Our 1st Retail Show- The LayOut

Most of you know that we have never EVER vended at a retail show. Our experience with show vending is limited exclusively to wholesale shows in general and the Quilt Markets in particular, so when we took the plunge and committed to exhibiting at the Original Sewing & Quilting Expo in Raleigh, NC, I knew right up front that we would have to make a few changes to our normal booth layout.


First off, it’s very likely that many of the folks we meet in Raleigh will not be familiar with our patterns or products. They’re going to want to be able to touch the patterns, look at the materials lists and compare one pattern to another. And unlike wholesale shows, they aren’t going to walk into our booth and immediately ask, “What’s new?”Β  They are probably going to want to see most everything, because many of them will never have seen many of our bags in person, if at all.

So with that in mind, we planned our booth layout so it will be more “tactile-friendly”. Instead of keeping our patterns under the counter as we do at Quilt Market, we’ll be placing them in bins on our display tables so our customers can flip thru them freely.

patternboxesAnd I got eight of these cute little black-polka-dotted bins at Pottery Barn and they are the PERFECT size for displaying our patterns (and the color scheme is also quite apropos, no?). I plan on placing them in front of the raised shelves holding our display bags in the spots I’ve indicated on the layout above with yellow circles.

But when I set up my practice display in the garage the other day,(as is my custom), I realized that the way I had these bins placed in the diagram above was totally impractical. The spacing was too close to squeeze a display bag in between but so far apart that the only thing there would be on the bottom shelf would be…. patterns!

So….I tried 3 different layout presentations today and maybe you can help me decide which looks best and might also work best with actual customers (if you can block out the garage background that is)?


Layout 1-

provides for a nice lower level display area to the left of the 4 bins, but the center looks cramped to me, and I’m afraid the customers will be all jammed up on top of each other as well.


Layout 2

This layout might prevent the log jam of customers in the center, and it does provide for a better lower level display in the center,but for some reason I’m just not crazy about it. Maybe I need to “lose” a few bags in the center?


Layout 3

Probably my least favorite…

So… Which one do YOU favor?

Or maybe one of YOU can think of something that works even better?

If so, please feel free to leave your comments in the space provided below.
And stay tuned because the Original Sewing & Quilting Expo is THIS WEEK! Yikes! And we’ll be updating you on how it went as soon as we get home!

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51 Comments So Far, You're Next!

  1. The parrot is my favorite. Such vibrant colors!

  2. I have been to the Orig. Sewing Expo and other retail shows. What I like are display items to be inspired by. Then I look for the pattern for that item. The crush of people is so much that it is hard to just stand looking at patterns and you don’t want folks to do a lot of that, then others can’t get in your booth. Is there a way you could label your purses so shoppers know the pattern name? Try to get the pattern as close to your display purse as possible. Retail shoppers probably will only buy one item so you need to move them in and out quickly…to let the next one purchase person in. Very different than wholesale. But the one purchase person will tell all their friends and show off at guild nights so they are important! Good luck. Maybe I will see you there! I live in VA.

    • Those are good suggestions Nikki, thanks! I plan on hanging a pattern cover off each bag. Do you think that will be obvious enough?

      • Nikki Moshier

        I think a package placard is perfect. They will know what to look for. Perhaps have your patterns in alphabetical order… Then they can search quickly. Good luck.

  3. Do you have help in the booth, or do you do it all by yourself? I’m thinking that the pattern displays need to be even more spread out so that more people can be flipping through them at one time. If you have someone helping you who can “man” the display at the left end while you’re at the work area on the right, you would be able to maximize opportunity and still be available to answer questions. And maybe you could put one pattern bin over by the notions, where you can easily pull from it if someone is asking for a pattern with a specific feature? Your bags are gorgeous and speak for themselves. I think you’d have to work really hard to produce a display that didn’t show them off to their best advantage.

