October 13th and 14th will be the last convention that we do for this year unless something randomly happens. This is the second year of the Halloween Expo at the South Town Expo Center in Sandy Utah and our first time attending it. This got me thinking of how we started doing conventions and what that has looked like for us. There has been a lot of learning and growing along the way as well as experimentation.
This post will cover our first show and then next week I’ll cover what we have done since then as well as if it’s worth doing local festivals.
Our very first show was three years ago at the 2015 Salt Lake City Comic Con Fan X and we have done it every year since then. It’s our biggest and best show that we do each year. This is the Spring Comic Con here in SLC and not the larger Fall show. We have participated in Gaming Con the last two years, Fear Con last year and a few other smaller shows. We have also participated in town street fairs and started doing festivals this year. I’ll get more into those next week. Conventions in Utah generally run Thursday through Saturday as Sunday is generally a day of rest for almost every business in Utah.
I’ve run CategoryOneGames as strictly an online business for years selling older card games. We have also dealt in other collectibles through our eBay store and had a la lot of comics, toys, etc., I really wanted to try doing a convention. The larger Fall Comic Con in SLC I just didn’t have time to prepare for it. It was costly and it would have a lot of people. I was worried that I didn’t have a good booth layout, I wouldn’t have enough inventory and would I make enough to cover the cost so I took the chance on the smaller Fan X in the Spring.
I do shows with a friend of mine, Casey who has a truck and trailer and has enjoyed traveling to cons for years. He was excited to run the booth with me and bring his own items to sell. Casey and I met through buying and selling comics to each other through the classified section of KSL, a local news station. I would list full runs of books and he kept buying them from me. We used to meet in the local IHOP parking lot to exchange them. He then invited me over to see his comic collection and we became good friends.Neither one of us had done a booth before and thought we would probably need some grid wall. We went to a store that sold grid wall in SLC and purchased five 2×8 racks as well as some two and four-foot racks and pegs.
Neither one of us had done a booth before and thought we would probably need some grid wall. We went to a store that sold grid wall in SLC and purchased five 2×8 racks as well as some two and four-foot racks and pegs.Older CCGs sell well online but they don’t translate into a convention. I had over 165 long comic boxes and I took around 20 of those to the con including two boxes of high-grade items like a New Mutants 98, Amazing Spider-Man 10, 12, etc. We had GI Joes, Transformers, He-Man and a few other older toys. Casey had around 4 Nintendos and a handful of games and I had a few games that I
Older CCGs sell well online but they don’t translate into a convention. I had over 165 long comic boxes and I took around 20 of those to the con including two boxes of high-grade items like a New Mutants 98, Amazing Spider-Man 10, 12, etc. We had GI Joes, Transformers, He-Man and a few other older toys. Casey had around 4 Nintendos and a handful of games and I had a few games that I brought.We had a 10×10 booth in the middle of the aisle and set up with a U shape with our tables holding comics on them. The left table was seven long boxes of comics sorted alphabetically, the right table was quarter comics and then the back table was series of comics, our video game items, extra toys, and whatever else was left. The grid wall was set up facing out on the end of each of the tables facing the aisle and then we set the remaining three up so that they stood behind one of the tables and had racks of items above the comics.
We had a 10×10 booth in the middle of the aisle and set up with a U shape with our tables holding comics on them. The left table was seven long boxes of comics sorted alphabetically, the right table was quarter comics and then the back table was series of comics, our video game items, extra toys, and whatever else was left. The grid wall was set up facing out on the end of each of the tables facing the aisle and then we set the remaining three up so that they stood behind one of the tables and had racks of items above the comics.We
Setup took all of Wednesday and we were excited and nervous to see what happened. I had a number in my mind of what I’d like to hit with the show. It was costly to set up for the first time, lots of upfront costs from the con booth, to the racks, to buying extra inventory. We had a cheap sign I had thrown together on Fiverr and put up to display even though it didn’t match our C1G’s online marketing. We just needed something and quickly. I brought the C1G stickers I send out with orders and learned quickly that I needed business cards.
