O’Grady Breaks Deeper into Western Canadian Markets with Local Clothing Designs
Saskatchewan clothing designer and textile artist Kathleen O’Grady’s work is heavily influenced by travels to places like Greece, Japan, Africa, and India. Still, travel isn’t just part of how Kathleen thinks about design, but also business. Using Creative Saskatchewan’s Market Travel Grant, O’Grady spent part of last fall travelling to Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver to showcase and sell her work, an experience that she says had a significant positive impact on her bottom line.
“It allowed me to strengthen my market presence in those cities, to recruit new customers to my email list, and to significantly grow my revenues for the current year.”
With support from Creative Saskatchewan, which helped foot the bill for travel and promotional materials like posters and business cards, O’Grady cleared high above her revenue targets for the three events: the Circle Craft Christmas Market (Vancouver), Art Market Art & Craft Sale (Calgary), and Butterdome Craft Sale (Edmonton). One key takeaway O’Grady has from this tri-city experience is the clarification she saw in which garments not only resonate with customers but also are worth investing more into from a financial perspective. It’s data that she keeps close tabs on using tracking software and spreadsheets.
“What I see with going back and looking at numbers is what styles and sizes sold, but also where my time, energy and money is best spent. Rhetorically, do I want to continue with this particular garment for the capacity that I have as a single artist in my business?”
Kathleen was very intentional in selecting the markets she attended. Her products are primarily marketed in Saskatchewan and Alberta, but travelling to BC allowed her to step into a new market which, like Edmonton and Calgary, has a strong customer base. According to O’Grady, going to markets like these gives her clarity about her typical customer, or ideal client. Things like sizing preferences between different markets, as well as the styles that do well there, are all things O’Grady says are difficult to learn in the same way without an on-the-ground presence.
From Kathleen’s perspective, another advantage of doing these market shows is the interplay between her in-person sales and her digital storefront.
“I think the website is really important because I do an online business as well.” From the three shows, O’Grady was able to add dozens of new subscribers to her email list. “One of the beauties of doing a market show is that there’s follow up from people at the show who go to the website and then place an order.”
Participating in these markets allowed O’Grady’s business to pass a significant milestone, reaching profitability over the entire year for the first time after a two-year stretch that was rough on the independent clothing market due to the limitations bestowed by the pandemic.
“Creative Saskatchewan’s support has been so helpful in giving me the opportunity to reach new markets for my designs and to strengthen the sustainability of my business.”