    • Thanks for commenting Diane. We haven’t arranged for help this time. We just don’t know what to expect at ALL! This is kind of the test drive to see what we REALLY need in Houston for the Quilt festival. πŸ™‚

      I will have a big bin of extra patterns under the counter on the right side with me, so that i can whip one out if someone wnats to request a particular style at check out. It’s going to be interesting, isn’t it? πŸ™‚

  4. As a consumer I would like 3 the best…but, I would be “more inclined” to spread the pattern baskets out even more if possible. On person looking through basket 1 (far left) can (and probably will, LOL) block basket two as they are looking….In trying to “keep order” I would probably find a cute way to label each sample and coordinate the baskets to the number (So, each sample might have a hanging tag that said “This pattern is located in basket #3), so that if the basket is a little farther from the sample I (the consumer) can easily find it. Not sure if that makes sense or not…

    • Thanks for the suggestion about the Bin #’s Rachel. SUCH a good idea. I’m going to work on that this afternoon! πŸ™‚

  5. As someone who has attended lots of quilt shows, I know that the booths become packed. The patterns should be more spread out, and organized so that the samples are as close as possible to the pattern location. Many times there is no one to ask for help, as the day becomes busy! The numbered bin suggestion would be a good way to help your customers. I often pick up business cards, and order items at a later date as well.

  6. I would say to group the bags of each style together, with that pattern basket below that group. It looks like you have more styles than baskets. The style with the most examples could go in the corner. Also put a sign over, on, or under each group with some helpful info – that style’s name, price, and which insert fits, etc. Label the baskets, too. OK, pretty much label everything.

  7. Visually, I like #3 best, but would also put something between the bins on the right for balance. I agree that they need space between and I really like the idea of the sample purses being close to their patterns.

    • I also worry about small stuff like the notions being near the walkway because small things are so easily stolen.

    • I agree Candace. Now that I’m looking at the pictures again, Maybe I should 3 groups of two bins each on the left and only one group of 2 bins on the right to spread things out a bit more? πŸ™‚

  8. Are the items you’ve got on the floor actually going to BE on the floor? Get them up at least a foot, or whatever is down there is going to get short shrift.

    • Thanks for commenting Pat.
      Actually, I dont have 26 linear fleet of table space to set up the practice display at home. hahaha Who does? right?
      Anyway, i just set it up on the floor in the garage to practice the layout and take notes to save time on setup day. I’ll have REAL table of normal height when we get to Raleigh. At least for what I paid, I BETTER have real tables! (I’m sure I will) πŸ˜‰

  9. What if you moved the small work table up to the open corner of the booth, so that people could enter/exit on both sides of the booth? Seems like you used to do that at wholesale shows. Might it work better for traffic at a retail show, as you could possibly spread out the pattern boxes more? Or does that make it too easy to walk off with the product?
    MaryB in W-S

    • well we did do a version of that in the past, but that was before we had notions and there’s actually 8 linear feet of display over in that corner now. (6 feet vertical and 2 ft horizontal, its shaped like an “L”), so it would actually be a rather tight entry point on one side and it would seem to close the sight-lines into the booth I’m afraid. We think what we REALLy need to do is expand the booth, but I am seriously resisting that idea until we try one or two of these on for size. πŸ™‚
      It was a good idea though. Thanks for brainstorming for me. πŸ™‚

  10. Cynthia Snyder

    I have gone to the Cleveland OH expo for several years and the booths are usually filled to the max with customers and you really need the patterns spread out so people do not have to congregate in one spot. Also have two people working the booth, one at the cash register and one helping customers. Maybe have a number on each bag and then a label on the front of a bin with the numbers of the patterns that are in there. Have dividers too in the bins labeled with numbers, to help get customers thru faster.

    • Thanks Cynthia- I just showed your response to the hubster. Sounds like he’ll be providing more than window dressing this time! πŸ˜‰

    • I agree, people will be congested trying to go through the patterns. They need to be spread out. Maybe more boxes with less designs in the.

  11. Rosemarie Nettle

    I attend the Novi Sewing Expo in MI and several AQS shows. I am always on the lookout for purse patterns. What I like is for the patterns to be hanging next to the display sample. It is so much easier to grab the pattern of the bag I like. I hate looking through bins, mainly cause of the crowds you can hardly get to the bins. There are a lot of looky loos that cram the box area. I will ask the vendor for the pattern rather than go through bins. Zippers are hung on a rack. This is like Ghee does her booths and I really like it. I think I own all of your patterns but the last one. LOL

  12. I agree with the others who say that the pattern bins are too close together. If one person with a purse over one shoulder and a shopping bag over the other is looking through one bin, access to the other buns is restricted. While your bins are cute, your many customers won’t be able to see the cover photo on your patterns. Consider several literature holders: http://www.officemax.com/office-furniture/literature-holders-sorters/literature-holders
    Think about another way to display your patterns so they are visible to many at the same time:
    Good luck! I think you’re going to sell lots. You should arrange for help. It will be better to have help. If things are slow, you can send them home, but I think you’ll need them and be glad for it. Of course, we’ll want a report afterward!