We decided to talk to everyone we ran into to pick their brains. We wanted to know everything we could of doing cons. So many people asked if it was our first time. We heard that over and over. We had a comic dealer from California come over while we were setting up and he picked up some items and told us that we underpriced our items and he could get double in CA, problem is, Utah is not CA. Utah customers are generally thrifty, they want to feel like they are paying a fair price. The item I had marked for $15 he had for $30. I sold mine during the show.
The con starts Thursday morning and all our great comics are facing outwards on the end racks and we were pumped. (Just look at all those Hard Backs in that picture above.) It was like Christmas morning. We wanted to do well but had no idea what it would really be like. Within the first 15 minutes, our racks completely fell down. Seriously, customers were helping us set it back up and keeping it from destroying product.
As the day went on, we noticed people were walking right past the comics to the video games and toys on the back table. We didn’t realize video games were going to be such a hit. We didn’t have experience selling them and didn’t place enough value on them. We were selling our Nintendo systems with Mario/Duck Hunt, zapper, controller and hookups for $45. Currently, we sell the system, controller, and hookups for $85. You can see them at the back of the shelf in the picture below.
Casey and I looked at each other later in the day and said we need to redo the booth that evening once the con closed for the night. We moved all the top end comics to a back shelf, moved all the video games and toys to the front racks and tried to figure out how we could get more video game related items in the next 24 hours. When I got home, a large collection of Star Wars sealed figures had arrived as well as a large collection of He-Man figures, vehicles, and playsets. They went to the con the next day and were displayed in the front as you can see below.
Friday we sold through all of our video game items by mid-day. I started walking the con and buying video games from other vendors, completely buying them out and marking them up for our booth. We sold through them all by Friday night. We increased the price of our Nintendos to $65 from the original $45 and still sold them. Between controllers, consoles, and games, we moved all of our video game related items.
I marked all the Star Wars sealed toys around $2-5 under the going value and sold almost all of them. He-Man sold like crazy. A British guy bought Snake Mountain, Castle Grayskull, vehicles, and figures and almost bought us out by himself. Comics did okay but we found what really worked for us.
Saturday was a bust. We had already sold all of our best items. Comics were back up front because we didn’t have anything else. The best part of the comics is that a local comic store came over and said they wanted all of my inventory. I sold 80 boxes to them shortly after that con and another 80 to them the following year. Now we take maybe a long box of comics to cons and they still don’t really sell.
It was physically and mentally taxing. Your standing for three days straight and your feet hurt so bad. You’re always talking to people, having to watch your inventory so things don’t get stolen. Physically setting up and taking down is hard when you have to move all your items from a dock to your booth and then taking it all down and moving it out after just standing for three straight days.
After adding up the total, I was around half of what I really wanted to make and broke even with our expenses and inventory costs. I remember telling Casey I would never do this again. The best thing was that we learned a lot. We understood what sold well, what we could do to improve, that we should never do an inside booth again and we needed display cases. The other thing we learned, video games sell.
The top things for anyone else doing conventions.:
- Never have a middle booth. Pay the extra amount for a corner space. Customers don’t like going into a small space and you don’t have much room for more than a couple of people in it. We had people walk by and look at our items for sale on the outside of our booth but would not step into it.
- Have somewhere to sit at a con. You will be standing in the middle of the aisle, blocking traffic, looking strange and keeping people from going into your booth. This is almost always a sign of a first time vendor. You also will get tired and need to eat, take a break, etc.
- Find what is not at the con and do that. Don’t do what everyone else is doing. We don’t need more POPS! figure only booths at cons. We found that there were zero Pokemon or Magic card sellers at the con. ZERO! We knew we needed these at the next one we attended. Video games were huge for us and comics were just okay, that’s a clear sign of what we needed to move into.
- Doing large cons does not always mean more money. You will do really well if you are the only person selling a product that appeals to a lot of people at a con.