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How to Sell in New York Street Fairs - interview with Kip Cosson of Kip Kids New York

[ NEW YORK, NY - NYC - 6/1/2010 - www.Littleviews.com ]

Kip of KipKids New York>>   Thinking of starting a small, retail business in New York City? Take some advice from Kip Cosson of KipKids New York fame, who has sold his products through New York City street fairs for over 19 years:

Littleviews: What is the first thing you need to know before starting to sell in street fairs?

    Kip: You have to have a product that will sell! If the product has a very low price, you'll have to sell a lot of it. Just having a low price won't necessarily make your product popular.

Littleviews: What are some issues when choosing a product to sell?

    Kip: You need to figure out whether your product is unique or not.

    If you sell jewelry, you compete with nearly a quarter of all street fair vendors. And of all vendors, many sell very similar (if not the same) items. A lot of products you see in street fairs were purchased in Manhattan in the Garment & Wholesale District, which is roughly south of 30th and Broadway and in surrounding neighborhoods.

    Even gimmicks, like $2-each jewelry, are copied, and, of course, you need to sell a lot of $2 jewelry to break even. You might be better off selling $20 bags containing ten pieces of jewelry, than individual pieces at $2 each.

    If you do find a unique item, other vendors will notice and will quickly copy your idea. If you make your own products, but use common patterns, those products will be quickly copied, too. Cute, unique imports? They arrive in the US by the container-load and are sold by numerous vendors.
KipKids New York

Littleviews: How do you find unique products?

    Kip: Well, first decide who you are going to sell to. Are customers like you, with the same tastes? Are they a parent or grandparent? Are they teenagers? Kids? Athletes? Homebodies? Are they tourists looking for unique items that represent New York City?

    Attend a lot of street fairs and see what's currently being sold to "your customer." Try to figure out if there are any products missing from the current product mix.

Littleviews: What about making your own products?

    Kip: Some people make things as a hobby that are popular with friends and neighbors, and from there, attempt to create little "craft factories" in which they churn out a lot of products in hopes that these can be sold to the general public.

    [Littleviews: For information on making and selling your own things, read Mommy Millionaire: How I Turned My Kitchen Table Idea into a Million Dollars and How You Can, Too!]

    Others study what's currently being sold and try to create similar or harmoneous products. I sell T-shirts, which, of course, a lot of people do. Still others invent an entirely new product that they hope will satisfy the needs of their potential customers. And last, because New York attracts people from around the world, many importers sell products made in their home countries.

    In my case, I believed that my T-shirt designs were very appealing, so I invested in them, using my credit cards to start my business. I went into about $10,000 of debt which paid for creating eight new designs, buying T-shirts, silk-screening those shirts, paying for street fair booth space, and buying my display materials (tables, chair, and tent). Getting started wasn't cheap!

    I am very lucky in that I create a product that is uniquely mine and you can only buy it from me (I do not wholesale).

    Several vendors have copied my designs and tried to sell them, but they aren't successful. Throughout the years, I have also built a very strong following of customers (as you can see from my website - www.kipkids.com). Note that my newest items are children's books, which are absolutely unique and cannot be easily copied.
KipKids New York

Littleviews: Is there any way to test products before committing to a booth at a big street fair?

    Kip: I always tell people the best way to start out is to do small flea markets, like Green Flea. It is a great place to test the waters without spending a lot. A 5x5 space is around $30 for the day. Make a few items or buy merchandise and see it sells, then build on your success and slowly expand.

Littleviews: How hard is it to sell in street fairs?

    Kip: Anyone can do street fairs. All you need is a NY tax ID, a consumers affair permit, and the price of a street fair booth. Street fair producers provide guidance. That said, it is very tough to be profitable selling at a street fair. In my 19 years, I have seen people come and go. I think too many people take giant steps at the beginning, then end up with merchandise that they cannot sell. It is best to start out with baby steps and test the market.

Littleviews: What are the best street fairs?

    Kip: It is hard to say what fairs are the best because much of your success depends on what you are selling. For me, some of the best fairs overall are the Columbus Avenue Fair, put on by the West Side Chamber of Commerce in Manhattan, Heaven on 7th (Park Slope, Brooklyn), and Atlantic on Antic (Atlantic Avenue, Brooklyn).
KipKids New York

Littleviews: Any tips as to how to be successful at a street fair?

    Kip: Your product, of course, is the key factor in how well you will do. You can sell at the best fair, but not do well if you have an uninteresting or overly common product.

    Your display is important, too, Remember, you are competing with hundreds of vendors and you must catch your prospects' attention in just a few seconds. If potential customers are approaching your area, your display must be big enough for them to see above throngs of pedestrians. While your product is important, you must pull customers into your booth. If they can't see your product well, they'll quickly pass by.

    And then there is you! I believe that much of your success depends on your personality and energy. You need to be pleasant, as well as excited about your product. If you just sit at your booth, reading the paper or talking on your cell phone, people will not come to your booth.

Littleviews: Any other tips on how to be a successful business?

    Kip: I think the best way to "tell" you how I progressed is to show you my very first booth, which I created in 1991, and my current booth on www.KipKids.com - NYC Street Fairs. I worked up from a very small display (that was tall enough to see at a distance) to a large, colorful display, complete with large overhead sign.

    In my case, because I'm the artist and writer behind my products, I introduce myself and give my customers a chance to ask questions. I also have a sheet on the table that I call My Happy Customers. It shows pictures of adults, children, and babies wearing my T-shirts. After customers look it over, they try to find the products they see in the pictures. You can see a sample of my Happy Customers on my website.

    Note that if you truly believe in your product, I believe you should support it with a good website that you keep up-to-date. Consider including pictures of your street fair activities! You should also produce really interesting literature. Today, it's fairly easy to create crisp, colorful literature, postcards, and other material at reasonable costs. All that's really needed is your imagination and inspiration.

    [Littleviews: We get many emails from shoppers trying to find owners of street fair booths so they can buy more products. The reason people can't find these businesses is because the businesses failed to set out product literature and/or business cards.]
KipKids New York

Other Littleviews' References on Street Fair Selling

KipKids Contact Information

Questions? Ask Karen at Karen@littleviews.com

Article and Interview by Karen Little. Photos provided by Kip Cosson of KipKids New York. First published on 6/1/2010. All article rights reserved by www.Littleviews.com. All photo rights reserved by Kip Cosson of KipKids New York.

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