Three weekends of Christmas market at the Barbican Centre
I admit that I am not a natural salesperson. I have always worked behind the scenes, and selling face to face is a ‘skill’ that I had to learn when I started this business.
I know that popping up once a year is not enough for a small business, but I am not sure if I can cope with doing several pop ups all year round. Having gained some market experiences in the previous years, I decided to apply for two Christmas markets this year and I was lucky to be accepted by both.
Six market days over three weekends may not sound like a lot to other vendors, but doing it solo with no car nor assistant, it was not an easy task for me. Despite feeling exhausted during and after the markets, the experience had been extremely positive and beneficial, and it made me realise that offline shopping is still important for businesses that sell physical products.
Aside from the rather dim concrete foyer, I thoroughly enjoyed selling at the Barbican. I found the staff very friendly (offering few of us free wine and food in the evening), and I loved selling among other like-minded designers, artisans and traders. Not only did we look out for each other at the market, we also bought from each other as a way of supporting independent businesses.
Our jam-packed table is a far cry from our ‘minimalist’ website
Selling face to face enables me to see how customers react towards our products and provides an opportunity for me to talk to them directly. At the end of the day, the activity is about human interactions, and it is a skill that requires observation, patience and consistency. Am I able to convey my passion and enthusiasm to potential customers during our brief conversations? Probably not all the time, but I try my best without being pushy or aggressive. It turns out that practice does make a difference, and I believe that my communication and selling skills improved as the days went by.
Top: My lovely neighbour Nina from Imagination illustrated; 4th middle: Nina’s beautiful illustrated Sagittarian notebook (my birthday present from her); 2nd row: Korean illustrator Kelci Jun; Bottom left: Kelci’s illustrations of bridges in London; 3rd row: Molly from Molly and the wolf; 4th left: Another wonderful neighbour Martha from Caliz London; 4th right: Chopping board from Growth rings; Bottom right: lino printed stationery from We make here
It is a shame that most of the independent designers and artisans I spoke to do not have retail outlets, and we can only sell our products online or via Christmas or crafts or design markets in London. London’s streets have become more homogeneous in recent years, with high streets being dominated by chained stores backed by big corporations; meanwhile independent shops are being squeezed out because of unaffordable rents. Judging from the sales and customers’ enthusiasm at these markets, it is clear that Londoners are supportive of independent designers and businesses, yet having a brick and mortar store in London is a far-fetched dream for most of us. Will things change anytime soon? I doubt it, so in the meantime, we all just have to find our ways to survive in a vast ocean with limited supplies and an inflatable boat!
A popular one day annual event – Primrose Hill designer sale at St Mary’s church