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Just Us Bears Just Us Bears
Posts: 940

Thinking towards my first show in May.

My experience with being a customer has ranged from being 'pounced on' and unable to get being totally ignored and unable to catch the exhibitors eye.

How do you relate to people who come to your table at a show. You want to be friendly but not vulture like and you don't want them to feel they are obligated to look/comment on all your bears, but you want to be friendly enough to put them at ease.

Do you stand behind your table and greet every customer? Just smile? Work on a bear and glance up when a customer comes along?

I have done country markets before..not with bears, but junk....and always feel self conscious when customers come along. And while they are looking...I never know whether to look elsewhere so they don't think I'm desperate for them to buy something....or make conversation, which may make them feel trapped.

What do you say to your customers?

Densteds Densteds
Posts: 2,056

Hi Hayley,

I've sold at a few markets/carboot sales etc selling mostly household junk, you know how it breeds in the garage until you just can't get in there anymore  :redface: 
I usually just say hello to any customers and say to them "please let me know if I can help you with anything"
I don't really like being told I can pick the bears up I then feel I have to do it  and I really hate being hovered over while I'm browsing but I don't like being completely ignored finicky ay?? perhaps just a welcoming "hello" , maybe comment on the show, ask them if they are enjoying it and when and/or if they need help, just to ask..go back to what you were doing and let them browse in peace..also that way if they aren't interested they can escape without feeling awkward, if you know what I mean. ( not that they'll want to escape from your cuties ha!)
By the way what show are you doing????

big hugs, :hug:

Gail Bear With Me Enterprises
Posts: 1,319

Hi Hayley
If possible I try to not have anything between myself and the potential customer like a table as I feel this immediately puts up a barrier.I usually ask if they are a collector and encourage them to talk about their collection or if they are a hobbyist I will answer any questions they might have If they  seem interested in a bear it doesn't hurt to pick the bear up and hand it to them as we all know how hard it can be to put a bear down once picked up!!!! Everything mentioned in the post above also applies to me and I always greet everyone who comes to my table.
My own personal feeling re working on a bear at a show is that I don't do it as to me if you had a question to ask you don't feel as easy about asking as you don't want to interrupt what the vendor is doing. Some would see working on a bear as a way to get people interested but  that has not been my experience

SueAnn Past Time Bears
Double Oak, Texas
Posts: 21,772

SueAnn Help Advisor, Banner Sponsor

I echo Gail's sentiments about doing "busy" work sitting behind your table.  I have a wonderful little book that I bought before I started participating in shows and it has a world of valuable info about how to market your bears.  The author suggests that sitting behind your table working on whatever is a defense mechanism that shy people use . . . that you create distance between you and your potential customers.  The book is Selling Your Dolls & Teddy Bears by Barb Lawrence (primarily a doll artist) and Carol-Lynn Rossel Waugh (primarily a bear artist) and I highly recommend it.

Daphne Back Road Bears
Laconia, NH USA
Posts: 6,568

Oh, I think it's so hard...

On the one hand, if nothing between you and the customer you feel obligated to make small chat so you don't seem like you are staring at them, watching their every move. I'm not into small talk.

If you are behind your table there is that barrier, that "I'm here to sell, you are the customer, whatcha gonna buy?" kind of feeling.

Working on a project has worked for me. I don't SIT behind my table, nose into what I'm doing looking very buusy. But rather stand off to the side of my table where I am readily available to chat with folks, say hello to everyone who stops and often it's the men who want to know what I'm doing while the women are looking at my bears. Keeps him occupied and often he decides 'that's really neat'. "Do you see one you'd like, Honey?" Kids also find it facinating.. again giving mom a chance to shop. After a moment of chatter with her hubby/kids my full attention is on her.

I do craft shows a lot and folks aren't always sure if they should pick up the bears. So I DO tell them something silly like "They won't bite and don't mind a hug if wanted to pick one up." or "Go ahead and touch him.... that is just the softest fur you'll ever feel!"

I weght my bears so sometimes will say something like "He may be small but he's very heavy, see?" and hand it to them. Next thing you know they are picking up each bear to see how's the heaviest.

That's all the ideas I have. It's thundering and lightening (in November in NH???) so better shut the computer off... we ALWAYS get struck!

