Expanding Markets

If you’ve been wondering where on earth I have been hiding myself for the past few weeks, wonder no further. I have been preparing for and attending my first buyer’s markets – first a small one in Sydney, then the big one, in Halifax. This was a setup where each craft producer (from all over Atlantic Canada) created their own wee shop in their hotel suite, and buyers from all over Canada and the Eastern US came to visit and see if what we offered was something they wanted to carry in their stores/galleries, placing orders for wholesale. I didn’t know what to expect, but I felt that I was ready and when I got there (in sharp contrast to the retail market I did in Halifax), I felt confident and optimistic. And friends – my optimism was rewarded. Here’s how that went.

First, I had to do a LOT of prep. I needed to figure out what I could offer that would a) sell and b) be easily reproduced in case of large orders. While I did that I had to sort out the printed materials, policies, etc. After a bunch of research and then fun design times, I ended up with some refined versions of my hang cards:

As well as a delicious new catalog:

Also, postcards, foam core posters, a new vinyl banner… I am really glad I figured out those photography tricks, lemme tell ya!

I also created a line sheet and an order sheet for buyers. Well I made TWO order sheets because I couldn’t decide how much detail to put into them, but that’s a different problem. Then, I packed up and headed to the Cape Breton Centre for Craft & Design, where I did a quick setup like this:


Which I felt was a little messy, but people explicitly commented on how nice it was so I realized that the colour coding and the separated boards really did make my somewhat-forced categories hold together! No orders that day but several folks suggested that they might place an order in the coming months. With a few new insights, the next week I made my way to Halifax. I had intended first for my mom to come with me, then a dear artist friend, but after discovering that the suite didn’t have a bedroom door or wall, and realizing I’d be better off getting sleep than having a 24-hour assistant, I pleaded to a Haligonian friend to come spell me for a few hours each day, and drove up alone.

It was a GLORIOUS day for a drive. The only photo I captured is blurry and off centre because, well, driving and guessing at where the phone buttons were instead of looking down :D but you get the idea – sun, dry, cool but not freezing. Just a lovely drive.

I arrived at the hotel and with a minimum of fuss got my carload of bits up to the room. Setup was slow and luxurious – I even stopped for supper in the middle. I figured taking my time with lots of breaks was better than working until I dropped. As with the going alone decision, I feel that I am getting better at making decisions that balance the needs of my body and my business.

The show was… exhilarating. From what I understand, buyers tend to look for at least the first whole day, taking their time to view everything and make decisions about what works best for their store and where to spend their money. So, while it started somewhat slowly and Day One was mostly chatting, I definitely got the sense that there was interest in what I was doing. One buyer from a large, well-known establishment came in and exclaimed, “I’ve been looking for you for years!” Another buyer sent three young women in as a vanguard; they left me the boss’s card and promised they’d be back, trooping in a few hours later with the boss in tow and leaving yet again with another promise that I’d know about an order by the end of Day Two. A few folks looked and left but that was OK – my work isn’t for everyone and I’m fine with that. The suite concept is new to this show, and I think everyone loved it. Instead of a crowded, noisy, impersonal trade booth, each buyer arrived essentially one at a time for an intimate chat and personalized viewing. I know not every buyer came to see me but that’s OK too! Because several buyers came back, and placed orders on Day Two.

That’s right, baby! Gayle Bird Designs will now be ready for purchase in PEI, NB, Halifax, Massachusetts, and several new places in Cape Breton! I’m not sure of the etiquette here so until the orders have been delivered, I won’t announce exactly which shops had such good taste, but some of them are pretty big deals and I am incredibly stoked. Because sure enough, that same troop of women arrived during the last half hour of the show to place a large order, and the excited dude who finally found me placed an even larger order when I followed up a few days later.

The interesting part to me was how different buyers were drawn to different lines. I did make six lines on purpose, and they definitely have different aesthetics, but I was still somewhat surprised that it worked :D Other surprises were a lady who came in and said, “Oh frig it, let’s do an experiment. I’ll take three of those and one of those and six of those. Call me for my credit card,” handed me her business card, and left; a Cabot Trail shop owner who left me with a large dollar total and told me to pick out what I thought she should have in that budget; and the contingent from Massachusetts who paid on the spot.

So. Deep breaths. I have 872 items to produce between now and June 1. That feels both huge and totally doable. Here goes!

Edit: Quick video on this very topic!




  1. Mary Redman

    I am so happy for you! You have put so much time, research, and thought into everything that it was bound to happen! I’m so excited for you—–now get to work!!! ;)

  2. Janet Calardo

    Gayle your lines are so cohesive and beautiful! I love the names, so descriptive, and the cards are so perfect. not to mention the jewelry is gorgeous! Love it all!

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