Thursday, 21 July 2016

My First Convention Vendor Experience!

Last weekend was Hyper Japan Festival 2016. The months leading up to it were filled with anxiety, nerves and often stress as I tried to get myself organised in time for the big weekend. 

Things kicked off on Thursday 14th July. That morning I got up early, double checked to make sure I had everything I needed and set off in a taxi to the train station. I traveled into London where my partner met me to help me with my luggage, and we then went to our Airbnb. The flat we picked was cozy enough, though the mattress was very hard and not the most comfortable thing in the world to sleep on, plus the bathtub was incredibly grimy. I scrubbed it with bathroom cleaner I found, but this wasn't very effective. The limescale and general dirt was so caked on it would have needed a really heavy duty cleaning agent and a tough scouring pad. We just had to suck it up and remind ourselves that the accommodation was so much cheaper and more conveniently located than most of what we'd seen beforehand.

We then had a very long walk to the Olympia, the venue for the convention, punctuated by Google Maps consultations, and awkward heavy suitcase handling. It was the beginning of a heatwave, so we were sweaty and already pretty exhausted by the time we arrived to set up my stall, which was located up on the gallery level overlooking the main floor space. It took us around two hours to get everything together. Our walk back to the flat was a very painful one as we were both pretty dead on our feet at this point. We also had to pick up groceries so we would have food and drink sorted out for us for that evening and the following day. We didn't get the greatest of sleeps that night, but were more or less ready to go in the morning for Hyper Japan Day One.

My coordinates for the weekend were pretty casual, seeing as I had really limited packing space, and because I knew I would be spending long hours at the convention. Pup in a Cup served as a nice comfy dress for day one.

 A general overview of my table. There's hair bows, earrings, and canotiers. I ended up having to stick a "please take one" sign on the business cards because people were so hesitant otherwise, some even asking "is it OK if I have one?" Yes it is. It's kind of the point. Bless.

I was really happy with the way my beret display turned out! Leading up to the event I really struggled to come up with a way to show them off effectively but this set up seemed to work well. 

That first day did not go well. Sales were absolutely dismal, and I noticed a lot of vendors packing up early and leaving before closing time because of how poorly the day had gone for them. It was pretty hard to keep the morale going when the stall next to me was run by convention veterans who were always mobbed with customers oohing and aahing over their wares before dropping the cash. Watching them at work was basically a masterclass in vending. I can only hope I reach their level one day because it was impressive to witness. In the meantime, we were dealing with all manner of bizarre people who didn't buy anything, one of whom stormed away from my stall saying "WELL THAT'S NOT GOTHIC!!!" Um. I wasn't aware I was trying to be, or that Hyper Japan was a goth event but OK.

So, we headed back to our Airbnb feeling thoroughly depressed, and wanting nothing more than to wolf down one of the supermarket ready meals we'd gotten, shower, and to go to bed. 

We woke up feeling pretty refreshed for day two. I kept saying things like "today will be better" and even "let's do this", because I was determined to have a good day. Saturday 16th July was the day for Hyper Japan's two session system, which essentially meant two days squeezed into one. As a result, we worked from 9am until 9pm. Somehow, it felt even longer than it sounds.

Me and my stall on day two! I went for an outfit consisting mainly of items I'd made myself, which included the hair bow on my head, the one I'm wearing as a bow tie, the skirt, and the bloomers which you can't see.

Saturday was a really social day, and lots of friends came to see me. I'm sad that I completely forgot to get pictures with them but oh well. Their interactions helped to make the time go faster, as did my chats with the owners of other stalls. Unfortunately, it was incredibly hot during the peak times of the event. 

The roof of the Olympia looks absolutely stunning of course, but it effectively turns the place into a greenhouse. It was also very noisy that day, and a lot of the performers were not my cup of tea at all, plus they made it very difficult for people to hear one another in conversation. One of the performer's music seemed to consist mainly of a depressing, overblown guitar solo that never seemed to end. At one point I went to stand at the balcony, overlooking the whole event, and things were far too atmospheric and miserable with the addition of that melancholia. I felt like I was in a really emotional drama.

