Don't get me wrong, I love my retail shopping at jewelry supply stores just as much as the next person. It's great, there is a certain intimacy when working with the sellers in fabulous stores. Especially when there is a wonderful store like Fusion Beads in Seattle. They have a great little play area in their store and they let the kids get interested in the beads and beading like no other store I have found.
But when I walked into the Tacoma Dome for the show the first time, it was like I had died and gone to heaven. I must have only spent a couple hundred bucks there that first time, mostly on inappropriate buys--half of which I never used.
See, there are reasons to be trained by someone other than yourself. Someone to teach you that purchasing good findings like sterling silver and gold filled is an important--and often expensive lesson to learn. (I have so much gun metal and base metal still in my stash I will probably not ever use).
But when you first walk into the shows, you are overwhelmed, we all are--Everything is just so shiny, and here regular people can buy the gems at better prices than retail mark ups in regular hard or online stores.
And as a small purchaser, you can network with certain dealers/wholesalers. There is one that was always up in Seattle and Tacoma (when I lived there): You and Me Findings. They had pretty reasonable prices, a little over the top, but they all knew their business, and knew the findings. They also knew one key feature of me as a buyer: I would keep coming back because they treated my kids' interest in the product they sold as the greatest interaction on earth. That to me was better than any product they were selling. I would pay extra for that service if I had to. But with You and Me, I really didn't have to.
I have not been to a jewelry show in Tacoma or Seattle since we moved down here with the military. (Near Austin, Texas). However, at the Tucson Show, I found You and Me Findings. They remembered me, and my kids, and later my mother when she was shopping. Because I had done so much business with them in the past they gave me a blanket 10% discount on everything and a few things for up to 25% off.
But when my mother was shopping there the next day, they gave her the same discount.
Companies who do the show circuit, especially those like You and Me Findings, are the reason to keep going to shows. The whole world of wonderful stones, beads and findings is opened up to you--even at a small scale like the Tacoma Dome.