12 Bead Show Tips for First-Timers, Compulsive Shoppers, and Non-Gym Goers



 Let’s Get On with the Show!

There’s no business like show business! I bet Ethel Merman would love bead shows. Can’t you just imagine her in all her Everything’s Coming Up Roses style, dancing to each booth, dangling strands of beads around her neck, filling up a shopping tray in grand style, and throwing in a pair of beaded cheaters while she’s at it?

Bead shows are a blast. But they can also be treacherous territory for first timers, compulsive shoppers, and anyone who hasn’t been working out at the gym.

If it’s your first show:

  • Know that there are two kinds of bead shows: wholesale and retail. If you’re a business and have the right credentials, you can get into wholesale shows to buy beads in bulk at a reduced price. These usually feature really big bead vendors and importers. Retail shows are for gals like me who just need to fluff the stash and see what’s new. They’re often made up of smaller vendors, sometimes selling one-of-a-kind, antique, and other specialty items; other vendors sell the basics, much like a bead shop would.
  • Most retail bead shows are free, but there’s also a good chance you need to pay an entry fee. It’s usually a small price to pay, but good to know up front.
  • When you enter the show you’ll see rows and rows of bead vendors, all sitting next to one another in little booths. Some of the larger vendors might rent many booths, so have a huge presence. But don’t miss out on the little booths—they often feature handmade items you won’t find anywhere else.
  • You’ll probably be overwhelmed at the variety of things to buy. So my advice is to walk the entire show before you buy anything. Each booth has a number, so as you walk around, make a note of each booth you want to revisit.
  • Check to see if the show offers beading classes. Bead show classes and workshops are a great way to be exposed to techniques, projects, and teachers you might not encounter in your area.


If you’re a compulsive shopper:

  • Review your stash and make a list of things you need before you go. It sounds a bit silly, but it really does help. It’s depressing when you get home from a show and you’ve spent $50 on something you already have.
  • A word from the wise…bring CASH! Give yourself a budget, go to the bank, and take out that amount (in $20 bills—lots of small vendors can’t make change for $100s). Stop spending when the cash is gone. Once you pull out the credit card, you put yourself in the fast lane for a shopping hangover. When I was editor of Beadwork I attended at least one bead show every month. At first I’d buy whatever caught my eye, but the credit card bills became out of control. So I wised up pretty quickly. It may sound severe, but I allowed myself only $100 for each show and made a rule that I could buy either one special blue bead or one special silver bead. When you consider I attended over 20 shows a year, it added up to over $2K—a big chunk of my income. Baby needed shoes, too.

Jean’s Trinket Chain Necklace she made after sticking to her Spartan bead show budget strategy (Instructions in Beadwork Creates Necklaces)

  • Talk to the vendors. You’ll be a more educated buyer if you do, and it will help you make better choices, curbing your natural tendency to buy on impulse.

If you haven’t been to the gym lately:

  • Drink a mocha espresso latte before you go. You’ll need the energy to walk the entire floor.
  • Grab a map before you go in. Use a pen to circle those vendors you know you don’t want to miss and beeline to them first.
  • When I’m a little heavy on my feet, I like to walk the shows solo so I don’t unnecessarily linger at booths that a friend might be interested in. When I keep moving I can stay focused and get through the show more quickly.
  • Sit down. Most vendors don’t have chairs in front of their booths, but there are often chairs on the sidelines. If the show is at a hotel, park your tookis on the fountain in the lobby. Better yet, get yourself some lunch and drink another latte.




Jean Campbell writes about beading and life every Wednesday on Beading Daily. If you have comments or questions for Jean, please post them on the website. Thanks!



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