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Monday, November 17, 2008

Holiday Mart Open House

Here are more details about my Mini Holiday Mart Open House that I held yesterday afternoon. I wanted to give a home jewelry party a try to see how it would go. It was a fun social event, as well as a profitable selling experience. I sold as much yesterday as I have in my etsy shop since I opened it in late May. And that doesn’t count a couple of custom orders I got yesterday. Plus, friends that I hadn’t seen in a while came by, so it was a very enjoyable time.
Here are some of the things I did that you might want to think about.

Invitations I sent out invitations using evite.com a couple weeks before the open house. Evite.com was very easy to use. It keeps track of all the responses received and will email the responses to you, also. I sent the evite to my other three sellers and they forwarded to the people they wanted to invite. The invitee list on evite.com distinguishes between the people the hostess invites and the people invited by her invitees. It even provides a way for an invitee to indicate they will bring a guest. Nancy created some hardcopy invitations and mailed to some of the people on her mailing list in addition to the evites.

We sent invitations to over 150 people. About half of them replied, even though “undecided” is one of the responses an invitee can send. You can send a reminder to those who haven’t replied. That drew a few more replies, but still many who never responded. A couple of the “undecided’s” came and some of the “yes’s” did not come. We only had about 17 people who said they would come and that’s about how many people actually came. When I looked back and counted how many came, I was surprised it was that few. Many of the people stayed a long time to visit. And some of the buyers bought multiple items, so even with a fairly small turnout, it was a successful sale.

A couple drawbacks to evite.com were:
- When mailing to a work email address, some people cannot open the evite because their companies block it.
- Some people were not able to open the attached Google map for the directions.

All of the people, except one, who came were people I had invited. Some of those people also knew another seller. That one exception was someone I knew from church anyway. I’m not sure if invitees are less likely to go to the house of someone they don’t know, even if one of their friends is a seller there. I was just a little surprised that only one person invited by the three other sellers attended. I need to think about that a little more…

Door Prizes Each seller donated a door prize – something from their shop. I made little door prize entry blanks to fill out and put in a basket. If an invited person brought a guest, they got to put another entry into the basket. When the open house was over, we pulled names out of the basket. By doing it at the end, we thought everyone had more chances to win than if we held drawings throughout the afternoon. Since the entry blank included phone number and email address, it was easy to notify the winners that they had won. One winner was still present when the drawing was held and she works with another winner so she took that prize to deliver at work. One winner lives very close to me and the fourth won a pair of earrings that were easy to put in the mail.

Refreshments We served cookies, cheese, summer sausage, crackers and some bowls of mixed nuts as our food. We wanted food that was easy to eat and wouldn’t be messy. We didn’t want people to have sticky or messy hands while shopping. Beverages were bottled water, hot spiced cider and red and white wine. The party was from 2-5 in the afternoon and not one person had any wine.

I had requests for the cider recipe so I decided to show it here. It’s from my favorite series of Christmas books, the Gooseberry Patch Christmas books. I have all nine of them. This recipe is from the first one. Here it is.
Date I wanted to have this open house before Thanksgiving when the holiday activities really start picking up and people get too busy. I thought a Sunday afternoon sounded good. This was the first Sunday after the Eagles concert, which I attended (and loved – see post). Although the Kansas City Chiefs were at home with a noon game, I didn’t plan around that. They’re pretty bad this year, so that would lessen the number of conflicts anyway. One of my biggest buyers had been to the game and left early anyway. It was a very pretty, sunny day. We weren’t sure if that would help attendance because people wanted to get out or hurt it because it was so nice they might find other things to do. Not that you can plan for the weather anyway!

Help I did have a couple helpers for this. My husband was home, watching the Chiefs game, so he was able to answer the door and send our guests down to the basement. (He also made the cider for me while I was slicing my sausage.) And my athletic 16-year-old son helped my seller friends carry some of their things to and from their cars. Having someone to answer the door was very necessary.

Atmosphere Because we advertised this as a holiday mart, we decided we should have Christmas decorations so, as I said yesterday, I took some things out of the top of my Christmas storage bins. I had a few nutcrackers, some holiday candles, bubble night lights, some garland…just a little here and there to create a Christmas feeling. And I had a variety of Christmas music playing in the background.

Payment I opened a PayPal account when I started my etsy shop. PayPal will easily allow payments made using credit cards or a PayPal account. Since PayPal is so easy, I’ve never had to look into accepting credit cards any other way. I did talk to my bank about a one time use of a credit card machine, but that’s around $100 or so. I didn’t want to spend that when I had no idea what the turnout would be like. And then I decided that, since the only people attending would be my friends or friends of friends, I could invoice them using PayPal if I got their email address. It’s very easy to send someone a PayPal invoice, even if they don’t have a PayPal account. All they need is an email address. I offered this to people but no one wanted to do it. Everyone wanted to pay by cash or check so that made payment very easy.

This has turned into rather a long post. Come back soon for some ideas for displaying jewelry.

And let me know if you have any questions or comments about any of the things we did for our open house! Give an open house a try sometime…and let me know any new ideas you have!

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