Anime Weekend Atlanta 2014: Artist Alley Review

October 23, 2014 at 6:02 am 1 comment

Heading back from my last con for the 2014 season. Long, cross country flights are a great time to draft blogs for posting later. 🙂

The popular Steamed Bun plush for sale at my AWA artist alley table.

The popular Steamed Bun plush for sale at my AWA artist alley table.

This was Kimchi Kawaii’s second year of doing Anime Weekend Atlanta (AWA). I started going to AWA as I have some artist friends who do this one every year and I wanted to meet them in person. Sales were good in 2013 and my friend from Sweet Fancy Cuteness was going again this year so I signed up to return. It was a lot of fun hanging out with her and meeting her friend who runs ShouYume. We had our tables next to each other and also shared a hotel room. I always enjoy doing artist alleys cause where else can you be in a room with fellow creators who understand the ins and outs of being an artist?

Sales-wise, well, that’s where this con was a bit lacking. I had set a sales goal (as I always do) and this was the first con where I didn’t make or exceed it. I guess having done 20+ cons by now, I’m pretty blessed to only now have this happen. It wasn’t just me either. Many artists were posting on social media and talking in person about slow, even outright dismal sales. And even the dealers’ were saying their sales were low as well which is a clear indicator that it’s not just you.

Usually, you see people coming through the AA with their hands full of stuff from the dealers’ room – collectables, plush, etc. – and you can tell where their con budget went. However, this year not too many people seemed to be carrying ANYTHING. I saw a lot of browsers, but people didn’t seem to be buying.

Friday sales for me were probably some of the worst I’ve seen. As a rule, first day sales are usually the lowest for the whole con as a lot of people are still in school or at work. Hours are usually shorter as well. However, Friday at AWA was abnormally slow. I don’t even think it was this slow for me at my first artist alley table (Fanime). One friend got up to roam around as she said she was about to fall asleep at her table. Yeah, it was that bad.

Saturday everyone was hoping sales would pick up. Second days are usually the high point. While sales picked up a bit, it was still really slow for a Saturday. Once again a lot of looking, not much buying. I did finally manage to clear my overhead for this con (cross country flight, hotel, registration, food) late in the day on Saturday. The slow sales left most of us hoping and praying for a really strong last day.

Sunday, I did pretty well and this brought my AWA profit about equal to what I made in 2013. Last day sales can really blossom as people start making those last minute purchases before leaving. Some artists only sell at cons and for those of us who do sell online, well, why pay for shipping if you can get it in person?

As I stated earlier, I had a sales goal in mind going into this one. I based it on last year’s sales and the fact that I had plushies with me now which have been strong sellers all summer and really helped push up my totals significantly. I was also basing things on attendance totals. I had just done a local con about three weeks earlier (SacAnime) which has about 11-13k attendees. AWA usually brings in about 20k, so I set my goal to be what I had brought in at SacAnime figuring that was more than doable considering the additional 10k people at this one.

In the end, I made about $600 LESS than SacAnime. I’m actually coming home with a majority of my plushies, which is rare. The Steamed Buns were the only ones that sold out. I guess that’s less that I have to sew for my online shop for the holidays which is sort of bittersweet. On one hand, less sewing which means more time to focus on my 2d art. On the other hand, I had some plans to use the AWA money for some new products for Kimchi Kawaii. I’ll still be able to get them, but it’s going to be a lot slower now and I may not have them for the start of the 2015 con season. Hopefully, will have them by my next big con which I hope is Anime Boston.

Most of us were scratching our heads wondering what was causing the lack in sales. Someone had suggested that it was the proximity of another large convention that had happened about a week or so earlier and that people were financially drained after that one. There was speculation that attendance had dropped. Others wondered if there were too many artists for a convention that size though I heard that they dropped the number of artists this year. I believe there were about 150 tables vs. 200 from 2013. Considering SacAnime Summer had a lower attendance, but upped their total number of AA tables and people still made good sales, I’m not sure that the ratio of artists to attendees is the issue.

I don’t know if anyone who runs AWA reads this, but I do have two suggestions. PLEASE move the events hall away from the AA. The constant bass from the concerts right next door was extremely uncomfortable. It was hard to talk to customers and in these halls with cement floors, it just echoes like crazy and becomes even more annoying. There were times when I could feel the bass in my body. I’m not a decibel prude. I go to concerts. I go to clubs blasting EDM. However, when I’m trying to interact with my customers, it would be really nice to not have to shout and miss half the conversation.

The other suggestion I have is probably harder to fix, but I’m just going to throw this out there. Please put fan artists, especially studios with multiple tables and large amounts of fan art prints along the wall and not in the islands. I was across from a studio like this. They were nice people, I’m not coming down on them. But their placement meant that our aisle was frequently congested. There were many times when there was a large crowd in front of their table with people looking at all their prints up on display or waiting to flip through their portfolios on the tables. Many times it was to the point where people couldn’t get by or get to my neighbors’ or my table.

I’m not sure if I will be returning to AWA for 2015. I put my name down on the email list to be notified early, but I’m also waiting to see what others say about some of the late fall conventions. Part of it is the sales since I do have such a large overhead coming from CA. The other part is due to timing. AWA falls at the end of September which coincides with Fall Welcome at my full time job at the university. The students are coming back and it’s the busiest time for me of the whole academic year as I have a lot of welcome events that I work at. Preparing for a con and preparing for work events leads to a lot of overtime and late nights all at once. I’m actually returning to four tabling events and two overtime days right off the bat.

Basically, I’m trying to decide if profits from AWA are worth the stress. If they were like Boston, I would just down a ton of Starbucks and nose to the grindstone in silence, lol! But they aren’t so I have a lot of thinking to do. We’ll see what 2015 holds.

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1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. Heidi Black  |  October 30, 2014 at 3:10 am

    The AWA forum has a thread for feedback for this year’s AA, and Ribbit is usually pretty good about making changes. but yeah, I encountered prettymuch all the same problems – lots of looking, lots of people leaving becasue of the noise, lots of tight spaces, and I feel like there were a few too many people that had some original art just so they could have more fanart.

    Reply

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