My sales were a lot better than the day before, and I even got to use my PayPal card reader for the first time. One of my customers actually bought two pairs of bloomers, which made me insanely happy! We were absolutely exhausted by the the time the day was over, and although we'd done better than the previous day, we still hadn't sold enough to feel content about the weekend. Still, one more day to go, we told ourselves.

Sunday was a more reasonable day with regards to the heat, but it was still pretty bad. I like to be prepared for everything so I actually had a battery-powered fan with me, which a few people eyed up jealously. 

Sunday really was the day of dancing. Throughout the whole weekend, the Yokai Watch music was playing on a loop at the big booth on the ground floor. All day, every day. For the first couple of days, I managed to tune it out, but on the Sunday, I found myself bobbing up and down to it because at this point, I just didn't care. This was also the second day that performed, this DJ-ing, rapping duo I found that I really enjoyed. During a quiet period I went downstairs to watch some of their performance and did the dance routine (which consisted of making a big triangle over your head with your arms and moving it from one side to the other) by myself, completely ignoring the "wtf" looks I was getting from a few of the more dour spectators. Other people, though, were really getting into the performance and raving it up! The atmosphere was really good, and I think that it would have been a really enjoyable event for me as a general attendee as there was actually quite a lot to see and do.

One of the convention organisers was going around with a list, detailing all the food orders made by the vendors. The food was on at a discounted rate for us, so we decided to indulge in this super yummy chicken and rice dish whose name escapes me. It was very tasty, and although we shared it between us it kept us going for hours. It was the only food we bought at the event but from what we could see, the food looked amazing, though it was pretty pricey. From what I could see, a lot of people go to the event just to look at all the "culture" stuff before hitting up the food court. Understandable.

One thing I didn't expect was how much of a "normie" event it would be. Sure, there were a lot of stereotypical weebs, a handful of J-fash people, and a fair number of cosplayers. But there were also a lot of middle-aged mainstream people, wandering around to basically point and laugh at how "strange" everything was. This happened a lot with my own stall, and I had a lot of 50-somethings cracking up over my bloomers for no apparent reason. They were so rude even though I was literally stood or sat right in front of them. I didn't let it get me down, though-- in literally any sales environment you have to deal with a few prats, and this was tame compared to some of the nonsense I experienced working in a high street store. Still, it made me wonder why they would have wanted to come to such an event in the first place. 

Sunday finally drew to a close. It was a day of chump change from people making very small purchases, but at least it wasn't as dire as day one. 
One of my neighbours for the weekend was Emily, who is the designer of Shinkurose! She was a pleasure to talk to over the weekend, and gave me lots of helpful tips and advice about the world of selling at conventions. I hope I'll see her at more events in the future!

The above picture is something of a rare sight as I literally never wear berets! My partner has insisted that they suit me but I'm really not so sure... I might wear them anyway because I think they are adorable (obviously, seeing as I make so many of them!) and it would be a shame to not partake in the cuteness because of a slight insecurity. On this day I went for a Baby tartan scallop dress-- super comfortable, old school, and flattering. I definitely need more of them!

To say that things went off without a hitch would be a lie. I didn't make a profit or even pay off the expensive table cost. But I did learn a hell of a lot about exhibiting at a convention, and I am hoping the knowledge gained will help me a lot in future. The general experience of Hyper Japan was actually very positive. I enjoyed my time there. I met a lot of really great people I wouldn't have otherwise, and really forced myself out of my comfort zone, which is something I absolutely needed. I've ended up with an urge to keep doing more!

So, that was my Hyper Japan Festival 2016 experience!
Do you like going to conventions? Have you ever sold or known someone who sold items at them before? How did it go for you or them? I'd love to hear about it!

Thanks for reading, and I'll see you next time 


  1. This was interesting! I have never had my own table at a convention, but been helping out with a steampunk store sales table at Finnish convention (which btw are not even close to that big as ones abroad). There is a lot of work and I think it takes time to learn everything and really get the sales going. Too bad you couldn't make a profit, but it's a good start! ^_^

    You look so cute and even with the beret! <3
    It's really important to wear comfy clothes to a convention, especially when working.
    *new follower* ^_^

    ~ Frillycakes ~

    1. I'm glad you found it an interesting post!
      Finland is a part of the world I'd be interested to visit as it looks very beautiful, even if it doesn't have large conventions XD Yeah, it really does seem like it's going to be an extensive learning process. I've come away from the convention with a lot of ideas for improvements and additions I could make to my product range so I'm kind of pumped to get started on that, which will hopefully help me to pull more sales at future events. Thanks for the words of encouragement! ^_^

      You are too sweet! Thank you so much for following <3

  2. I have a lot of admiration for you for doing such a well-known event. I am not sure this is something I would ever be able to do, even though you have seen my sketch book of designs now!

