Making Money at Trade Shows

Hovey at blade Show 2018

I have attended trade shows in China, Germany and for more than a decade have covered the Shot Show as a journalist. I have also been a paid exhibitor at the annual International Blade Show in Atlanta where I had a chance to sit on the other side of the table hawking my knives. On a smaller scale I have sold products at craft fairs at several locations in Georgia and more recently I exhibited at one of Eastman’s gun shows in Atlanta.

I have made money in several different ways from attending such events. My first exposures to trade shows was as a writer/journalist. At the Shot Show I visited the show to gather materials for my gun-related articles in the Gun Digest Annual and for my books. I also sold articles to editors of other magazines. People who cannot attend such events want to read about the newest products in their areas of interest ranging from lighting systems to toilets. Various magazines will pay writers to report from these shows.

Once I had started writing books, I exhibited at local and regional trade fairs, local festivals and crafts fairs. During these events I sold a few books to locals, but rarely covered my costs. People often were interested in my subject, talked at length about their related experiences; but in the end bought nothing. The failing here was that the products that I was attempting to sell did not have a sufficiently wide appeal to a nation who is becoming increasingly populated with non-readers and equally significant the prices were too low to return my costs. I needed to sell some higher value items along with my lower costs items.

As I write about knives and muzzleloading guns as well as publish outdoor books, I exhibited all of these at a recent gun show and sold a half-dozen books, but much more significantly sold half of the stock of guns and knives that I took with the result that I cleared $1,500 during the two-day show. This was the first time that I had not only returned expenses, but actually made serious money from such an event.

What factors made this event work whereas others had failed?

A. The Atlanta economy is doing well and people have money for collector and non-essential items.

B. I was able to offer many of the items at reduced prices because I had purchased them decades ago or been given them by manufacturers.

C. There were prices on my knives from $5.00 to $200 with many ethnic blades that I had picked up at the Blade Show over the years selling for $80.  Similarly, my guns were priced from $90 to $500, and generally less than half retail, which represented honest values for the buyers.

D. Because I had purchased in many cases the unusual, uncommon and actually written and had videos about the these items, they had a documented history. I could show that I shot a deer with this gun, cleaned a bear with this knife, killed a gator with that blade, etc. Even though all were used, they had a back story, rather than being only a random objects of their types. This supplemental information helps sell.

E. The per-table cost was reasonable, which significantly reduced my overhead. I also bunked in with a friend in Atlanta, so I did not have the additional costs of renting a hotel room.

All these factors made this show a success. Could I continue to do this indefinitely? No. This is an excess stock that I have accumulated over the decades. Yes, there are some memories of past hunts, etc., tied up in them; but now that I am in the last quarter of my life it is time to thin things out. After I am gone no one will know the value of these items so it is time for me to convert these excess items into cash and put that money to other uses.

Do you have something that you can buy and resell or make that will return significant money at such shows? Maybe you could do a yard sale or if you have a sufficient collection of related items take them to a crafts fair, gun show or trade show. If you move half your stock during a two-day show, that should be considered a success. My advise would be to show items at a variety of prices, but keep your collection of materials at any given show somewhat related to the theme of the show and in the same category of items.

My central theme was that all of these items were related to me. These were my book as well as knives and guns that I had used that were photographed in many of the stories that I had written and described in my 18 books and over 700 videos.

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