With the holidays quickly approaching, everyone is getting ready to shop to find that perfect present. Aside from Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, Cyber Monday, and Chicago's own Unwrap Chicago: Eat, Drink, Buy Local campaign there are countless shopping events organized by various non-profit groups, monthly markets, chamber of commerce and even a few annual happenings like Glitter, A Holiday Shopping Event.
These opportunities are a great outlet for emerging fashion talent to gain exposure to new audiences, meet and greet with potential customers, and most importantly, move merchandise. To get an insider's view, Chicago Fashion Incubator at Macy's on State Street alums Nora del Busto and Anna Hovet offer their expertise and knowledge of navigating the process of participating in holiday shopping events.
Where do you find out about participating in shopping events and what is the process to apply to participate?
Nora del Busto: Sign up to various websites like Chicago Fashion Resource and StyleChicago to get on their lists for electronic callouts. Another great way to find out about shopping events, especially those that are juried, is to go and shop them as a customer to see if the audience is suited for your line and ask current participants how they became a vendor.
How much does it cost to participate in a shopping event?
Nora del Busto: Some markets have a participation fee that can range from a minimal cost of $25 to cover your merchant license fee to sell on the premises, others are juried events that can range from $100 to $500.
What are the basics you need to be able to participate in shopping events?
Anna Hovet: Most important is having an Illinois State Business License, which is needed for whoever is organizing the event to secure a merchant license for all the vendors. I always bring more than most designers but here’s a quick list: branded signage with my logo, extra hangers and hang-tags, rolling racks, an extra linen, sufficient supply of shopping bags, a guest book to take down emails of shoppers, an extension cord, my laptop and iPhone to run credit card orders, cash to be able to offer up change, and of course a lot of inventory, plus a sewing kit incase my garments need some tailoring for the customer.
How do you measure success of participating in a shopping event?
Nora del Busto: It can be measured in sales and return-on-investment. If your sales were able to cover your costs and make a profit, then it can be measured as a success. Success can also be measured by how many new customers your brand is exposed to and how many of these new costumers sign up for your email list.
Success could also be the network of participants, were you able to garner new relationships with stores and other designers to further help your business. Overall, participating in shopping events around Chicago are a win-win, because you get immediate feedback, learn how to be a better salesperson and get to showcase your designs for a group of shoppers looking for fantastic fashion.
Kiran Advani handles programming related to the City of Chicago’s Fashion Initiative, started by Mayor Richard M. Daley in 2006, which partners with the industry on resources and high-profile events for local designers and independent boutiques to gain visibility, learn about the business of fashion, and elevate the industry.