Last week I got a letter from Upper Street Events who run the Country Living Fairs to say that they would not be having a Fair in Scotland next Spring.
It has turned out not to be an viable event for them.
It is a strange thing - talk to the stall holders and they feel that they are paying too much for their space, talk to the customers and they feel that the ticket price is too high, talk to the organisers and they say that they cannot make a profit on the event.
Perhaps there are not enough people in Scotland/North of England to justify the event - certainly, speaking to people who do both the London and the Glasgow Fair there are far fewer people at the Scottish event, spending far less per person.
That is perhaps the rub.
Yesterday I had lunch with a friend who had just bought a beautiful quilt from a catalogue specialising in Fair Trade goods. It was a lovely piece of work - the pieces had been carefully toned and my friend had bought it because of that, but also because it had been made by someone being paid properly for the work. She felt that she paid about a £70 premium for the good feeling that she has buying Fair Trade.
How many people would (or perhaps also could afford to) do that?
The Country Living Fair tries to reflect the magazine - to have a high proportion of stalls selling hand made, locally sourced, high production cost items - whether that is bags made from vintage materials or hand made jewellery.
The problem is that the price of those goods reflect the fact that they take time to make. With the Scottish Fair what seemed to happen was that each year there were fewer and fewer of these specialist stalls as too few people bought from them and they did not cover costs. Gradually stalls importing mass produced jewellery, enamelware, trinkets and so on began to dominate. Even the stalls which sold handmade items began to supplement with bought in goods, which were cheaper and therefore easier to sell. This applies to me as much as anyone else - whereas everything bar some hyacinth vases was made by me in the "home section" of my stall, there were pots and hand tools in the "garden" bit which were bought in - and available at another stall in the hall.
There were approximately 12,000 visitors to the Scottish Fair - that means to cover costs on a small stall you have every single person who comes in that door spend 30p with you. That is very high indeed. No wonder so many stallholders - with lovely stalls - hardly make a profit.
I really don't know what the answer is - if I could change one thing about our consumer society I would have people buy less but spend more time and money on their individual purchases. This Primark, disposable society depresses me. People look at a hand made object like a basket and think that it is expensive, if they began to think of the time taken to make it and what hourly rate they think would be fair, I expect that it would suddenly seem a great bargain. -
A Christmas Fair has been suggested for October 2008 and I hope that that comes off and that people use it as an excuse to get all their Christmas presents in one handcrafted, unique, happy shopping day.
I would be interested in hearing what people think from a customers' point of view.