8 essential things I learned touring Canada as a nomadic scarf seller

I live on the road, I am home free, I challenged myself to earn part of my income selling scarves. And it worked. Part of the year I am in Canada, the other part I travel and live around the world. This sums up my life.  I launched my scarf business this year, 5 months ago, and since that time I was busy touring the country.

I traveled from Montreal to Vancouver Island while selling scarves along the way in private parties and craft shows. Here is a summary of what precious lessons this experience has given me, well worth the time and expense. 

 

road to BC

Going West, into British Columbia.

1- Canadians like quantity over quality and will not spend as much as Europeans on fashion scarves

I based my purchases on sellers and importers I met in India; they where all from Europe, Australia and even Russia. Canadians will pay about half to a third the price that our scarf loving neighbors from other countries are ready to spend. The further West I went into the country, the more they appreciated the handmade scarves and were willing to pay for them.

texture of true cashmere

True cashmere, the real pashmina.

2- Canadians are not much into fashion scarves, unless it is very warm

I came back from inferno Asia into an unusually hot Canada. It was just too hot to get people interested in scarves and I kept hearing the same thing, "It it's too warm for scarves". My argument that in India where temperatures soar over 50 degrees, all women wear some kind scarf (duppata) or veil! Then again, there are many exceptions. People of different ethnic backgrounds, older Quebecers, and of course, the more West i traveled in Canada, the more they wore scarves. 

3- Scarf lovers always have too many scarves

This is the biggest obstacle I faced (and still do). Scarf lovers always have too many scarves. Sometimes it's difficult to not argue your hard earned facts, as we know the customer is always right. So this was a great lesson in diplomacy, especially when one is wearing an obviously acrylic scarf and insists it is pure cashmere.

expo4

My Kiosk in Courtenay, BC.  Fair Trade Fiesta show.

4- Craft shows are like trade shows; don’t expect sales and you will have fun

I love the experience of showing in craft fairs, and even agricultural fairs. I sold along Tupperware, Epicure and Scentsy consultants, where I felt a bit out of place, but also next to artists and artisans, who looked at my goods at first skeptical curiosity. But in any case, I met great people (the vendors). the whole experience was fun, and I worked on my seller and people skills with the visitors. 

 

expo5

Buyer looking into my bargain box. Morris, Manitoba.

5- Touring Canada was the best marketing school ever

I found out what people like the most, what will consistently sell wherever and whenever, and what are sure value items in terms of investment regarding quality, texture, fibers and colors. All this without doing any formal market study or expensive surveys. After 6 months of receiving live feedback from thousands of Canadian scarf lovers, I know who likes what and will more likely order the right products and have what will sell on hand. 

6 - Non-buyers reactions were all as precious to me

Everybody found the scarves beautiful and unique. This first impression, the wow factor, is the most precious to me, even if the product is not sold. This wow, the exclamation everybody, and I mean everybody -all ages and social background- reacted vocally to the feeling of the cashmere. Even though wearing a scarf is not as popular as in Europe, those who did seem well aware of how expensive real cashmere or even silk could be. 

 

first market

My first vendor table ever, a farmer's market in Killaloe, Ontario.

7- Best product test drive

A few of my scarves have been handled over and over, stored in all kind of conditions, packed, unpacked, tried, repacked, then ironed. Samples not for sale have been handled by hundreds, sometimes thousands of people. Now that my season is over, I know which products are the winners in terms of durability. I will not reveal here my winners, as I am not doing advertisement, or sharing the secrets of the trade to my competitors, but (wink wink) check what will be featured in my soon to open online store! 

 

on the road

A make shift vendor spot in a flea market. And I sold more than my neighbors!

8- Magic Pashmina is a problem name for my business

"Pashmina"  has far less glamour that I first expected. For most, it is associated with trinket oriental style scarves selling for $20 in the streets, compared to it's original historical meaning of soft gold, ultra expensive cashmere. I first thought of changing the name, despite investing a lot in it's marketing already. But then I thought, oh well, why not keep it and use it to educate people. They love to hear the story. This is helpful for the Kashmiri, struggling with their economy and wanting so badly to bring "Pashmina" back to its former glory. 

 

Vancouver Island

In Qualicum Beach, Vancouver Island, the end of my trip

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