The excitement in the Reid household built throughout the week as I prepped for our very first card show on the other side of the table.
We finally did it. We reserved a spot to set up at our local mall show last Saturday.
I spent a few hours late each night and early each morning sorting, organizing, pricing, labeling, game planning and just all around getting my “stuff” together for our show. I ended up taking a five-row box jam-packed full of 50 cent cards (and full of deals). I took a five-row box packed full of dollar cards, a two-row box of $2 cards, a two-row box of $5 cards and a small showcase full of higher end cards. Every last card was sorted and organized to perfection, or at least really, really close.
My young daughter/business partner and I had discussed the idea and after our most recent company meeting we decided to go into the card selling business. All of her favorites were kept safely at home. Anna and Elsa were safe, as we weren’t selling her Frozen cards. Her special collection of Steelers were also tucked away at home. She even made sure her Ryan rookie card, not that Ryan, but the internet phenomenon that I can barely stand to look at was also left at the homestead. Now that I think about it, all of her stuff was left at home. In fairness, all of my PC was most definitely left at home, too. We were selling a bit of my overstock and non- PC inventory.
Izzy had been asking me every day for at least two weeks when we were going to the card show. She hopped out of bed bright early Saturday morning and proclaimed that it was card show day. Indeed it was and to have my little girl excited to set up at a card show…well, I can’t even put that into words.
We made our way just a few short miles down ‘The Strip” to the Susquehanna Valley Mall for our first ever card show as real deal dealers.
Once we got parked, we hit center court and ended up walking and walking to find our table as it was just green tablecloth after green tablecloth after green tablecloth. We were absolutely shocked when we got to our spot and heard there were 87 tables. 87 tables? This show generally has about half that on a good day.
We made our way back through the bowels of the mall and we offer a big thanks to our buddy Jake who lent us his dolly as we stacked and lugged our crisp white boxes and our display case to our table in front of a shoe store.
Isabella was such a big help in getting set up and I could see the pure joy and excitement on her face in anticipation of our first business venture together. That alone made it all worthwhile, and the show hadn’t even started yet.
As I was getting set up one of the big time, local dealers James, came up to me and mentioned how much he enjoyed the Shop Talk pieces and all of the other work I’m doing, so that was very nice to hear as well. James might have the biggest and widest selection of high end football memorabilia cards, autos and the like. His premium local team selection rivals anything around these parts. Any Penn State, Steelers, Eagles, etc. fan could find 20 great cards at his table. Beyond that, he had an equally massive selection of higher end hits of every other team.
My good buddy Neil was along for the ride with me behind the table. He made it there around 9:00 with some quality Sheetz breakfast for Izzy and I so we had a bit of nourishment heading into the day.
It was relatively slow going early on, but it started to pick up about an hour and a half into the show.
I stepped away from the table for a few minutes to see our buddy Ty who has been a customer for years and as I turned around, we had four or five people at our table, so I made my way back over.
The mall traffic definitely picked up around lunch time. And we saw a few sales on our table.
We had a few customers digging deep into our 50-cent box with only a few purchases to show for it. We had at least as many people digging through the dollar boxes with minimal purchases there, too. Only a few people were interested the $2 and $5 boxes with just a few sales throughout the entire day. I tried to put together an eye-catching showcase with some cards with a little bit larger sticker prices, but there was very little interest in that case all day.
It was a bit of a rough crowd, at least at our table. A few people commented on the 1986-87 Fleer Michael Jordan rookie card. One guy pulled out the 2011 Topps Update Mike Trout and gave it a thorough inspection. We also had a few people say how nice the 2004 Leaf Rookies & Stars Fans of the Game Michael Phelps auto was but other than that, no noteworthy sales came from my showcase.
My dad came by around lunch time and hung out with Isabella, taking her into the shoe store and through Boscov’s, the anchor store that we were posted up by all day. He also had her down at the coin-operated race cars, helicopters and airplanes, which, I think, were probably the highlight of her day.
My lovely wife even stopped by to spend some time at the table after her half day managing the bank was over.
The highlight of my day was spending time with my girls behind the table and with Neil, who had a few cards out for sale and a few sales of his own at the table. We had the chance to just talk and interact with potential customers that came by, the dealers around us and just enjoyed the camaraderie more than landing any huge sales. After all, we did this for the experience and the love of the game.
When the show promoter came around to collect our money for the tables he mentioned there were actually 90 tables set up at the show and they even had to turn a few people away. That is a monster number for our little mall in the middle of nowhere and it was almost too much of a good thing. As I tried to make the rounds, I noticed that the vast majority of the tables and dealers were selling, by and large, the same stuff. There were a few vintage dealers. There were a few non-sports tables. There was a bit of baseball and basketball if you were looking but the vast majority of product was modern and ultra modern football.
So then the question becomes, how do you differentiate yourself from the 80-plus other tables selling the very same thing to the very few potential customers walking around the mall? Of course, I could recite the basic ancestral tenets of retail business as I spent nearly two decades working for major retailers but in the moment, on the fly, it was a little difficult to do much about the situation. We were there to have fun and enjoy the experience but it would have been nice to make some loot along the way.
The beauty of it is moving forward, we now have the first one under our belts and a few thoughts and ideas for what we can do to change our, ahem, business model, and try to give it a go at future shows. We can improve our personal promotion of the event, our presentation, our pricing (which was probably a little high) our product selection and (potentially) our placement but our people were off the charts. All keepers in that department.
Although it wasn’t a successful day monetarily, it was a great experience on the dealer side of the showcases with my favorite people and the day offered a number of lessons in terms of what we should do or not do when setting up at local shows in the future.