Just Us Bears Just Us Bears
Posts: 940

Great ideas and comments already! Thanks girls! Sue Ann, I think I'll look for that book.
Very interesting about working on a bear....I am kinda shy when it comes to selling my work...and I'm just worried about looking awkward and silly. Of course my biggest fear is not selling anything...

I wondered must be very tempting to talk with your neighbouring exhibitors...but I'm picturing doing that and a customer comes along. You can either carry on your conversation but make eye contact with the customer...or break off your conversation and move to greet the customer...which may make them feel you are moving in for the kill!
What do you do?
Sorry for all the questions...I want to be relaxed on the day. :lol:
Denise,the show is the Melbourne Teddy Show which is replacing the Melbourne Teddy Event. It's on the 7th of May.
They are also having a Teddy competition too if you are interested!
Gail, I think asking if they are a collector or a hobbyist is a good long as I can think of a good way to say it without sounding like I'm interrogating them! After all...I pick up bears to see how they've done certain things and feel guilty when they hit me with their 'speal' when I have no intention of buying. I do tell them that I make them if they 'begin' and tell them how much I admire what they've done with this particular bear..which is always true!

melissa Honeythorpe Bears
Wellington, New Zealand
Posts: 1,789

Hi Hayley

Oooh see you in Melbourne!  So pleased that you are going to be selling!!  Don't be shy about your bears - they are gorgeous!  I have to say I find selling at shows a really hard thing.  While on one hand , I love the whole show atmosphere, on the other, I find it an incredibly draining day.  I am the exact same as you - I hate it when people pounce on me but I hate being ignored too!  Just no pleasing some people. 

All I can say is get used to saying the same thing over again.  I always try and greet people - quite often you can read people's body language and see how they feel and guage how much conversation they want to enter into.  Inevitibly you will be talking to your neighbouring stall holders - it would be kinda rude not to!  However, most people I know will break off conversation and acknowledge the don't have to immediately hover over them but they know youre not being rude! 

I'm lucky in that people often pick up my Kiwi accent as soon as I say hello, so they usually make a comment.

To tell the truth - the thing I find hardest is the obnoxious people who have a half hour conversation in front of your table and stop other people getting in.  I had this during the first 45 minutes of the MTE this year and it was so frustrating.  I didn't want to be rude and ask them to move but I should have so many people bypassed my table - and it's not lke there wasn't any room for them to have the conversation elsewhere.

Marie_ Kiprie Bears
Yokohama, Japan
Posts: 2,735

Oh Hayley, good luck to your show !! how exiting !!  bear_laugh bear_grin :hug:
I'm sure your adorable bears will be frying away from your table‚ô™  bear_wub

I am not in the position to give you any advise (since I'm N-E-W !) but
I did my first bear show this summer and what I did was just sitting-stand up-sitting-stand up at
behind the table and I tried to keep smiling(with no teeth showing... :redface: )and talk
a little bit to customers because I notice that most of the customers at the show(in Tokyo)
was so shy than me !  bear_wacko If I don't start to speak to them no on will talk to me.  bear_cry

When I talk just a little to them, they did respond me a little. hee hee
As everyone said, I really didn't want to give them any pressure to scare them off.  :twisted:

Then....what I forgato to do was making business cards, post cards or something like a catalog.
I think most important thing was how to make an ATTRACTIVE table at the show....... :cool:

Sue-Ann, thank you for recommending the book Selling Your Dolls & Teddy Bears ,
however it was sold out at  bear_cry  oh my .....


jenny Three O'clock Bears
warwickshire uk
Posts: 4,413

I never stand or sit behind my's just that I think that (as a customer too) that the artist hiding away behind the stand seems stand-offish and slightly intimidating. I get out front with the customers. I do make small talk...and actually, considering my weekday job, I had to learn how to do it...I'm not a natural.
I find myself saying the same things all day too...but who cares...only me and my helper have heard it over again.
I won't be over-bearing...I don't talk at customers.....I try to give them thinking time...

I have to say I wouldn't work on anything...other than being open and honest and giving my time that day to customers who have travelled to see the bears and talk to me. I agree that it might seem to customers that they are interupting your work.

