The real economics of an antique show.
Posted 13 Apr 2014, by Don
I often get asked how much it costs to do an antique show. Here is an example: Recently, I exhibited at a fine show about 400 miles away with room-setting walls and a regional audience. I traveled to the show the day before setup, took two days to get my booth ready, the show lasted for two days, another day to get home, so a total of 6 days on the road, 5 nights in a hotel. Would you be surprised to learn that my costs were about $4500?
Here is what made up the $4500: Booth (including space rental with walls and wallpaper, carpeting, electrical, display case) about $2250; rental cargo van $600; show advertising $300; hotel $500; gas/tolls $250; insurance (product and liability, allocated) $250; food/incidentals/misc $350. Other dealers may have more or less, depending upon how far they come from, their need for staff and porters, large trucks, etc.
Typically at a show I am working with a gross margin around 20-25%. Given that, my break even point for doing a show is about $20,000. In other words, roughly my first $20,000 in sales, if achieved, just pay the costs of doing the show. The typical rule of thumb is that for a show to be financially worthwhile one must sell 10 times the cost, so given that my cost is about $4500, then to make the show financially worthwhile I need to sell $45,000 worth of material.
There are many "time" costs that are not included. It takes me days to get my material and research and descriptions ready, to make arrangements, to load, to unload, etc.
These costs scale up or down based on the venue and where the dealer is coming from. Venues like NYC in January or Philadelphia in April tend to cost much more, while small shows near dealer's homes can be much less.