For those of you who invested, you have the full report in your intrays. For those of you who are interested but failed to invest this time around, here are some of the insights we gleaned from our market test held over the weekend (9th to 11th October 2015) . The insights and responses are from Joseph Williams, an Ashoka Fellow who managed our stall:
What were your impressions of the show?
This show has the reputation of being the best in the Midwestern U.S. It has been around for 71 years. It was extremely well organized and diverse. I am told that different shows around the country cater to different kinds of vendors. Each vendor specializes in a certain area of the business. Some in jewelry, some in lapidary, some in polished rocks, some in precious stones, cabochons, etc. This show had little of everything.
Did you feel welcome?
I felt very welcome by the other dealers. There was a little tension with the guy who was right next to me at the beginning, once I explained to him what we were doing. He and his wife are lapidarists. He sells a lot of raw stone and also cuts and polishes stones. They buy raw stone from various places around the world. He feels like he is unfairly criticized for exploiting mine workers. He contended that he pays the fairest prices for raw stone that he can. He cited his costs for bringing the rocks to market. He did admit that there are large companies that exploit mine workers by paying low prices for their goods. He appears to be a good man. We developed a good rapport and he was helpful in understanding the market. All the others were very welcoming to me as a new dealer. Overall, I found this to be an awesome community of people. The show was great. My family really enjoyed it, even my 10-year-old granddaughter.
Who was helpful?
Several people were helpful. The guy next to me was helpful. It was the guy across from me who suggested that we turn our stones into jewelry…. One lady suggested that we attend a show that takes place next month is a nearby suburb. She thinks our products would do well there. …There was an African company there selling malachite. Their family mines and cuts the stones into various shapes (art) and the married couple sells them at shows around the country.
I found that it is not unusual for a first-time dealer to have very low sales. The African couple only had 3 sales at their first show which was in NYC. One lady who only sells jewelry said that on her first weekend her sales were very low. I’m told that it is a matter of making sure you are at the right show for your product.
Who bought? males or females? ages?
All ages and genders. A lot of children attend this show and purchase low cost items, especially $5 and under.
What day was the best sales day?
Which hours seemed to be the best mornings or afternoons?
All day Saturday and earlier houses on Sunday.
Did people get the Prieska Protocol /ethical sourcing angle?
Those who visited our table appeared to understand and appreciate it. I think we need a video that loops and shows all stages of the operation. Many people were interested in the video of the miners. I would also like video of the cutting and polishing and jewelry making. That would probably draw more people to the table.
Do you think this is a market channel we could exploit by doing more shows?
These shows are labor-intensive and resource-intensive. Some are pretty expensive. I am told that making a profit at any show is hit-or-miss.
I learned that there is a market for Tiger’s Eye here in the U.S. I knew it was very popular many years ago. I found that people of all ages still have an appreciation for it.