022 show. I am soliciting nearly 30 vendors. Response thus far has been spotty and that's not terribly unusual as people are busy and tend to procrastinate about these things but I'm still always nervous about getting in the commitments so I know what I'm dealing with. BTW- we have not raised our vendor rates in years! The other factor playing into my nervous system is that, since our last show in 2019 (thank you COVID! )we have lost two of our largest and longest tenured vendors, Piping Rock and Marlow who were both located in upstate NY.

So, my question to you all is, what does your society do special to attract new vendors and manage the commitment process? I'm just reaching out to see if there are ideas out there that maybe we haven't considered.

Appreciate any insights this erstwhile body of collective knowledge has to offer.
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  #2  
Old 11-11-2021, 10:36 AM
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While not a vendor myself, I've had the opportunity to talk to a few of them last time I went to a local show, post Covid; and they are not sure they'll go back to touring the country.

It is very pricey and complicated to come to an orchid fair.
Renting a booth can cost from a few hundreds to a thousand euros a day; then there's the gas and tollbooth fees, hotel rooms and dining for the crew, packing material for the plants, damaged/stolen items and so on.

Don't just send invitations, offer to help with the boring stuff. Maybe members of the society have a spare bed, or can negotiate with a caterer.
If I were a vendor and you'd come up with an all-inclusive solution, it would catch my attention.

Do you have a nice website that lots of people can see?
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Old 11-11-2021, 11:09 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr.Fakename View Post
While not a vendor myself, I've had the opportunity to talk to a few of them last time I went to a local show, post Covid; and they are not sure they'll go back to touring the country.

It is very pricey and complicated to come to an orchid fair.
Renting a booth can cost from a few hundreds to a thousand euros a day; then there's the gas and tollbooth fees, hotel rooms and dining for the crew, packing material for the plants, damaged/stolen items and so on.

Don't just send invitations, offer to help with the boring stuff. Maybe members of the society have a spare bed, or can negotiate with a caterer.
If I were a vendor and you'd come up with an all-inclusive solution, it would catch my attention.

Do you have a nice website that lots of people can see?
We do have a decent website and even will take their table payments through it as well as registering all their plants for exhibit.

We do get a room rate deal from the hotel which we pass on to them and do other things like provide member volunteers to man their tables so that if they are alone they can take breaks, volunteer to be a speaker, etc.

The all inclusive thing is an interesting idea but that would just force us to raise their rates to cover most if not all of that expense. A sub equation of this event is that it's supposed to be our big annual fund raiser. We charge the public attendees $10 to get in so I'm not sure upping that to cover the all-inclusive approach would be beneficial either.

It's a conundrum.
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  #4  
Old 11-11-2021, 11:55 AM
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A few of things that we have done:
1. Seek out specialty growers; we've had good luck getting vendors when we actively ask those that focus on a particular alliance, are pursuing their own hybrid lines, etc. Growers know from the outset that they're not competing with 3 other generalist nurseries & hobbyists appreciate the curation.
2. Consider 2-3 'orchid light' vendors, ie bring in a few vendors whose main focus is not orchids, rather companion plants [bromeliads, aroids, species begonias, etc.]; many of these specialty growers have a pretty dedicated following and it's an easy way to expose your OS and the show to a wider audience
3. Consider combining a society group buy with a society 'satellite nursery' sales table; ie a couple of societies that I've belonged to have done a members order group order from a nursery or two and brought in an additional 50-100 plants expressly to be sold at the OS show. Nurseries are usually willing to provide sales materials [ie photos of blooming plants, free clean tags, etc.] and often add a few extra plants to the mix
4. If you have a requirement that vendors also have to set up a display, figure out a way to make this as easy as possible for them--assign a society member specifically to them as a helper, ask ahead of time if a 3' square table is sufficient or run vendor displays in a benched format. When I participated in OS in the midwest, this requirement was hands-down the the one most disliked by vendors
Good luck & keep us posted
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  #5  
Old 11-11-2021, 06:47 PM
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Thanks Stone. Some good thoughts there.

1) I agree totally with this but our issue is, other than Phals, there really aren't any specialty growers anywhere near us. Piping Rock was a great Paph/Phrag vendor but unfortunately they are no more.

2) Funny you bring this up. Just a couple weeks ago I stirred up the "why can't this be an orchid and tropical plant show?" to help us attract new/different vendors and paying public? Not for '22 but maybe beyond. Sheesh, what a hornets nest THAT was . I'm going to keep hitting them with it because I think it has a lot of merit. We do have some unique pottery, clothing and jewelry vendors and have in the past had a garden window vendor. We also usually have some great artwork exhibited and available on consignment from which we, of course, get a cut.

3) Interesting idea but I don't think our members would go for it because we always have a very good, well stocked member co-op table where our members can sell divisions, etc. Any given year there may be a couple hundred plants available on that table and they all do a nice marketing job with them.

4) Part of the application is "what do you need for your exhibit set-up that we can help with?" so I think we're already doing that, at least to some degree.

Again.....thank you and keep the ideas coming.
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  #6  
Old 11-12-2021, 12:53 AM
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I've been a volunteer, show and/or sale chair at a lot of cactus and succulent shows. The majority of small California succulent nurseries don't sell on the Web; they sell by appointment, or at shows. In addition to financial considerations, above, these people have told me several sorts of things are very important. Some have been mentioned above.

