Preparing for the Spirit of Summer House & Garden show.
Parting with thousands of pounds to take a stall at an event is a big risk for a new brand, but as an online-only retailer, I felt I needed to meet real customers and see first hand their response to my product. So I booked 3m x 2m - a tiny space, that had to accommodate me, shoe displays, all my stock (boxes strictly out of sight!) as well as space for customers to sit down, try on, look in a mirror, and - if I'm lucky - pay.
Having waded through an extensive checklist of Health and Safety, Parking, Fire, Marketing and other documentation, I was finally able to move onto designing the stand itself. Off-the-shelf display-furniture was too expensive and not ideal for shoes, so I decided to build my own. A makeshift joinery emerged in our back-garden; demi-lune tables from the conservatory were requisitioned on which to build a 'waterfall' display of shoes (a stack of John Grishams proved handy in height trials...) and painted to roughly match the tables. These would be the front feature of my stand to attract people in.
Set-up time would be short, so I built a 'kit' to assemble on site for the sloping rear display shelf, which could be fitted to the 3m approximate width space. To make the curtains below to conceal my stock, I used fabric left over from our hall-curtains. It all had to be secured firmly to the walls in case unwitting customers grabbed onto it whilst trying on shoes - Health and Safety are the stall holder's responsibility.
Pixart and other online graphics printers supplied large foam-core images and a huge logo - not as straightforward as I'd hoped as not all websites visualise your designs for you before you buy, whilst some require you to be a tech nerd too. Graphics, canvas frames, carrier bags, leaflets, business cards, receipts books...all designed and produced in the 12 days between booking and the show itself. It was an enjoyable marathon of online ordering, copy checking, painting, sewing, DIY and ruined fingernails. And in the middle of all this, obviously, came Ascot.