With Halloween Expo setup starting today, I’m going to make this series a little longer and cover the different years we have been doing cons. Next week will be this year’s events and then I’ll do a wrapup of Halloween Expo.
There were other conventions that I could have done after Comic Con Fan X. There was the first iteration of Gaming Con in Salt Lake City and then the full SLC Comic Con. But I didn’t feel I was up for these. We needed more product and a way to display it safely.
We needed glass cases so we looked all year for ones that were cheap. New display cases are expensive and since these were only going to use these at conventions, we didn’t want to go overboard. We eventually found some that the guys at the Nerd Store in West Valley City were selling. Their store is in a mall and is run by two brothers who are really nice guys. Over the years they have become friends through doing a lot of the same conventions.
The cases they had were one top shelf and basically the best we could find. Casey eventually put wheels on them to make it a lot easier to move around. They were a terrible color and we wanted them to stand out and draw attention. Insert painting them Nickelodeon orange. Not the best looking color but something that we could put in our advertising. “Look for our Orange Display Cases across from the POP! booth”. That’s right, we hit the jackpot and got put directly across from the exit of the POP! booth.
The POP! booth was massive, had a lot of people going through it and Casey was able to sell all the Teenage Mutant Turtles he brought with him to the owner of POP! before the con even started at full price.
Casey found someone with around forty 2×8 gridwall panels that they were selling cheap. He paid less for them than I did for the five I had bought the year before. Now we could really make a cool looking setup in our booth.
We still didn’t have everything figured out. I bought a bunch of board games thinking they would sell, except board games are heavy and big and don’t sell well at cons. A tough lesson that I’m still carrying around with me today. Generally, we sell 1-2 board games a con, not very good when you compare that video games. I also invested heavily in Doctor Who items since I had always heard stores talking about how well they did in Utah, except……they didn’t sell well for me and I still have Sonic Screwdrivers to sell.
Casey had found an antique dealer that also dealt in 80’s toys and he bought her out of GI Joes. He brought all of them with him and some more He-Man because of how well they sold at the last Fan X. That market is tough though because if the right buyer doesn’t come by, you can’t move them. The average person isn’t going to spend $10 on a firefighter GI Joe figure. I don’t think Casey minds though, he likes having a lot of this in his own personal collection if it doesn’t sell.
We wanted our booth to be more open than having the Comic Cave that we had last time. We paid extra for a corner booth and decided to gridwall the two walls that were connected to other vendors. We then put an island in the corner facing the customers so that people could walk through our booth and wouldn’t feel like it was a cave and they wouldn’t go inside. While this sounded great, it left our booth highly open for theft. It also relegated our brand new orange cases to the back of the booth and since they were back opening cases and they were pushed against the wall, it wasn’t really going to work.
The best part of the booth is the front where I had all the different video game systems. We had almost every console system available and it looked impressive. It often stopped people in the aisleway and they would just stare at all the retro goodness. This was still a time when finding older systems and games was easy in Utah. Finding Nintendo’s for $15 was really easy at the time but currently almost impossible to find in the wild.
The con went really well for us this time. We made nearly double the first time we attended. There was also less up front cost. The downside is that we had a large amount of theft as we had people walk into our booth and walk out with all sorts of items. We had someone sitting at each corner of the booth and Casey and I standing on each side of it, yet we still had theft. We realized we had to change things up moving forward.
There were two other video game sellers at the con. One of them is a chain out of Texas and Washington that didn’t do very well at the con. They basically overpriced themselves out of the market. Games they had for $45 we would have for $35 and so on. They have not been back for another convention in Utah. The other store that was there was from New York, a father and son team. They were supposed to be at a show in Boston that had double booked their booth and didn’t have a spot for them so they picked the next closest convention that weekend which was SLC, a bit of a drive compared to Boston. They said they lost over five thousand by doing this con. They had a double corner booth with electricity and had to pay for gas and a hotel and they didn’t make anything. They dealt in imports, very high end and rarer games. I felt really bad for them as they didn’t want to be there and the lack of sales didn’t help.
After a great Fan X, I decided to sign up for Gaming Con during the summer. This con was going through a change as part of it was being sold to Comic Con just before the con started and you could tell that the con itself suffered from it. The con had very few attendees, had very few guests that would draw an audience and wasn’t very well put together.
Our booth rocked it. We were the only booth that had retro gaming at a Gaming Con. There was only one other booth somewhat selling video games and they were marked up extremely high, something like Smash Bros 64 was selling for $160 in their booth…..that’s not exaggerating, that’s how much they had it for. We had been given a cheap upgrade to a full corner 10×20 and we were right in the middle of the con. There was repeat after repeat customers all weekend.
We finally realized we needed to seal ourselves inside of our booth and protect the items we sold. This meant that the two orange display cases were on each side and then tables manned the middle to hold people back. We then moved our gridwall closer to us so it was like having a display shelf right behind us, letting customers see the product while not being able to take the product.
This event did really well for us and we were really glad we did it.
The last event I want to cover in this post is about a street festival I did in Eagle Mountain, a town about 10 minutes away from me. This was their second year doing it and I had heard that this was a really fun event. The entry was almost nothing so I figured why not. I had to buy a 10×10 tent though and decided just to do a few plastic racks and tables and not bring out the displays. That meant that higher end games and smaller handheld system games were out of the picture.
The event went much better than I would have expected. The town is small without any sort of shopping besides a few random stores but nothing dealing with hobbies. This made my booth a stop for just about every 30-50 year old male that went through the festival. The street was lined with trees and the weather was perfect.
There are city festivals/fairs that run three days in just about each Utah town during the summer. This was a test to see if it would be worth doing them. If I had an actual retail location instead of just being online, I would think hitting as many of those as possible would be a must in order to not only get the extra business but advertise our physical location.
The setup was an easy 20-minute setup and takedown. Tables are much easier to move than glass display cases. We could drive up to our spot for setup and takedown, making it easy to get in and out with little effort. After seeing how well this festival went with such a little upfront cost, I was excited to try city festivals the next year and do this event again. It showed me that something like this works. I sold more board games at this than I did at any of the larger conventions. I also realized I need Pokemon packs or deluxe boxes because I would have sold a ton at an event like this.
Next week I’ll look back at Fear Con, the convention we did last October as well as cover the conventions we did in the past year. Please comment or contact us with any questions regarding conventions or anything else you would like us to cover in the blog.