    • Thanks for taking the time to provide this info Denny. I know there’s WAY more effective ways to display the patterns, but this is really a test run for us. After this show we’ll be deciding for sure whether this is something we’ll be pursuing once/twice per year, or abandoning forever. We’ll go to school on this show and then make some big decisions about the festival in Houston! Thanks again! πŸ™‚

  13. I like number three best. I think you are right about a traffic jam. People will be stopping to look through the bins at patterns and some will take a long time at each bin and some will just glance. I might even move the ones on the back more to the right. You might lose a lot of traffic because your booth is too congested. That is my experience at vendor shows. I have never sold but have attended several and if a booth is too congested I might just pass with the intent of returning but rarely do. Just a thought.

  14. Hi! I know you don’t particularly like Nbr 3 but I would actually take that one and split the four bins on the right up also. Something like 2 or 3 purses, two bins, 2 or 3 purses, two bins, etc. all the way around. Having been to quite a few retail shows, I refuse to enter when everything I want to go through is bunched up together and I have to fight to get to the bins. Good luck!

    • It is going to be interesting to see how we do. Stay tuned for the post-show recap. I’m sure there will be many changes to make, but we have to start somewhere. I’ve always been a person who pretty much has to learn by the seat of her pants and we’ll just do the best we can this time and vow to improve if we decide this is a direction we’ll be staying in for a while!
      Hopefully we’ll survive for another show. πŸ™‚

  15. Display #3 is the best – but consider putting a number on each item – no bins at all but patterns behind the table. This would help traffic flow as folks wouldn’t be stopping to go thru patterns. You will need someone to get patterns for the customers while you talk or handle payments. And keep all small items where you can keep an eye on them! At a retail show you want to keep the traffic moving around rather than stopping to hunt for a pattern they want. Hope you have a wonderful experience!

    • This way would keep people from opening a pattern as well, though it would be a little more work for you. But customers may still want to study the notions/yardages required for the various purses. So perhaps you could use some heavy lamination to laminate the pattern covers only, and then put a whole set on a ring. Several of these sets could be scattered throughout the booth. People could step back from the tables while they flipped through the laminates. Mary B in W-S.

  16. Personally, I love it when there is a sample of each pattern made up as you have in your booth. When my eye is drawn to an item I like the pattern to be right there handy. My suggestion would be to spread the bins out, say one below and between each two bags and have the patterns for only those two bags in that bin. You could fill in the spaces between bins with the smaller items.

    Basically, have the patterns readily available as close to the samples as possible. This would also leave room for more customers in the booth at the same time and make it easy to find the pattern they want.

  17. Patrcia Wester

    I haven’t read all the other comments so I may be redundant but my preference would be to move your pattern bins apart; don’t have them right next to each other. This will allow room for people to look through each bin for the pattern they want without putting out each others eyes with a flying elbow:)
    Have fun!

    • Gosh, let’s hope there’s no flying elbows! (just kidding, I get your point).
      All of this feedback has been very useful. Having NEVER been to a retail show, I am gleening MUCH from the experience of so many!

  18. Like so many have said, put the pattern by the bag……while you show your patterns “nicely” together in a bin, it won’t take long for those to become all mixed up and hard to find the pattern to match the bag. Why not put a bin of a particular bag’s patterns close to that particular bag? That way, it shows off the bin, the pattern, and the bag….:) I know, if I have to “search” for patterns, I lose interest and wander away…..

  19. Love your products and glad to see you trying retail. I agree with several others that you need to spread the pattern bin out even more so one person can be browsing at each bin without blocking others. I also think you should reference a bin number on each pattern so that someone after a particular pattern can go to the correct bin without getting discouraged going through bin after bin.

    • I agree Dana- and we’ve already got the little tags made so we can direct customers in this way. it was SUCH a good suggestion and one that I would never have thought of on my own I might add!
      This whole discourse has been very enlightening! Thanks ever so much!

  20. I think you have gotten some great suggestions. Haven’t been to an Expo in years, but I’ll be in Raleigh at the end of this week! I’ll be sure to stop by your booth. Looking forward to seeing your wares in person! (I’m from Greensboro.)

  21. I think that the suggestion for extra help is a very smart one. As a retail salesperson and shopper, help and security are on my mind. Maybe bag testers or satisfied customers who live in the area could assist you? With the other suggestions for finding your patterns, split up and labeled bins, a person who has constructed a bag or two can offer another level of service. Pay for their ticket and parking, give them a free pattern for 4 hours of work. You’ll have a fresh person every so often so you two can take a break.
    Good luck! It’ll add a whole new level to your designing, because inevitably someone will remark about how they’d like a bag that ——. And meeting your end product customers is awesome. People love to meet the designer, author, creator of something they like.

