Dear Mrs. Shop Drop,
Certainly, I have advice for you! Having been to many bead shows myself, both as a buyer and a seller, I have gathered some tips for tackling the daunting task of bead show shopping. I have found that a bit of planning before the show, some foresight into comfort, and an organized shopping method are key to keeping sane during a big bead show.
Before the Show: Planning the Attack
Before you even step foot in the show, its a good idea to plan for your shopping needs. Make a list of things you need, and do an inventory of what you have. Also, try to set a budget...it is easy to overspend, especially at a big show. Make sure to give yourself a little wiggle room for unexpected finds. Consider saving your basic bead needs for catalog and local shopping, and set out to find unusual items like art beads and and stone strands that you need to handpick for the show.
If the show lists a floor plan or a vendor list, look for that on their website or mailing. Take a Look at some of those places online so you get a feel for what they carry, and make notes of the shops you most want to visit.
If you have some projects you are currently working on, or that you need to find supplies for, take a quick picture (this is great if you have a cell phone camera especially) or bring a few samples of beads for matching.
If you have a wholesale number, don't forget to bring it, and make copies if you can. Even if it is a retail show, you might be able to get wholesale discounts, if you can prove that you are a business and meet the minimums. Bring some business cards too, bead shows are a great way to network!
Bead Girl Tasuki Pouch by Bead Girl Bags
Comfort: Pack Light for Easy Shopping
The Number One rule of bead shopping is wear comfortable shoes! I cannot stress this enough. Even if you love fancy shoes, just wear the tennies for this shopping trip. You need to cover a lot of ground at a bead show, and spend a lot of time standing, so it really puts stress on your feet. Don't worry..no one is looking at your feet anyways...everyone else is distracted by the beads too! People you talk to will probably be staring at your necklace or earrings, being bead addicts too...so wear your best beads!
I like to use a bag or purse that leaves my hands free, while keeping my money and important stuff close to my body, like the Bead Girl Bags shown above, for example. Slip a plastic bag into your purse in case you need it when your purchases start to pile up. Or if you expect to shop a lot, use a back pack or a small rolling carry-on bag with a long handle.
Make sure to stop for breaks for water and snacks. This will help clear your head and refresh you. Bring a snack bar in case you get caught hungry in a long food line and need quick nourishment.
Last year's Earthenwood Studio booth with a rare photograph of Ms. Bead-It-All herself!
Shopping: Getting Organized
So you have your list and your budget and you know you will be comfortable. Time to rush into the show and go crazy! Wait a second...that's not a really efficient use of your time. A good shopper is careful and organized, in my mind. Set out to quickly walk the show, taking notes of things you like, good prices you see along the way, and things you want to look into. Write down the booth numbers and make a quick note in your notebook or show program, or grab a business card and write on that. Try to see the whole of the show before you make your purchases, so you don't regret finding a better price or item at a later booth.
The exception to this guideline is for the very unusual items, and one of a kind items. If you are seeking unique art beads from specific artists, or if you see something that you know must be yours...end there is only one...then you should make those purchases right away. Some artists only make limited amounts of beads, and one of a kinds, so you should grab those up as soon as you fall in bead love.
Nowadays, many artists and stores also sell online, so if you like something, but are unsure at the moment, ask if they have a website or catalog. If so, you can always make your purchases after the show.
I hope this advice helps you make your way through a bead show. If you have additional advice about attending a bead show, please leave a comment! And if you are coming to Bead & Button this weekend, please stop by my booth, Earthenwood Studio: #1227.