Selling fireworks, and applying it to backyard farming

Selling fireworks is fun. Dealing with people who purchase fireworks – not so much.

My church does a fundraiser every year by selling fireworks. We price our fireworks lower than anyone else, and sell a BOATLOAD of them. Sparklers, fountains, spinners, snakes, smoke balls, poppers, you name it. Even Uncle Sam hats!  Over the two-week period we sell out of almost everything – that’s six locations, two 40×40 tents in each location, fireworks stacked on shelves 8 feet high. That’s a LOT of fireworks.

The first few days is populated by a lot of lookey-lous. People who wander in just to see what we have and how much it costs. After that come the people who want to buy – and the people who want to steal. On some level I understand the people who steal necessities, and on another level I understand the people who steal things they are addicted to. But fireworks??? Really??? It is NOT worth ruining your future to stick a package of spinners in your pocket and try to walk out. REALLY not worth it.

I’m from Colorado (yeah, the state with the horrible wildfire that consumed thousands of acres, closed highways, and burned over 300 homes just a couple weeks ago), so I actually have no idea what fireworks do. They are illegal in Colorado – all of them, even sparklers. I used sparklers and snakes and poppers as a child in Pennsylvania, and I have been to professional firework shows, but that’s it. So now that I’m in Oregon I had a crash course in what the different fireworks do in order to be able to explain them to customers. It’s crazy the variety that is out there! Ones that spin on the ground and the fire trail looks like a rose. Smoke balls of all different colors. Fountains that rain sparks into the air. Some even have different scents to them. Silly names meant to attract different types of people. Prices everywhere from 4 for 99 cents to $94 for one.

And what is with the thing humans do of making more of a mess the cheaper the fireworks are? On the 4th and before, people were respectful and we had a minimum of mess to clean up. A few things got knocked over, but not many, and the people who did it either picked it up themselves or at least told us about it.  But once it was the 5th and 6th, and we discounted the merchandise we did not want to pack up and store, people were just rude! They’d pick up a handful of something, and knock over a stack, and just walk away from it. They would open packages and throw the celophane and cardboard on the ground. They would come in drinking a soda or eating something, and leave the wrappers and cans in whatever display case they were standing in front of when they were finished with them. People! There are trash cans everywhere for a reason!

And the last few days had no shoplifters. Weird. They’ll try to shoplift things at full price but not at 50% off. There’s another human weirdness for your collection.

But it was a good experience. As my backyard farm increases I imagine I will deal more with the public because of it. I’ll have things to sell, more items I want to buy, and maybe tours and the like. So the more experience I get with human nature, the better. People just don’t value things if they think YOU don’t value them. (Whether you value them or not, it is their perception of it that matters.) Pricing matters. The watchfulness of staff matters. Anti-theft measures matter.

And some strange things matter, too. Two-for-the-price-of-one deals are perceived as the items having better “value”, and they sell faster than they do when they are 50% off deals. People who will not buy things when they are 3 for 29 cents will snap up several dozen if you say it’s a manager’s special at 10 cents apiece. (That one is especially weird.) Spacing of product matters in unusual ways, too. If I have 12 tables, each of which is one-third covered with items, people think “you are sold out of everything good”. But remove tables so there are 4 tables covered completely with those items, and people think “they still have plenty of good stuff!” It is the same volume of items, just displayed differently.

I could write more, but this one is getting long. I definately learned things from volunteering at a fireworks stand that will help me manage my backyard farm. I’ll take that kind of knowledge anywhere I can get it, but who would have guessed I’d get it there?


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