    I do know that the food is seen as a big part of HJ and it has been at every HJ I have gone to. I think a lot of it is to do with them wanting to focus more on the cultural side and also trying to distance themselves from MCM. You do get a surprising number of 'randoms' and you wonder why they are there. I have always worn lolita to HJ whenever I have gone and almost every time I have had to keep explaining that I was not in cosplay and how it is a fashion. Even with the fashion shows, a lot of the attendees don't seem to have a wide grasp of that side of Japanese culture. They just want the traditional aspects of the culture and the food (and to be fair, the food has been consistently impressive!). Oh, and to get a free bottle of Yakult! Were Yakult there this time? They kept going back for ages and I always questioned why they were there! It is rude to just stand there and laugh at your bloomers though. When is it ever okay to laugh at a vendor's stock like that? Especially if you don't have any grasp about the fashion and don't understand the significance of bloomers.

    Even though it wasn't a profitable day, at least you now have a bit more experience of vending and it sounds like you have learnt a lot as well. And I would have been dancing right there with you, if I had been there! XD

    1. Thank you! It was certainly nerve-racking, and no amount of research or preparation beforehand could determine the outcome. So I just had to get on with it and hope for the best.

      I always knew the cultural aspects were a big part of the event, but I also knew that there was always some sort of J-fashion portion to it, like the fashion show and the fact there was a designated kawaii and fashion stall area. I suppose I assumed this meant that it would be a more fashion-y event than it was. There was no Yakult that I could find on this occasion!

      Yeah, a lot of the attendees were super rude, socially awkward, and a bit of a pain to be around. The fact the mean laughing kept happening over and over again made it very tedious, and I couldn't help feeling pretty indignant, even if I couldn't be bothered to be upset about it. I don't think a lot of people realised that a lot of the stalls were handmade-- that we weren't just selling some imported items we had no real connection to. If there's one thing I'd go back and do it's call out a few people, addressing them directly and saying "I made all these things so I'd appreciate if you didn't come over here to blatantly disrespect my work."

      I did learn a lot, but I'm not sure what to do with what I've learnt just yet! Multiple people suggested I should try selling at MCM. I missed the sign up for the next London one so I'm currently mulling over doing the Birmingham one in November.
      Haha, I know you would have! XD

  3. Wow, what an experience! I am so in awe and so envious of your first con experience! Your booth is terribly cute and it definitely seems you learned a ton of new information you can apply to future vending opportunities! It's inspiring seeing how your brand is making leaps forward! I've finally begun to buckle down and work on improving my own skill for my own future (non-Lolita) shop, and I love reading about self-startups like your own to keep me moving on :)

    1. Thank you so much! It's really nice to hear you got some inspiration from this and are able to see some growth in my brand, despite the fact I didn't even turn a profit at this convention! It's definitely been a learning experience and I'd like to think I'm starting to get somewhere with all of this! I'm currently trying to figure out what improvements I can make, and which event I should do next.

      That's wonderful! What kind of items will you be selling? :)

    2. Well, even if you didn't turn a profit, I still think you came out of the even miles ahead with everything you learned :) You can't put a price on experience!

      And I collect BJDs (ball-jointed dolls), so I am focusing on opening up a shop that offers goods for them, primarily cute skirts and then hopefully I can branch out to accessories and jewelry. I definitely hope to keep a Lolita/Fairy kei/Dolly kei sort of vibe!

    3. That's a really positive way of looking at it. Thanks for the words of encouragement :)

      That sounds absolutely adorable! I've seen a lot of crossover between the BJD community and the lolita community, particularly with regards to twinning a coordinate with your doll, so I can imagine that a lot of people would be really into these J-fashion doll items! You must let me know when you've got your shop up and running so I can check it out and share it around ^_^