An Insider's Guide to Shopping Unique SF.
Building on the success of Unique LA, the independent design show is making its San Francisco debut this weekend, June 30th and July 1st, from 11am to 6pm. Held at The Concourse at the corner of 8th and Brannan streets, Unique SF brings together a curated selection of 250 independent designers and artists, many of them from the Bay Area. For $10 visitors receive unlimited access to the show all weekend, with $1 from each entry donated to local children's literacy non-profit 826 Valencia.
Design shows can be a great shopping excursion but can also get overwhelming quickly, especially for newbies. After hitting up Unique LA earlier this year and with more than a decade's worth of experience working trade shows as retail buyers, we thought we'd offer our Bay Area readers a guide to maximizing your experience at this weekend's inaugural Unique SF show.
- Have a game plan: it's easy to get overwhelmed by the volume of merchandise when you first arrive, particularly if you show up during a show's peak hours. If there's a specific item you're looking for - say, jewelry - take a look through the list of participants beforehand to get a sense for what will be available.
- Stretch your legs: if you're not laser-focused on obtaining a specific product, take the first 20 minutes to walk around the show. Make mental (or paper or digital) notes of what's available then divvy up your time to circle back to hit those booths.
- Check your watch: peak hours are typically 12pm to 2pm. If there's a specific item that interests you, consider arriving for the show's opening. If you're interested in learning more about a vendor's work, they're more likely to have time to chat you up later in the day.
- Be friendly: ask questions about products that interest you. These aren't bored, teenage store clerks manning the booths. The designers are passionate about their work and ready to share the products' stories with you.
- Know when to haggle: this isn't a swap meet. The participants are small businesses and independent craftsmen. They price their products as affordably as possible but they have costs to cover. And really, the theme of the event is supporting designers and artists in your community. Having said that, if you fall in love with someone's work and want to snatch up their entire inventory, there can be room to negotiate.
- Choose paper and plastic: nearly every vendor takes credit cards, most through the liberating magic of the Square reader. Fast, easy, secure. Accepting plastic comes with processing fees for the vendor, though, so offer to pay with cash if you have exact change.
- No pressure: don't feel pressured to buy something. Your attendance alone is valuable. Building an audience is the toughest task for a small business, so raising their profile helps them in the long run, particularly when you tell friends about a brand, blog about it or check in when you're ready to do some serious Christmas shopping.
- Rinse and repeat: your $10 admission gives you unlimited re-entry over both days of the show. If you get burnt out, take a break for a few hours. Stroll down to Thee Parkside for a pint or walk over to the new Soma StrEat Food Park. Or if you need to sleep on a decision, just come back on Sunday.
- Fuel up: speaking of sustenance, the organizers have curated local food and drink options, too. You'll find plenty of free drinks in both the alcoholic and non- varieties, plus a well-stocked cafe area.
- Keep in touch: every vendor will have a website and a social media presence. Pick your favorite platform and stay in touch with that designer.