It's hard.....but there's a fine line between being annoyingly over-bearing  and being a good advocate and ambassador of your own work. I don't think many artists  are natural  sales people...otherwise they'd be in sales. So it's just about being informative and friendly without being pushy.

rufnut Rufnut Teddy's
Victoria Australia
Posts: 2,725

Hayley, I am very glad to hear you are doing a show. Excellent.  :clap:

This can be a hard topic, I am not one for pushy sellers either.

I have only done markets so far, and from what I have experienced, I would definitely sit to one side and do some work, generally people are very enquistive and will inquire and start up a conversation if they see you working on something.  Also booklets of your work, or a centrepiece of award winners will also boost conversation.
If someone is hovering for quite sometime, you can gently intervene, make some eye contact and ask some questions about  the weather, or are you having  a nice day, etc etc, to break the ice. Then go from there.

Its not the easiest thing. Good Luck and don't be nervous. Stay calm and enjoy your day  bear_original

gotobedbears Posts: 3,177

I only ever did one bear fair but i used to have a stall in Covent Garden in London and in other various places and i found the best approach was to........

........get one of your kids (if you don't have one of your own borrow one) to sit crying in front of your stall, when the potential customer asks him/her what's the matter the kid says "Mummy can't afford to feed us 14 kids and i'm sooooo hungry and cold as we had to sleep on the street last night cos daddy locked us out of the house again".................

You get the idea Hayley

Penny  bear_grin  bear_tongue  bear_laugh  bear_rolleyes  :love:

ONLY JOKING!  :dance:

Eileen Baird'sBears
Posts: 3,873

bear_grin Penny, you are soooo  funny!!   bear_grin

I've only been to one small show, as a customer. Since I wasn't buying bears, only supplies, I felt guilty about talking to the artists at all, knowing that they needed to sell their bears, not waste time chatting with a novice bear-maker. Which didn't stop me, of course.

From what I observed, most of the customers seemed very shy about approaching the artists, and the artists tended either to pounce on anyone who showed interest, or to ignore them completely. All very awkward.

I like the idea of mingling out front with the customers, inviting them to pick up the bears, and engaging in general light chat. Anyone who gave the impression that she was only there to show off her bears and let people get to know what she did would have put customers at ease. The fact that she's also selling is understood!

I did notice that customers were drawn to whichever stall seemed to attract others . . . so there might be something to gain even by chatting with novices--without getting in too deep.

It might also be a good idea to have a bear-in-progress displayed, to show to buyers who might be interested to know how the bears are made. This is something a customer could ask about, without feeling committed to buying.

Anthing that makes a display interactive would help. Some displays were so crowded that to pick up one bear would have sent all the others toppling down. What pops into my mind is a bear at the front of the display, arms held out, with a PLEASE HUG ME sign around its neck! Who could resist?


gotobedbears Posts: 3,177

I suppose i should try and be helpful here instaed of mucking about should'nt i?

I think that to put your customers at ease you could try....

making sure that your stall is'nt too intimidating, too many bears that might topple over, far too many 'props' that people have to reach over to get to a bear etc.
Maybe put a sign on the table inviting them to pick up any bear they wish
Always smile at them if they catch your eye maybe say 'Hello' - their body language will probably give you lots of hints as to whether they want a chat or not. You'll find that if they say 'Hello' back and then look away they just want a browse not a chat.

I should'nt get yourself too wound trying to make the customers feel at ease Hayley or you'll be so stressed out you'll end up with a fixed mad smile on your face and the heebiejeebies - you'll probably enjoy it all so much you'll attract the customers by being happy!

bear_original  bear_thumb  :dance:

Penny  bear_wub

pandamac 'EmBears
Northern New York State
Posts: 917

intersting subject.....the suggestions are wonderful. I especially like the idea of sitting a kid in front of the booth  bear_tongue I have had a very difficult time with this problem. If someone comes into my booth, I try to sit to the side in the front, I say hello....sometimes they respond, other times they immediately leave!  bear_shocked At one show, I sat at the end of the table with the stuff your own bears next to me. As I said hello to a person, she was startled.....told me she didn't see me sitting among the bears....... bear_grin but she was very friendly and we started talking about bears. I have a craft show locally this weekend, I'll have to really concentrate and see what I do! I think I try to greet every customer, and I also enjoy talking with my neighbors (especially since I am ususally alone and need someone to watch the booth while I take a bathroom break  :redface:)