C&S shows are NEVER held when frost might threaten. None of the vendors will hazard that trip. Summer is likewise out. Plants will cook in a van or trailer on the road.

Friendliness of the club, and show & sale, is exceptionally important. Are they greeted with a big smile, maybe a hug? Are they thanked for coming? Do they feel welcome? The majority of vendors I've talked to tell me this is even more important than the finances! This extends to little, medium and big things. Here are some:
  • Will the sale chair go out of the way to fix problems as fast as possible? Very important. The club must delegate full operational and money authority to the sale chair to fix problems as fast as possible. These decisions must be final, and not second-guessed by the sale committee.
  • For plant unloading, did the club arrange convenient parking close to the sale area? Does the club provide wagons and hand trucks to move plants? If each vendor has to bring their own wagons, that is fewer plants they can pack.
  • Does the club have lots of volunteers to help move plants into the sale, and again out of the sale when it's over? Plenty of vendors are older, and moving boxes of plants is difficult for them. Volunteers earn a great deal of gratitude. Vendors will gladly share their knowledge, teach whatever is asked, and extend invitations to visit. Expecting vendors to bring paid staff to carry plants is going to eliminate a great many vendors. I have been given broken off pieces of vaulable plants almost every time I help vendors.
  • Are knowledgeable club members available to staff the booth during bathroom and lunch breaks? In case of urgent matters when the vendor must leave? Plants don't sell themselves. Our clubs often provides volunteers for most of the sale for elderly vendors who have trouble even with plants already on the table. This is an amazing way for the volunteers to ask questions and learn from the vendors. Early in my cactus career I helped staff a cactus booth. When there weren't any customers at the table, the vendor spent a lot of time with me showing me how to identify hundreds of different cacti at a glance, and telling me how to grow them.
  • Does the club provide food and beverages to the vendors, if the facility permits outside food? Not having to go buy lunch not only saves money, it lets vendors stay at their booth and make more sales. Clubs generally do this with a pot-luck or by bringing in [good!] local pizza. If the facility permits outside food, I would say you absolutely must provide food and beverages to the vendors. If the facility doesn't permit outside food, consider having volunteers take vendors to lunch at designated restaurants on the club's tab.
  • Can vendors stay with club members rather than spending money on a hotel? This is a huge expense. Many long friendships can be made this way. Again, invitations to visit are regularly extended after this. You may have noticed visiting speakers to your club stay at homes of your Society members who have known them for a long time.
Is the pricing and money handling quick, smooth and transparent? As I've mentioned before, at C&S shows there tends to be a single checkout area, staffed by the local club. But I haven't seen this at orchid shows.

Is there a staffed, guarded holding area for people to store plants temporarily while they keep shopping, or tour the botanical garden? Club volunteers need to have a system to check in boxes with valet tags, coat check tickets, double raffle tickets or the equivalent. There must be a pre-planned way to solve disputes when people lose their tags. Most of the time we provide the holding area free. If that's not possible, it should be at a low charge.

Our clubs have information booths or desks for people who want more information about upcoming events. We collect E-mail or surface mail addresses. Share these with the vendors, with the guest's permission. Distribute coupons if the vendors ask.

We put as much information as possible on our Web site about each vendor. There is, of course, a link to their own Web page. But if a vendor wants us to post a list of what they plan to bring, we will post that as well.
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  #7  
Old 11-12-2021, 09:42 AM
Keysguy Keysguy is online now
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Thanks for your thoughts seca.

I think we try to do most of the things you mention including picking up international plant shipments, getting them through customs and then to safe storage at the hotel until set-up day.

Vendors have always expressed how much they enjoy our show, except maybe those bad weather years which BTW were also financially devastating to the society. The issue was, we think because it was always the weekend around Valentine's day, that on a good weather year the vendors all went home plantless as we'd have huge crowds. There was nothing like an orchid show on a nice winter day to bring people out to dream about tropical sights and smells.

That being said, moving the date to early spring was our best option so that's what we're doing.
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Old 11-12-2021, 11:43 AM
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One additional thought to put out there is to ask the bigger and more established vendors like Ecuagenera and Andy’s. They are better at the shows from experience and they know how to use the shows.

Good luck
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Old 11-12-2021, 11:54 AM
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Both invited DC.

I know Ecuagenera will eventually respond and be there because they asked me about it a few weeks ago and they come every year we've held it. Even pre Apopka.

Andy asked about the same time but I'm hearing rumblings the dates may conflict with his open house? Still waiting to hear from them. I was hoping Jonathan would be looking for a trip east and they'd be a shoo-in. The last time they came we had a blizzard and the hotel was very slow in plowing the place out and it killed us. That's when we decided to make the move to the Marriott and a couple years later change the dates into late March.

Last edited by Keysguy; 11-12-2021 at 11:56 AM..
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Old 11-12-2021, 12:32 PM
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Roger that!

i was also just thinking that the shows down here all usually include one or two small accessory vendors, there are big ones too like Green Barn and the place with the woman's name ( i am embarrassed i am blanking completely) and then a local lady who makes awesome pottery for mounts and pots and a guy who does amazing wire wrapping and beading for accessorizing the growing area and hanging on pots.

i assume there are a few funky boho types like that in the free state. BTW i had a lot of time in Mass and NH as a kid and there are some amazing little places when you are not in Boston lol
(side note my Babci and Dziaziu lived in Lowell, Mass, HA!!..the worst city in america and even that has charm)
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