Reflections on the Doll Show

After a whirlwind weekend and a Sunday that just didn't quit, our first doll show post-covid (and with my new business name) is now behind us.  After crashing hard last night and sleeping 11 hours, I have lots of thoughts about the show, what worked, and what didn't.  Sales were okay, but not the resounding success I was hoping for, so I definitely need to make some changes for next time.

What worked:

  • Sophie's doctor display was an amazing success.  Everyone loved it and commented on Sophie and the display.  In fact, I had to add more "not for sale" signs because everyone loved it all so much!
  • I loved our signage this year.  The chalkboard (which, amusingly, I was going to get rid of) was perfect for the doll doctor display, especially since the tray on the front held my business cards, and the clear sign holders were perfect for other important signs.
  • I found a perfect size bin to use for storing client dolls and projects in progress, that will work just as well at home in my workshop as it did at the show.  I religiously keep everything separate when I am working on more than one doll at once (remember: ye shall not mix up doll parts), so having found a good size bin to keep everything in was a major win for me.
  • Crates are perfect for organizing and displaying clothes for sale.  I've previously had the bags hole punched and grouped together on rings, but when you get a sizeable amount of doll clothes (like I have), that just becomes an unmanageable mess.  The crates allowed me to group and display them in a way that was much more accessible to shoppers.  I love the little crates too, which fit well side by side and stacked two high in the larger size crate we got from Walmart.
  • When we packed up to go, we also discovered that the crates were much better for packing and moving the small dolls on our table.  Packed in tightly, the dolls won't tip or become damaged, and they're also on their stands to make it easy to unpack and set up next time (or to find the doll I'm looking for if I sell one on eBay).  We seriously eliminated about four boxes by packing the little dolls in the crates!
  • Speaking of packing in and out, this year we got a collapsible wagon, and it made our life SO much easier.  I like it better than a dolly since many of our boxes don't stack well together, but it's definitely much easier than carrying everything in and out ourselves.

What I learned for next time:

  • In previous years, I've sold at the doll show primarily to get rid of dolls I no longer collect as my tastes have changed.  Now that I'm thinking of it more as a business standpoint, I need to change how I approach this and only bring what sells well at this show.
  • As for what sells well at this show: 50s dolls are out.  80s and 90s dolls are in.  I've long theorized that for the most part, people collect what makes them feel nostalgic.  With dolls, that usually means dolls from their own childhood.  As the crowd that comes to these shows has shifted to a younger generation, the more modern toys and dolls have become bigger sellers (and have started commanding higher prices).
  • I believe (and this show supported it) that the market for the 50s dolls is dying out (rather literally, unfortunately).  The prices are dramatically lower than they were during the height of our collecting these dolls.  I'd say they're probably valued at fully half what they used to be.  I'll be listing our older dolls primarily on eBay from now on, and just bring a few of the best ones to the shows (because they draw people's attention).
  • American Girl is a huge seller.  It used to be there was hardly any AG at these shows, but I found a bunch yesterday, plus we had AG Replacement Parts (from eBay - she's local to me!) at the show as well, and her booth got lots of traffic.  I didn't get any dolls rehabbed in time, which was a huge mistake, because I think it would have drawn more attention to our booth, and also broadcast the fact that I had AG clothes for sale in one of my crates.
  • Finally, and I believe most importantly, next year I need to do a lot more marketing ahead of the show so that people know I'll be restringing there.  I only got two restringing patients throughout the day, but a lot of people were interested and took cards, so I think they would have brought dolls had they known.  Some aspects of marketing are hard for me, so I got shy at the thought of tooting my own horn too much, when I really should have been broadcasting my restringing services on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist.
In short: Next time, bring lots of American Girl dolls and more than one crate of clothes, and market market market!



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