Good luck on your show, don't get too intimidated by how to act, just act yourself and see how things go. The worst thing to do at a show is to worry, relax and be yourself is what I find works best.       Ellen  :hug:

Gatehouse Bears Gatehouse Gallery
Lockwood, Victoria, Australia
Posts: 227

I'll be going to the show in May, so I'll see you both there, Hayley and Melissa.  If its any help, I stand at the front of my table, because my setup is so high (and I'm so short) I can't stand behind bear_grin bear_grin bear_grin

I always chat with the other artists, but if a customer comes over its sort of an unwritten rule that you just stop chatting to talk to your customer.  I don't engage customers in hard sell stuff (I've seen plenty of others do it and I can't be that blatant) but you get to know the body language when they want to talk.

If you need some help on the day, just ask, I'd be glad to assist if I can.


Marie_ Kiprie Bears
Yokohama, Japan
Posts: 2,735

Penny, I like your idea !   :love:
he he he  :whistle:
I better go borrow  the kid now...   :doh:

Hi Jenny,  oh your are so right.... if I am a customer at the bear show,
I would love talking with the Artist in front of the table.  bear_original It's more easy
to start conversations...   :cool:
The show I attend was, they had only small table(60cm x 90cm big)and all tables were stuck together !!  bear_cry Once you get out to front of the table,
you need to go around everyone's table to go back and corridor was so
small too....
I wish they will give us little more free space so we can go to the front or walk
around the table..  hmmm I shall make a *Wish List* for the bear show
and send it to the promoter.  bear_grin 

Penny wrote:

you'll probably enjoy it all so much you'll attract the customers by being happy!

Ditto to Penny !  :hug:


carsoncreations Carson Creations
Macomb, IL
Posts: 252


The best shows I have had where the ones I attended with the main intent of having FUN!!! 

I cheerfully greet customers by just saying "Hi, isn't this a wonderful show?" to get the ball rolling.  If they are just browsing, that's OK as they might be back around a second time.  If they are interested in a particular bear, I might tell them something about the mohair it's made from or something  special about this one bear.  Sometimes they ask "How did you do this?" and I tell them exactly how it is done.   Or they might be looking for a special bear that is not my forte, so I try to guide them to a booth that might have what they are looking for and believe it or not, they will remember how helpful you are.   It builds good PR for collectors and artists.

If you are excited about your bears, the customers get excited too.  It's kinda contagious.    And I consider each person attending the show as a guest in my house,  and I treat them as I would any guest.  They have paid admission and expect to have a good time seeing all the wonderful bears and most come to choose that one  or two special teddies to take home.

I tell my fellow workers, that going to a bear show is like  being 7 again and going to a huge toy store with your friends and playing with the bears.  Course they all think I'm nuts, but so what!!

Just be yourself and plan to have a great time.  I know we all want to sell, sell, sell, but if you first and foremost enjoy what you are doing, the selling will come naturally and you will make your collectors feel comfortable and have fun too.

It works for me !!



Densteds Densteds
Posts: 2,056

bear_grin bear_grin bear_grin bear_grin bear_grin bear_grin bear_grin

Penny, you crack me up...


Daphne Back Road Bears
Laconia, NH USA
Posts: 6,568

Great advice!!
In fact it's great to hear every one's experiences!

Well, I'm packing up to head out in the morning to go do a show on Saturday. This is a huge upscale/high end craft fair in Boston... Probably the biggest show I've done to date. I'm nervous about having the 'right' stock, the 'right' look, never mind whether I have pens, sales book, bags, etc.  :doh:

I'm also so excited about being there and being a part of this show. Let's hope, as Wanda said, that my happiness and excitement rub off!! Mom is going with me to help.... she's a great talker...... but being the proud mom, often brags about her daughter's bears a bit too much.  :redface:

I'll be thinking about what you've all said here.... great ideas.... I'll have quite a long day and big crowds so can try everyone's techniques.... it'll be way too busy to be 'working' on a bear so I can throw my usual habit out the window anyway!  :lol:


Marie_ Kiprie Bears
Yokohama, Japan
Posts: 2,735

Wow Daphne good luck to the show in Boston !!  :rose:
I'm crossing my fingers & toe fingers.  :hug:

but being the proud mom, often brags about her daughter's bears a bit too much

Your mom is so cute  :hug: I think all mom is like that. isn't it ??  bear_wub


jenny Three O'clock Bears
warwickshire uk
Posts: 4,413

I just need to say one thing about the concept of the artist sitting on a chair at the side of the stand. If you walked into a store and saw the shop assistant sitting down beside  the goods what would you think?

