April 05, 2010

Alpaca Shows and the Economy

We all know the economy stinks, right? We all know that making the money we need for our businesses and families to survive is really tough, right? Than why would you screw up an opportunity to market yourself? Let me explain....

The alpaca market, just like everything else in America is experiencing a hard time. Selling our animals and selling ourselves has become somewhat cutthroat because there are fewer buyers. But it is a buyers market now and new buyers are realizing it. So many new farms have popped up just in the last year. They are getting their alpacas from somewhere.

Our farms are not the only thing hurting though. Our alpaca shows are having a rough time too.

We attended the Indiana Alpaca Invitational this past weekend. I haven't attended a lot of shows in my time as an alpaca owner, but this one is by far my favorite. Lots of farms, lots of vendors and lots of fun. It's normally a level V (the biggest class of show). In 2008 there were 1100 alpacas, in 2009 900 alpacas attended. This year there were 600...about half the size from just 2 years ago.

When you have to cut expenses, the extras are the first to go and shows are usually considered extra. There is nothing wrong with that, if that's what you need to do. In fact, this is the only show we are attending this year.

The thing is, if you are going to go, make it count.

As much as I love shows, I was really disappointed with this one. It had nothing to do with the organizers, the facility, or the number of alpacas there. It had everything to do with the farms that came.

Shows are as much an outlet to get feedback on your alpacas as they are a place to market yourself. It seems people have forgotten that. In times as tough as this you should take advantage of every opportunity you have, not blow it because you have better things to do.

For example, there was a farm stalled near us that left early in the afternoon on Friday (the first day of the show). They were done showing the animals they brought so off they went. They had paid for the stall space and could have used that extra day to talk to people, show what they had to offer and possible make a sale or the possibility of a future sale.

There wasn't a lot of public coming through on Friday, I'm sure because people were working, but when Saturday came around there were dozens of people coming through by 10am. By noon, we had talked to a lot of the general public, all of them interested in some aspect of alpacas. That was why they were here after all.

By noon though, many farms, including the large sponsors, had packed up and left or were in the process of packing up. What does that say to the public about our industry? These people took their Saturday to come see alpacas at a show that was supposed to run until 3pm. If I had come to an alpaca show for the first time and walked in to see everyone packing up, I would think that I had wasted my money and my time. I also might think that alpacas aren't something I want to get involved in.

In an industry that needs every sale and dollar it can get, why would you walk out on a chance to make yourself available to someone interested in alpaca? You have a captive audience at a show. They are there to learn about alpaca.

By the end of the show I was actually embarrassed to still be standing there because suddenly the show seemed completely unprofessional. Why should the public take us seriously if we don't take our shows seriously?

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