A Guest Editorial by Bob Groh
First let me introduce myself - Bettina is my better half and I have been helping her in her teddy bear efforts forever - well, at least as long as she has been making teddy bears anyways. As a result, I have had the good fortune of making the acquaintance of many of the ladies and gentleman who organize and run the various teddy bear shows that Bettina and I participate in. It is no news that times have been rough in our little industry with a steady decrease in sales over the last 10 years or so. We've seen it, Bettina's fellow bear artists have seen it, the suppliers have seen it, the magazine publishers have seen it and certainly the show promoters have seen it.
We are all part of one big community and, frankly, we all rely on each other. With the recent withdrawal of ABC Productions, I thought it was time to state our appreciation for the often unappreciated efforts of the show promoters. The show promoters put a lot of effort and money into organizing, promoting and running the shows. A lot of the money and effort is put into the show before the doors even open up. The promoter's risk is substantial and I'm sure that, in today's environment, their risks are not always being rewarded - expenses are increasing (for space for the shows, advertising, etc), reaching the bear collector is is increasingly difficult due to fragmentation of the advertising marketplace, the number of bear artists is decreasing and the gate (i.e. the number of collectors who come to shows) is decreasing. It is, I'm sure, a losing proposition - expenses up, income down - not a recipe for success.
We in the teddy bear community need our shows! Yes, both customers and artists have alternative selling channels - the internet, eBay, etc. Yes, it is expensive for the teddy bear artists to participate in shows - table fees, transportation costs, housing and meals - all combine with decreasing sales to make it a flat out losing proposition in some cases. But we need our shows! The collectors and the artists need to be able to meet in person - the collectors to chat with the artists and actually see and feel the bears - the artists to get a chance to talk with the collectors, to see what they like, to see what turns them on, to see what other artists are doing. And, of course, to talk with the suppliers and look at the latest bear fabrics and accessories!
So what we (the teddy bear artist community) can do to help our show promoters? I would suggest the following:
- Try to participate in as many shows as you can. Financial considerations are, of course, important but, if you can, participate.
- Ask the show promoter what you can do to help! For example, some promoters are now putting on special events before the sales begin (e.g. short talks on making bears, etc) for early arrivals so maybe you can volunteer to give a talk or demonstration.
- Keep an eye out for opportunities to help other people (artists, suppliers, etc) setup or take down before or after the show.
- Get engaged with the collector's - talk with them - not just about your bears but about bears (and life) in general. Make them feel good about our little bear community.