I think it looks like the artist can't be bothered to interact with the customers, also it's difficult to talk like that. Eye level contact is what you need....if you go to one of these trendy restaurants these days the waiter often will get down to customer level when taking the is a ploy to get you to order more stuff, I realise that....but go for eye to eye contact, when it looks like you are up for talking and interacting and taking down the barrier of 'selling'.

The people next to my stand at the NEC sat down all doesn't look right.

You'll have sore feet at the end of the day...but you may sell more bears.

Estelle Estelles canal bears and Tod Teddies
Todmorden West Yorkshire
Posts: 370

I like to sit at one side and sew a bear, I have bear parts on the edge of the table so customers can see how the bears are put together this usually gennerates conversation.
If I see someone looking nervous about approaching me or picking up a bear I say " feel free to pick him up, they are on their best behavour and dont bite on Sunday/Saturday" ( whateverday it is ) this brings a smile without pressure I also say "hugs are free and one size fits all" I love chatting to people and often end up with friends who keep in touch as well as being customers.  bear_grin

bearlyart Canna Bear Paint
Posts: 749

Sue Ann, I'll have to try to get a copy of that book, you're the second bear artist I've heard recommend it.  I can use all the help I can get, I'm a total introvert and being put in a forum where I really, really need to interact with a group of strangers can be very intimidating.

What I have been trying to do at shows is find something interesting to point out to people who have stopped at our tables.  I think it helps to start the conversation.  If they are looking at a bear with a double-jointed neck, I'll point out the neck piece and tell them to have fun looking at all the poses he can do.  If they're looking at a fur bear, I'll point out the different types of fur we have represented on the table.  The last Schaumburg show was fun in that we had a wide range of fur bears, and I was able to talk to people about some of the more unusual types of fur, as we had nutria and bassarisk bears with us.  They loved touching the different types, oohing over the softness of bassarisk and aahing over how the nutria fur looked prickly but wasn't.   I think what I'm saying is that it seems beneficial to get people to interact with the bears on some level, whether it be touching, picking up or posing them on the table.

I have a joke with my mother at the Schaumburg show that I don't even need to be there.  The show only has her listed as the artist (I really am the other artist, but my tag says 'Assistant').   She loves to start conversations with people by saying 'My daughter is really the other artist at this table, even though she's not on the sign and her nametag says 'assistant'.  But this is her bear, and this is her bear, and this, and this, and this... and have you seen her bunnies? There's one, and there's one, and that over there...'  She sells more of my bears that way, go figure.


carsoncreations Carson Creations
Macomb, IL
Posts: 252


By all means get the book, Selling Your Dolls & Teddy Bears by Barb Lawrence.  I bought this book years ago and the principals it teaches are still good today.   It covers everything from  pricing your work to ways of advertising.

Check out ... good used books are rather cheap there.



kimboycethomas Posts: 25

As someone who makes/buys bears and does not sell them, I absolutely hate it when the artists "pounce" on me and tell me to pick up the bears.  Mainly because I know the hours and hours of work that goes into making a bear and yet it still may not "call out" to me to pick it up.  I either feel bad or feel obligated to pick something up off the table even if I do not want to. I go to shows often and avoid overbearing artists when I recognize them (luckily, there are not too many.) I am kind of shy, though, and it may just be me. I think it would be good to make initial contact, but then know when to back off if the customer is not too chatty and let them look.

As far as sewing behind the table, that does not bother me and I find it fascinating. I suppose others may be put off by it.  I got into bear making some 10+ years ago when I attended a show in Lincoln City, OR and Susan Arnot was making a bear at her table.  She readily showed me how it was done and I thought she was just the nicest person ever.  She took such pride in her work and I was so impressed that I now own three of her bears.  Anyway, these are just some thoughts from the opposite side of the table.  Truly, if I really wanted a bear, I would get it one way or another regardless of how I was approached. You all do terrific work and I really enjoy reading these posts.
Kim T

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