June brings colorful, high-energy LGBTQ Pride Month celebrations to cities across the nation. This year’s parades and festivals carry special significance as they mark the 50th anniversary of New York City’s Stonewall Riots. Patrons and neighbors of the Stonewall Inn gay bar resisted an aggressive police raid in 1969, kicking off a new phase of political activism for LGBTQ rights in the process.
Pride events can draw hundreds of thousands of people, and many merchants turn out to meet them, but providing goods in such populated settings can be complicated for those that do not have the right mobile point-of-sale (mPOS) setups to make purchasing quick and convenient. PYMNTS recently caught up with two Pride vendors to get the scoop on their sales experiences.
Skirting Cash Shortages at Boston Pride
Boston’s pride celebration is one of the season’s biggest events for Mandy Roberge, the owner and artist behind Wicked Good Henna. She conducts 80 percent of her henna tattoo business at libraries, with festivals and occasional private parties comprising the remainder. An average event might bring in $900 in sales per day, but Pride can earn her up to $1,800.
The 2018 Boston Pride parade reportedly saw more than 750,000 spectators and over 55,000 marchers. Serving so many people is a hefty task, so Roberge employs an assistant to provide support and handle payments through an mPOS reader.
“I try to have one to two events each month that can really pay the bills, and [Boston Pride is] one of them,” she said.
Roberge has found that festival attendees are faced with so many buying options that they often save their cash to avoid running out. This makes enabling credit card payments critical and helps cater to those who would opt for pricier tattoos if not limited to funds on hand.
“[If a] family with three kids stumbles across my booth and the kids all want something, well, those things add up quickly for a family,” she said. “It’s easier for them to just let kids get what they want and swipe a card, rather than worry about how much the kids can spend.”
Roberge also accepts PayPal payments and recently adopted Venmo based on customers’ feedback.
Her needs are relatively simple. She prefers to handle tracking on paper rather than digitally at the office, for example, but uses a “sales report” functionality to determine daily earnings at events like Pride — mostly to see when she’s paid off the sizable vendor attendance fees. Roberge is considering switching from a solution run on her personal iPhone to one on a tablet with a swivel base. She believes the move could give her business a more professional image.
Providing Customer Trust in San Diego
San Diego boasts approximately 40,000 attendees at its pride festival and more than 250,000 at its parade. Selling at last year’s event was a first for Megan Kim, who owns two-person homemade goods provider Farmgirl Crafts. The company sells hand-poured lollipops in various shapes and flavors — like rose cardamom, chili mango and mojito — and often goes by its Lick It Lollipops candy brand name. Kim typically sells at street and craft fairs, churches, schools, retail settings and ticketed events.
“[Pride 2018] wasn’t one of our biggest events, but I definitely have to put it [on the list] for being one of our most fun events,” she said.
The company’s first day at the festival brought in $750 to $800, an amount similar to what it would make at an average street festival. The second day drew double that, however, which Kim said could be due to a change in marketing, a different tone to the day’s events and a greater number of families in attendance.
Even though her lollipops sell for just $2, she said credit card acceptance was critical. Like Roberge, Kim discovered that many festival attendees save their cash supplies. She also noted that millennials are unlikely to carry any and women seem more likely to prefer using cards.
Lick It Lollipops uses PayPal for operations like mail orders, vendor payments and invoicing, but it relies on an mPOS offering for events. Kim adopted it during a free card reader promotion and says it is not worth the time or cost of changing from a system with which she’s now familiar.
“[Customers] recognize the reader [I use],” Kim said. “[They] see it and they just relax. They continue their shopping and selecting flavors. They’re not worried about what I am doing with their credit cards.”
While Kim prefers chip payments due to liability concerns, Lick It Lollipops also enables card swiping for customers without chips or those with damaged cards.
Vendors like Wicked Good Henna and Lick It Lollipops are eager to add fun and flavor to cities celebrating Pride Month, but they need to provide payment experiences that quickly and conveniently serve consumers to do so. The right mPOS solution can make all the difference and check out customers before they move on to the next vendor.