It’s taken us a few weeks, but we now have our list of designers that will be joining us for the December market. But have you ever wondered how we find our designers? Well, we can tell you that as Handmade has grown in reputation and quality, so have the number and quality of applications from potential stallholders, which, while it’s a nice problem to have, means that we have to select our 250 stallholders from a list of over 800 amazing applications!
At Handmade, one of our mantras is “know your customer.” We actually have two sets of customers – the visitors and shoppers at the market and the stallholders themselves, so it’s very important for us to consider both and we understand that it’s not just a question of taking the first 250 designers who ask. Instead, we have to match the designers to the shoppers, ensuring there’s always something new and interesting to look at and a curated range of product types. This curation is what makes us stand out, but it’s also one of the most difficult parts of our job. We have to make sure the products are seasonal, that in-demand favourites are present to avoid disappointment and that the brands on display fit in with our ethos of friendliness, high quality and variety – it wouldn’t be a very interesting market if we had 250 candle makers for example.
So what do you need to do as a designer to make the cut? Well of course, your product has to be handmade here in Australia and it has to be beautiful. When looking at our applications, the first area we go to is the set of photographs that the designers provide us with. We ask the businesses to pretend that no one has ever seen their products before and to collect together images that sum up their offering, so that we (and the customers) know what the business is all about. If these are beautiful, professional and show off the range of products, these designers automatically hit the “maybe” pile. Then we look at the written description of what they do. Does it sum them up and portray the feeling of the brand? If so, the designer is still on the right track to get a stall. We also look at their social media and online presence. If they haven’t been active for a long time, have no web presence or following, it tells us that they’re not talking to their customers, and all of you reading this will know that Handmade is a fairly social entity so we like those who chat!
Once we’ve narrowed it down, the curation really starts, so we know we can give visitors to the market a breadth of product types and a good proportion of new designers. An average of 30-40 new designers attend each market. We make our final list, offering places to those we feel can best represent all of our values and quality of product and service. We also offer potential places to those that we put on the waitlist – whose products are beautiful, but who we just don’t have the space to accommodate. Many designers come off the waitlist and into the market over the run-up to the event as a result of designers having to drop out, so the waitlist is a positive place to be. In fact, it’s often the catalyst for a great working relationship as we are always happy to offer feedback to designers on the waitlist, resulting in innovations that see designers attending Handmade longterm. We understand that sometimes the Handmade Market is an integral part of a small business’ income, but like us, all small businesses need to grow and change their offering to succeed. The ones whose products evolve over time and who are unfailingly upbeat and committed are the ones you’ll see at the market time after time.
So now you know what’s involved. We know that we can’t please all of the people all of the time, but we hope to provide visitors to the market with a happy, friendly, varied and beautiful Christmas shopping experience. We also want Australia’s amazing stable of designers and producers to keep applying, keeping Handmade’s standard one of the highest in the business. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be chatting to some of the designers here on the blog, revealing their secrets and showing off some of their new products so you can start that shopping list.
As ever, thanks for shopping Handmade.