Anime Con Review: Fanime 2014 First Dealers Hall!
Yep, you read that headline right, this year, Kimchi Kawaii made the jump from artist alley to the dealers hall! It was definitely a good move, though it did have it’s stressful moments and there are some things I need to work on before next
So, instead of the usual artist alley, I will now proceed with a review of my first dealers experience.
FanimeCon has always been the con of firsts for me. It was my very first anime con as an attendee and that was where I discovered these magical places called artist alleys where small time artists like me could sell their wares. A few years later, it was where Kimchi Kawaii made its artist alley debut. Unfortunately, I wasn’t really blogging much at the time so I never wrote a review which I regret because that would have been fun to go back and read. Fast forward to 2014. It only seemed right to have Fanime be my first dealers hall experience as well. It also helps that I have family who live in San Jose so I had a place to store my stuff, lol!
Anyway, I’ve felt like Kimchi has been on the borderline of artist alley/dealers for the last year or so. I have so many products now (just added plushies to the mix) and the average artist alley table is only 6ft long. It can get really crowded on there! I noticed that I was starting to bring in sales totals that would cover the more expensive dealers booth in the artist alley, so I figured why not give it a shot? I was originally planning on doing the whole artist alley rat race with everyone else for this year (Fanime used to have first come, first serve sign ups for the AA which could cause a lot of stress and praying that your internet didn’t suddenly give out). However, I saw a post about interested people emailing about dealers spots so I sent off a message. As I was a bit late in the game, I was put on the wait list and didn’t think much of my chances for this year. Promised myself I would check in the last day of Fanime for a 2015 spot. Then, right before I was to head to Anime Boston, I got an email saying that I was in if I was still interested! It was like Christmas in March! The really awesome thing was, the timing was perfect as I was able to pay for the booth with profits from Anime Boston (which was an amazing con, by the way). I got the contract signed and then it was time to race the clock with preparation.
I bought a new vertical banner for my booth as I knew that dealers halls can be visual overload and I needed something eye catching to draw people to my booth. I was near the back of the dealers hall this first time around as booths are filled by seniority and I was a total newbie. I placed this on the outside edge of my booth to attract attention. The banner featured my tiger mascot, Roary and my brand name. I actually saw a lot of people posing next to the banner and taking pictures with it which I thought was kind of funny. I also noticed as I was walking through the hall, that my shop name was visible from far down the row so that was also a plus. Definitely glad I invested in it!
I borrowed a table from my sis so I could make the most of the 10×10 booth space. I originally wanted a layout with Frosted Fleur de Lis stuff (deco, lolita, sweets) on one table and Kimchi Kawaii things on the other, but some of the Kimchi stuff had to spill over to the second table. People seem to be really drawn in by my puns, so I wanted to have some out front and very visible. Prints were put up on my usual pvc pipe structure that I’ve used in artist alleys. Once again, it was in the bid to draw in people. Everyone loves puns.
Traffic was very steady all con and sales were almost double what I made at last year’s artist alley at the same con. I still had a really healthy take home total after you took out the cost of registration, additional helper badges and travel. The things that went the best were my deco cell phone cases and smaller plush. This brings me to some thing I hadn’t thought about with dealers hall. I started getting into plush creation right before Anime Boston. For that con, I took eggplants and my fortune and misfortune (cookies with angry and apathetic faces) with me and they flew off the shelf pretty quickly. I started developing up other plush like my Steamed Buns, Mochi Buns and Sweet Dreams Strawberry (see photo). When I posted them on social media like Facebook etc, I got very positive feedback so I expected them to do really well at con. However, I hadn’t counted on being outsold by mass produced plush prices. I know in hindsight, that seems like a bit of a ‘well duh’. Let’s face it, some of the plush are a lot of work and I priced them at what I thought was a fair price for the time I spent on them. But, a $30 chocolate covered strawberry that only measures about a foot or so in length can’t compare with a giant sleeping kitty or something for nearly the same price that was produced in a factory in China. I had a lot of people who thought they were adorable and loved how the chocolate ‘blanket’ came off, but when it came to plunking down the money, they moved on. It was the same with the eggplants.
See, in dealers hall it’s a whole different mindset compared to the artist alley. Dealers is all about getting that mass produced collectable figurine/plush/fan item/dvd/manga. The general public is overlooking the fact that some of us are small business artists producing our own stuff and thus pricing our items to reflect that. Heck, some of the attendees still overlook that when they go to the artist alley and ask why something is so expensive even there. I’m trying to think of what I can do to get around this mindset. I may make it more clear that my stuff is handmade. This may or may not fix the issue. It will be interesting to see when I do it again next year.
Prints which are usually my strong sellers in the AA’s were also slow movers in dealers. Once again, it’s the dealers atmosphere. People want more collectable, 3d items in dealers. Artist alley is for prints. In fact, most of the tables in the AA this year were prints sellers. I’ll be adjusting my prints totals and display for next year as well.
The Steamed Buns and fortune cookies did really well. The cookies were gone by noon Saturday and the Buns didn’t last too far into Day 3. Lots of people liked the pun and how it came in it’s own bamboo steamer. I do have a list of more plush to do based on puns vs. plush just for the sake of plush as they seemed to get a stronger reaction.
I did have a lot of regular customers who came by and were surprised that I was in dealers this year or had been trying to find me in the AA. Lots of people also congratulated me on the move up. It’s always flattering when you have repeat customers who specifically seek out your booth.
I also took the Panda Bar plush prototypes with me as Fanime was the only anime con that fell during the Kickstarter campaign time frame. I had them on their own little shelf with promo cards and a sign that I had done up specifically for Fanime. I also made sure to put them out on the general information table in the main walkway. I did notice that a lot of them vanished by Day 2 so did a restock out there and those vanished too. I hope that some of them convert to pledges, but that remains to be seen. I also borrowed my friend’s wifi and iPad so that we could show people the Kickstarter there at the table and take pledges if people wanted to. I was able to get one pledge that way, but while a lot of people thought they were super cute, most seemed to be saving their money for things in dealers. It was worth a shot. (Btw, the Kickstarter is still running until June 12! If they get fully funded they will be here for Anime Weekend Atlanta and all the cons for 2015, including FanimeCon).
Sign ups for the next year’s dealers at Fanime happen on the last day of con and so I got to pick my spot and pay already which was nice. No more having to make sure I’m near a computer and ready for that AA registration to launch at least for this con. Fanime has traditionally been my highest grosser and net con so I don’t like to miss out. I’ve been making notes on what to change for next year to improve sales. I was also able to get a booth closer to the front this time so we’ll see how location plays into things.
All in all, was tiring (steady traffic for four days means being ‘on’ the whole time), but a great experience and can’t wait to see how it goes next year! Thank you to all who stopped by and made my first dealers hall a success!