  22. Having attended 14 expos, I agree with many of the suggestions above. One thing that occurred to me is the positioning of the notions and “small items” – unless they are unique to your designs or difficult to find, or (perhaps most important-higher profit margin) consider limiting how much space they take in your display. There are frequently vendors who will offer this type item in bulk or a reduced price to attract buyers. Use your space for your forte. I have an ulterior motive..I want you to succeed so you’ll come to the expo in Atlanta in the spring. Then you can autograph my patterns. We all feel like we know you thru you newsletters so we want to meet you. Above all, relax, and enjoy the experience. The people you’ll meet in the “real/retail” world are helpful and sew special.

    • Thanks for commenting Christie-
      Our zipper line is indeed one-of-a-kind, and I’m aware that there are other retailers that may offer hardware at various shows, but we only carry the hardware that goes specifically with our bags, so folks will be asking for it, if we dont have it on hand. I think we’re pretty much obligated to have it available. πŸ™‚

  23. Kat, Maybe signage in the corner. That way no one would have to “be there”. If I was shopping a purse pattern booth, I would like to be able to see a purse I like, and the pattern be right there – maybe below it? So under each hanging bag would be the polka dot box with the pattern for that purse in it. Or if you had to, put two different patterns in one box. Put a divider in between the patterns. Not to say customers would always put the pattern they picked up back in the right spot….. Just sayin’ This coming from a person who has done both wholesale shows and retail shows. LOL Maybe put the name of the purse on the purse with a bright color card stock circle or star and in the same color card stock put the name of the purse on the divider. Or make the divider out of that color card stock. Anything to make it easier for the consumer to find what she wants with out having to bother you, while you are helping an other customer. Is it possible to have some partially finished purses in different stages of completion? Not sure if you have a card or flyer with all the places you are on the internet but I know I love your e-letter and new customers might like knowing how accessible you are. Wish I was closer. I would offer my help at the show. Love, Phyllis

  24. I think I would space the bins 2×2 and in between the purses with the patterns for those specific ones. That way the customers could look at the ones they wanted and there would be space for others to look too.
    Donna P

  25. I like all of the layouts and don’t know which I think would be better. As a person who goes to a show though, I have one suggestion. Pin a tag to each bag indicating the name of it. Then it is easy to look at pattern for the bag that they like.

  26. Hi,
    How many bins are required to hold the complete line of patterns? If it takes…say 4 bins…then you will probably be duplicating the patterns. Putting the them in groups of 4 with space between (LO#2) makes the most sense to me. if I were the shopper, I would appreciate if the patterns were alphabetical and that the bins were marked A-L M-Z etc. You can do that with a card that is taller than the patterns and put at the back of the bin.
    One of the retail shows that I attend has a vendor who sells fabric kits/patterns for bags. She pins the title page of the pattern to the corresponding bag so that shoppers know what they are looking at. I don’t think she has as many patterns are you do though!
    Good luck,

  27. Good Luck with the retail! You know your patterns will be a hit! So many good suggestions! I vote for layout #3, with the baskets further apart. I think you will need to have more patterns handy to grab when the baskets empty out. You might consider a twirling pattern rack for the future. I like the “it will be interesting” mindset, rather than stressing; I’m sure you will learn a lot!

    • Thanks for writing Carol.
      Yes- the main reason we are doing this show is to learn what we need to learn to be prepared for Texas and the Quilt festival in Houston. That is NOT a good place to be learning, thats for SURE! πŸ™‚
      This setting will be far more forgiving as we learn!

  28. Anne Dee Pahl

    I like #2 the best the bins between pursed and patterns next to them

  29. As attractive as your patterns and samples are, I think you’ll have huge crowds! I’ve only attended the expo in Novi, MI and it was wonderful…but I was appalled when I saw someone brush some small items right off the counter/table into her large bag. I was so flabbergasted that I couldn’t think of anything to say, to her or to the booth owner and it has bothered me ever since that I didn’t speak up. Is shoplifting a big problem at expos?

    • I have been a little disappointed in the security, It does seem a little “loose” at the gate, so to speak. And I did hear a warning go out today that some items had been stolen a couple aisles down from us, so Ihope it hasnt been a prevalent problem! πŸ™‚